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Kennedy v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia

November 16, 2015

MANU KENNEDY, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant

Page 47

          For Manu Kennedy, Plaintiff: Gary M. Gilbert, LEAD ATTORNEY, Stephanie Marie Herrera, Shannon C. Leary, LAW OFFICES OF GARY M. GILBERT AND ASSOCIATES, P.C., Silver Spring, MD USA.

         For Vincent G. Gray, in his official capacity of Mayor of Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, Irvin B. Nathan, in his official capacity as Attorney General, District of Columbia, Defendants: Jonathan Hale Pittman, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL/DC, Washington, DC USA; Shana Lyn Frost, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC USA.

         For Kenneth B. Ellerbe, in his official capacity of Chief, District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department, Dc Fire & Ems Department, Defendants: Shana Lyn Frost, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC USA.

Page 48

         MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, United States District Judge.

         The District of Columbia's fire department maintains a policy requiring its firefighters to be clean-shaven so that their respirators will fit properly. Manu Kennedy, a former D.C. firefighter, refused to comply with that policy because he has a skin condition that leads to irritation and infection when he shaves too closely. After the fire department denied his request for an exemption from the shaving policy and disciplined him for his noncompliance, Kennedy filed suit against the District and associated officials and agencies. He alleged 28 counts of disability discrimination, racial discrimination, failure to accommodate, medical-privacy violations, and retaliation, though he later agreed to withdraw several counts. The District moved to dismiss most of Kennedy's claims, particularly those related to his allegations of disability discrimination and failure to accommodate, contending that Kennedy's condition did not qualify as a disability under applicable law. The Court agreed, concluding that Kennedy's claim should be evaluated under the relatively narrow definition of " disability" in place prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (" ADAAA" ) because the allegedly discriminatory conduct took place before the new law went into effect and Kennedy's subsequent requests that the fire department reverse its initial decision did not create new instances of discrimination. Mem. Op. 7-9, ECF No. 21.

         Kennedy now asks the Court to reconsider its decision, repeating his arguments that the ADAAA definition should govern the Court's analysis.[1] Because he fails to reference any intervening factual or legal

Page 49

developments or show tat the Court misapprehended controlling law, the Court will deny his motion to reconsider the merits of its previous decision. Alternatively, Kennedy requests that the Court permit him to pursue an interlocutory appeal in order to clarify a controlling question of law: whether a claim based on an accommodation request renewed after the effective date of the ADAAA, but originally made before that date, should be evaluated based on the new definition of " disability" or the prevailing pre-amendment interpretation of the statute. Because immediate resolution of this question could well conserve significant time and resources, and because Kennedy has identified a substantial ground for difference of opinion on this issue, the Court will permit Kennedy to pursue an appeal of its interlocutory order under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).

         I. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), any order or decision that is not a final judgment " may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities." [2] Courts grant motions for reconsideration of interlocutory orders only " as justice requires." Shea v. Clinton, 850 F.Supp.2d 153, 157 (D.D.C. 2012) (quoting Hoffman v. Dist. of Columbia, 681 F.Supp.2d 86, 90 (D.D.C. 2010)) (internal quotation marks omitted). While courts enjoy significant discretion under Rule 54(b), " in order to promote finality, predictability and economy of judicial resources," they generally should not revisit prior interlocutory decisions " in the absence of extraordinary circumstances such as where the initial decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice." Id. at 157-58 (quoting Pueschel v. Nat'l Air Traffic Controllers' Ass'n, 606 F.Supp.2d 82, 85 (D.D.C. 2009)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In deciding whether " justice requires" reversal of its prior interlocutory order, a court considers whether it

[1] patently misunderstood a party, [2] has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, [3] has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension, or [4] whe[ther] a controlling or significant change in the law or facts [has occurred] since the submission of the issue to the Court.

United States v. Slough, 61 F.Supp.3d 103, 107 (D.D.C. 2014) (quoting Singh v. George Washington Univ.,383 F.Supp.2d 99, 101 (D.D.C. 2005)). A motion for reconsideration should therefore be denied " when it merely asserts 'arguments for reconsideration [that] the court has already rejected on the merits.'" BEG Invs., LLC v. Alberti,85 F.Supp.3d 54, 58 (D.D.C. 2015) (alteration in ...


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