United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge.
case sits at a jurisdictional crossroads. Earlier this year,
Plaintiff Stewart Liff - a veteran public-sector consultant -
survived a motion to dismiss, mostly unscathed. This
Court's Opinion left him with a Fifth Amendment
procedural-due-process claim against various federal agencies
and a Bivens claim against several agency employees.
The individual Defendants quickly moved for reconsideration
of the decision on the Bivens claim, arguing that it
is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Before
this Court could rule on that motion, however, they
interlocutorily appealed the separate issue of qualified
immunity to the Court of Appeals. Believing it had to yield,
this Court pumped its brakes and stayed the case.
now move to lift the stay so that the Court can resolve their
pending Motion to Reconsider, which they maintain is not
encompassed by their appeal. Liff responds that, having
sought greener pastures in the D.C. Circuit, Defendants must
await a ruling there. This Court does not interpret its
jurisdiction so narrowly and will lift the stay.
parties' history with each other and before this Court is
recounted in the prior Opinion resolving Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss. See Liff v. OIG for the U.S. Dep't
of Labor, 156 F.Supp.3d 1, 5-9 (D.D.C. 2016). There, the
Court permitted Plaintiff's procedural-due-process claim
against several agency Defendants to proceed and
then dismissed his Administrative Procedure Act claim as
duplicative. See id. at 10-16, 21-22. As to
Liff's Bivens cause of action against the
individual Defendants, the Court denied their
Motion, holding that those Defendants were not entitled to
qualified immunity, but it declined to reach their thorny
statute-of-limitations defense. See id. at 16-21.
procedural logjams then developed. Roughly a month following
the Opinion, on February 5, 2016, the individual Defendants
asked the Court to reconsider the Bivens
statute-of-limitations question - or, more precisely, to
decide the timeliness issue in the first instance.
See ECF No. 27-1 (Motion to Reconsider). On February
25, 2016, before the Court could resolve their Motion to
Reconsider, they filed a Notice of Appeal to challenge the
Court's decision on qualified immunity. See ECF
No. 29 (Notice of Appeal); see also No. 16-5045
that the Government wished to press its chances on appeal,
without the benefit of a trial court's second gander,
this Court stayed the case pending an appellate ruling.
See Feb. 26, 2016, Minute Order. Defendants'
signals were apparently mixed. Soon after, they filed a
request to lift the stay so that their Motion to Reconsider
could proceed here. See ECF No. 32. Then, they filed
in the Court of Appeals a motion to hold their
appeal in abeyance instead. See No.
16-5045, Doc. No. 1604562 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 17, 2016). That
motion remains unresolved.
is Defendants' current relationship status with this
Court? It's complicated. Observing that Defendants'
toes were dipped into the jurisdiction of two courts
- the district court and the court of appeals - this Court
held a hearing on the lift-stay Motion to explore what, if
anything, remained of its jurisdiction and ordered
briefing on this question. The issue is now ripe for
may be stayed for any number of reasons. Parallel criminal
prosecutions may be ongoing; dispositive appellate decisions
may be pending; or the parties may otherwise desire some
respite. To accommodate these ups and downs of litigation,
the Court wields a “power to stay proceedings [that] is
incidental to the power inherent in every court to control
the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of
time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for
litigants.” Air Line Pilots Ass'n v.
Miller, 523 U.S. 866, 879 n.6 (1998) (quoting Landis
v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1936)). Once a stay
is imposed, the Court may lift it “[w]hen circumstances
have changed such that the court's reasons for imposing
the stay no longer exist or are inappropriate.”
Marsh v. Johnson, 263 F.Supp.2d 49, 52 (D.D.C.
Court stayed the case here because the individual Defendants
had filed a Notice of Appeal to challenge an adverse immunity
decision. It is “generally understood that a federal
district court and a federal court of appeals should not
attempt to assert jurisdiction over a case
simultaneously.” Griggs v. Provident Consumer Disc.
Co., 459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982). To avoid issues inherent in
overlapping jurisdiction, the filing of a notice of appeal
has become “an event of jurisdictional significance -
it confers jurisdiction on the court of appeals and divests
the district court of its control over those aspects of the
case involved in the appeal.” Id. This
Court's stay thus operated to allow the D.C. Circuit to
resolve the appealed issues within that court's
jurisdiction before further work was expended here.
now contend that the stay was unnecessary because this Court
nonetheless retains jurisdiction to decide their pending
Motion to Reconsider the separate statute-of-limitations
issue. Plaintiff rejoins that, at most, only the
procedural-due-process claim against the agency
Defendants can continue because it was untouched by the
Notice of Appeal. See generally Williams v. Vilsack,
669 F.Supp.2d 16, 17 (D.D.C. 2009) (“The federal courts
of appeals do not have jurisdiction over a party who is not
specified in a notice of appeal . . . .”).
often the case with jurisdictional issues, what from afar
seems like an orderly wound ball of twine is, on closer
inspection, a Gordian knot. The parties' interweaving
strands of argument need not all be addressed, however,
because Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(4) cuts
cleanly through this jurisdictional tangle.
Rule provides, first, a list of motions that toll the time to
file a notice of appeal. See Fed. R. App. P.
4(a)(4)(A). Included in this list is a Rule 59 motion to
alter or amend the judgment, which Defendants contend
encompasses their Motion to Reconsider. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). The Rule also notes that if a party
“files a notice of appeal after the court
announces or enters a judgment - but before it
disposes of any motion listed in Rule 4(a)(4)(A) - the notice
becomes effective . . . when the order disposing of the last
such remaining motion is entered.” Id.
4(a)(4)(B)(i) (emphases added). In other words, if a Rule 59
motion is pending, a later-filed ...