United States District Court, District of Columbia
D. BATES, United States District Judge
before the Court is  plaintiffs' motion for
reconsideration and for leave to amend their complaint. For
the following reasons, the motion will be denied.
Court will assume familiarity with the facts of this case, as
laid out in the prior Memorandum Opinion granting
defendants' motion to dismiss (“Mem. Op.”)
[ECF No. 14]. See Scahill v. District of Columbia,
__ F.Supp.3d__, 2017 WL 4280946 (D.D.C. Sept. 25, 2017).
Plaintiffs Martin Scahill (“Scahill”) and HRH
Services, Inc. (“HRH”) brought claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against the District of Columbia Alcoholic
Beverage Control Board (“the Board”), the
District of Columbia itself, and ten unnamed “John
Doe” defendants. Plaintiffs alleged that conditions
placed on HRH's liquor license-which barred Scahill from
entering HRH's pub, the Alibi-violated their First
Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of
association, and that the Board brought enforcement actions
against HRH in retaliation for plaintiffs' lawsuits
against the Board. Plaintiffs also claimed that the order
violated their Fifth Amendment rights to liberty, due
process, and freedom of movement and violated the
unconstitutional conditions doctrine. Plaintiffs sought a
declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and damages.
filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), arguing that plaintiffs
lacked standing and failed to state a claim. The Court
granted the motion, finding that a prior D.C. Court of
Appeals decision precluded HRH from claiming it had standing
on its claims related to the Board's order and that
plaintiffs did not state plausible claims to relief. Mem. Op.
at 33; see Order (“September 25 Order”)
[ECF No. 13]. The Court also issued an order to show cause as
to why the claims against the John Doe defendants should not
be dismissed for failure to identify and serve them with
process under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m).
See Order [ECF No. 15]. Plaintiffs then voluntarily
dismissed their claims against the John Doe defendants.
See Response to Order to Show Cause [ECF No. 17].
However, HRH also filed a motion to: (1) reconsider the
Court's decision regarding HRH's standing, thereby
seeking to revive HRH's First and Fifth Amendment and
unconstitutional conditions claims; and (2) amend
plaintiffs' complaint to provide more detailed facts, in
order to revive their retaliation claims. See Pl.
HRH's Mot. for Reconsideration and for Leave to Amend the
Compl. (“HRH Mot.”) [ECF No. 16]. The District
opposes the motion. See Defs.' Opp. to Pl. HRH Servs.
LLC's Mot. for Reconsideration and to Amend the
Compl. (“Opp'n”) [ECF No. 21].
argues that the Court should reconsider its determination
that a prior D.C. Court of Appeals decision precluded later
courts from finding that HRH has standing. HRH asserts that
it was fined by the Board after briefing closed on the motion
to dismiss, and that this factual change triggers the curable
defect exception to issue preclusion. HRH Mot. at 3-5. HRH
also claims that issue preclusion should not have applied in
the first place, because standing under the D.C.
Administrative Procedure Act (DCAPA) is not the same issue as
Article III standing. Id. at 5-6. Additionally, HRH
seeks leave to amend its complaint, so it can add more
details about the Board's alleged retaliatory acts.
Id. at 6-7. The Court will consider each argument in
Standard of Review
the Court can reach the merits of HRH's reconsideration
motion, it must first resolve a dispute over the applicable
standard of review. HRH argues that its motion is properly
brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) because
the September 25 Order was not a final order. HRH Mot. at 2
n.2; Reply Br. in Supp. of Pl. HRH's Mot. for
Reconsideration and for Leave to Amend the Compl.
(“Reply”) [ECF No. 23] at 1, 5-6. Under this
Rule, a court may revise its decisions “at any time
before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims
and all the parties' rights and liabilities.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). The District, on the other hand, claims
that plaintiffs' voluntary dismissal of the John Does
eliminated the final claims in the case, thus transforming
the September 25 Order into a final order that may be
reconsidered only under Rule 59(e). See Opp'n at
4-5. That Rule allows a party to move to “alter or
amend a judgment” already entered. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).
The Court must therefore determine whether plaintiffs'
voluntary dismissal of the John Doe plaintiffs transformed
the September 25 Order into a final one.
decision is final only if it ‘ends the litigation on
the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute
the judgment.'” Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. All
Plumbing, Inc., 812 F.3d 153, 156 (D.C. Cir. 2016)
(citation omitted). Therefore, a court must resolve all
claims against all defendants before an order may be deemed
final. This is a procedure that the parties themselves can
only rarely control. “The judge, not the parties, is
meant to be the dispatcher who controls the circumstances and
timing of the entry of final judgment.” Blue v.
D.C. Pub. Sch., 764 F.3d 11, 18 (D.C. Cir. 2014). Thus,
a court can render a prior order final by involuntarily
dismissing remaining claims or parties, even without
prejudice. Id. However, the D.C. Circuit
“treats voluntary but non- prejudicial dismissals of
remaining claims [by plaintiffs themselves] as generally
insufficient to render final and appealable a prior order
disposing of only part of the case.” Id. at
17. Here, plaintiffs dismissed their claims against the John
Doe defendants on their own initiative, and did not indicate
that they were doing so with prejudice. Response to Order to
Show Cause at 1; see Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(B)
(“Unless the notice or stipulation [of dismissal]
states otherwise, the dismissal is without
prejudice.”). Hence, the September 25 Order cannot be
retroactively declared final based on their voluntary
the Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss
plaintiffs' amended complaint as against the Board and
the District. See September 25 Order. The September
25 Order did not dismiss the action in its entirety.
Nor did the Court dismiss the complaint with prejudice.
“In evaluating the finality of district court rulings
on motions to dismiss, [the D.C. Circuit has] distinguished
between orders dismissing the action, which are
final, . . . and orders dismissing the complaint,
which, if rendered ‘without prejudice, ' are
‘typically' not final . . . .” Attias v.
Carefirst, Inc., 865 F.3d 620, 623 (D.C. Cir. 2017)
(citations omitted). As this Court neither dismissed the
action nor was involved in dismissing the claims against the
John Doe defendants, the Court's prior order was not
HRH is correct that its reconsideration motion must be
treated as a Rule 54(b) motion, not a Rule 59(e) motion.
Unlike Rule 59(e), which “sets a high threshold for
parties to raise a new argument for the first time after
judgment, ” Cobell v. Jewell, 802 F.3d 12, 25
(D.C. Cir. 2015), “Rule 54(b)'s approach . . . can
be more flexible, reflecting the ‘inherent power of the
rendering district court to afford such relief from
interlocutory judgments as justice requires, '”
id. Justice may require reconsideration “where
a court has ‘patently misunderstood a party[, ] . . .
has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension, or
where a controlling or significant change in the law or facts
[has occurred] since the submission of the issue to the
Court.'” Moore v. Carson, No. CV 14-2109
(JDB), 2017 WL 1750248, at *3 (D.D.C. May 3, 2017) (citation
omitted) (second alteration in original). The decision
whether to reconsider a prior order is left to the
Court's discretion, and the Court need not consider
arguments that have already been rejected on the merits.
Id. (citing Capitol Sprinkler Inspection, Inc.
v. Guest Servs., Inc., 630 F.3d 217, 225, 227 (D.C. Cir.
Reconsideration of Issue Preclusion
moved for reconsideration on only one issue: the preclusive
effect of the D.C. Court of Appeals' prior decision on
HRH's standing to challenge the Board's order.
Particularly because the parties did not have the opportunity
to brief this issue prior to the September 25 Order, the
Court takes seriously its obligation to reexamine ...