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Outterbridge v. Department of Homeland Security

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 20, 2018

JEANNETTE OUTTERBRIDGE, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          AMY BERMAN JACKSON JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Plaintiff seeks relief from the Court's July 7, 2017 judgment dismissing the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and she also seeks leave under Rule 15(a) to file an amended complaint to add Jeh Charles Johnson as a defendant. See Pl's Mot. to Reinstate & Renewed Mot. to Amend the Pleading [Dkt. # 36] ("Pl.'s Mot."). Because plaintiff has not identified any proper basis for the Court to vacate its judgment and reopen the case, the Court will deny plaintiffs motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this employment discrimination case against the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") on August 26, 2015. Compl. [Dkt. # 1]. After the parties engaged in a period of discovery, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. Def's Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 24] ("Def's Mot."). Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion, Pl.'s Opp. to Def's Mot. [Dkt. # 30] ("Pl.'s Opp."), and defendant replied. Def's Reply in Supp. of Def's Mot. [Dkt. # 31] ("Def's Reply"). But before it turned to the merits of defendant's motion, the Court had to first determine if it had subject matter jurisdiction over the case.

         Because plaintiff had sued the agency, and not the agency head as required by statute, see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c), the Court ordered plaintiff to show cause why the Court should not dismiss her case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction for failure to name the proper party. Min. Order (June 28, 2017) ("Plaintiff is ordered to show cause by July 7, 2017, why this matter should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction for failure to name the proper party. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c)."). In response to the Court's order, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend her complaint, in which she proposed to add the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and not the agency head, as a defendant. See Mot. to File Late Mot. to Amend Pleading to Join Agency as Def [Dkt. # 32] at 1, 7. The Court denied plaintiffs motion for leave to amend, holding that plaintiff s proposed amendment would be futile because it "would not solve the subject matter jurisdiction defect." Outterbridge v. Dep't of Homeland Sec, No. 15-1391, 2017 WL 3503376, at *2 (D.D.C. July 7, 2017).[1] And because plaintiff had not sued the proper party, the Court dismissed the case. Id.

         On August 4, 2017, plaintiff filed this motion to reopen the case and to amend her complaint to add defendant Jeh Charles Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.[2] Pl.'s Mot. Defendant opposed the motion on August 18, 2017, arguing that "Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) does not support plaintiffs request" to reopen her case, and that granting her motion would be futile. Def.'s Opp. to Pl.'s Mot. [Dkt. # 37] ("Def's Opp.") at 2-3.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides that "the Court should freely give leave [to amend a pleading] when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). To amend a complaint after judgment has been entered, though, the Court must first reopen the judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) or 60(b). Bldg. Indus. Ass'n of Superior Cal. v. Norton, 247 F.3d 1241, 1245 (D.C. Cir. 2001). In other words, the Court cannot permit an amendment at this stage unless the plaintiff first satisfies the more stringent standard for setting aside the judgment. See Ciralsky v. CIA, 355 F.3d 661, 673 (D.C. Cir. 2004) ("Since the court declined to set aside the judgment under Rule 59(e), it properly concluded that [plaintiffs] motion to amend under Rule 15(a) was moot"). Only then would Rule I5(a)'s liberal standard for granting leave to amend govern. Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996) ("Rule I5(a)'s liberal standard for granting leave to amend governs once the court has vacated the judgment.").

         A party moving under Rule 60(b) will be successful only if she demonstrates that the judgment should be set aside for one of the six reasons specified in the rule:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b);
(3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party;
(4) thejudgmentisvoid;
(5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it ...

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