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Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 11, 2018

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.



         In a Memorandum Opinion and separate Order issued last April, this Court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs - the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW), the River School, and two individual teachers - on their claim that a D.C. drug- and alcohol-testing policy pertaining to employees of childcare facilities violated the Fourth Amendment. See Ass'n of Indep. Sch. of Greater Washington v. D.C., 2018 WL 1972459 (D.D.C. Apr. 26, 2018). The Court determined that the random drug-testing requirements imposed by the District's Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) on nursery-school teachers were unlawful, as they did “not fit within the closely guarded category of constitutionally permissible suspicionless searches.” Id. at *12. The Court therefore granted Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and ordered that OSSE “shall not enforce its random, suspicionless drug- and alcohol-testing policies against Plaintiffs.” ECF No. 29 (Order). Dissatisfied with this outcome and alleging that the Court failed to address certain of Plaintiffs' original claims, the District now moves to alter the judgment. Finding the majority of Defendants' assertions to be without merit, the Court will largely preserve its prior Opinion and Order intact.

         I. Background

         This suit was initiated in September 2016 as a response to the District's policy requiring the random, suspicionless drug testing of employees of childcare facilities. See AISGW, 2018 WL 1972459, at *3. Plaintiffs are an association that includes such entities; one of its member schools, the River School; and Katherine Brebbia and Lauren Walence, two River School teachers. Collectively, Plaintiffs opposed the imposition of the testing requirement, which was enacted pursuant to a 2004 statue, the Child and Youth Safety and Health Omnibus Amendment Act, which introduced random drug and alcohol testing for those employees in “safety-sensitive positions.” Id. at *1. Almost a decade later, in 2013, OSSE used its implementing authority under the Act to categorize the personnel of child-development facilities as “safety-sensitive, ” thus subjecting them to random, suspicionless urinalysis. Id. at 2.

         After being informed by OSSE that it would be required to comply with this new requirement, the River School issued a series of objections to the policy from April 2014 through June 2015, repeatedly informing the Office that it would not adopt random drug testing of its employees. Id. After much back and forth, River was ultimately informed that acceptance of the policy was a condition of its OSSE licensure, and, on January 11, 2016, it received a Notice of Intent to Revoke its child-development-center license for failure to “establish mandatory drug and alcohol testing policies and procedures that are consistent with the requirements of District law for safety-sensitive employees.” Id. at *3. Faced with this penalty, the School “adopted a drug and alcohol testing policy that included random testing, ” as did the other eight AISGW member schools that hold OSSE licenses as child-development facilities. Id.

         Yet AISGW and River continued to object to the random-search requirement, and, having failed to reach a resolution with OSSE, they brought the instant suit. Plaintiffs' Complaint alleged that requiring child-development facilities to implement a random drug- and alcohol-testing policy was a violation of (1) the Fourth Amendment and (2) the District of Columbia's Administrative Procedure Act (DCAPA). See ECF No. 1 (Complaint), ¶¶ 52-56. As relief for these alleged violations, Plaintiffs requested a declaratory judgment that “the implementation and enforcement of OSSE's random drug- and alcohol-testing requirement violates Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights” and the DCAPA, an injunction “prohibiting OSSE from enforcing its drug and alcohol testing requirement against Plaintiffs, ” and “[m]ake-whole relief, including but not limited to damages.” Id. at 14.

         This past spring, the Court granted summary judgment on the basis of Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim and enjoined Defendants from enforcing the random-testing requirement against them. See ECF No. 29 (Order). The Court's Opinion concluded that, although the District had a “sincere” interest in protecting the welfare of young children, such governmental motivation did not “rise to the level of immediacy or concreteness needed to justify the random, suspicionless testing of nursery-school teachers.” AISGW, 2018 WL 1972459, at *12. The Court therefore found that such personnel could not “be subjected to random, suspicionless searches as a condition of their employment, ” id., and that Plaintiffs were “entitled to judgment as a matter of law on [their] constitutional claim.” Id. at *7.

         On May 24, the District filed a Motion to Alter the Court's Judgment, see ECF No. 32 (Motion), which Plaintiffs subsequently opposed. See ECF No. 34 (Response). The Court now turns to Defendants' arguments regarding various alleged errors in its prior Opinion and Order.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) permits the filing of a motion to alter or amend a judgment when such motion is filed within 28 days after the judgment's entry. The Court must apply a “stringent” standard when evaluating Rule 59(e) motions. See Ciralsky v. CIA, 355 F.3d 661, 673 (D.C. Cir. 2004). “A Rule 59(e) motion is discretionary and need not be granted unless the district court finds that there is an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also 11 C. Wright & A. Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 2810.1 at 158-62 (3d ed. 2012) (stating that the “four basic grounds” for Rule 59(e) motion are “manifest errors of law or fact, ” “newly discovered or previously unavailable evidence, ” “prevent[ion of] manifest injustice, ” and “intervening change in controlling law”). Critically, Rule 59(e) “is not a vehicle to present a new legal theory that was available prior to judgment.” Patton Boggs LLP v. Chevron Corp., 683 F.3d 397, 403 (D.C. Cir. 2012).

         III. Analysis

         In seeking alteration, Defendants raise three points. First, they contend that the Court “did not address whether the District violated Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights.” Mot. at 4. Second, they posit that the Court also did not “find municipal liability under [42 U.S.C. §] 1983, ” and third, they state that it did not “resolve the DCAPA claim.” Id. at 4-5. Taken together, Defendants argue that these alleged lacunae in the Court's Opinion constituted error, as it “enter[ed] final judgment for Plaintiffs without resolving all claims in the litigation.” Id. at 5. The Court takes each of these assertions separately.

         A. Fourth Amendment

         The District's first basis for alteration is perhaps its most puzzling. Defendants posit that the Court erred in finding that the OSSE suspicionless-search policy violated the Fourth Amendment because Plaintiffs never established that they were, in fact, “searched.” Mot. at 8. Under the District's theory of the Fourth Amendment, the proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures is “only implicated when a ‘search' has occurred.” Id. at 6. In this case, ...

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