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Webster v. Spencer

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 26, 2018

KATRINA L. WEBSTER, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD V. SPENCER, Secretary, U.S. Department of the Navy, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          DABNEY L. FRIEDRICH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On June 27, 2018, the Court dismissed all counts against defendants Kevin Keefe, James Lee, and Jack Rickert in their individual capacities. Mem. Op. & Order at 1-2, 10, Dkt. 19. Only the claims against Secretary Richard Spencer remain. Id. The plaintiff, Katrina Webster, filed an objection to the Court's decision, Pl.'s Objection, Dkt. 20, and requested the recusal of the undersigned, Pl.'s Objection at 5-6. The Court construes Webster's filing as a Motion for Reconsideration and a Motion to Disqualify. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny both motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This Court previously held that Webster failed to state a claim under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and Bivens. Mem. Op. & Order at 4-10. The Court dismissed Webster's statutory claims as to Keefe, Lee, and Rickert because they were not proper defendants under the relevant statutes. Id. at 4-7. And it dismissed her Bivens claims because she did not adequately allege a constitutional violation. Id. at 8.[1] The Court also noted that, even if Webster had alleged a violation of her constitutional rights, it was not clear that a Bivens cause of action would be available. Id. at 8-9.

         Webster requests reconsideration for four reasons. First, she argues that the Court made a factually inaccurate statement. Pl.'s Objection at 1-4. Second, she argues that the Court failed to liberally construe her ADEA claims. Id. at 4-5. Third, she argues that the discrimination she experienced resulted from “the collusion of Keefe, Lee, and Rickert.” Id. at 5. Finally, she argues that her suit may proceed against the dismissed defendants under 18 U.S.C. § 242. Pl.'s Reply at 3, Dkt. 24.

         In addition, Webster requests recusal because “a white Judge replac[ed] a black Judge in a case where the Defendants are all white, ” because of purported mistakes in the Court's prior ruling, and because another judge has more “familiarity” with her case and a related case filed by her husband. Pl.'s Objection at 5.

         The Court considers each of Webster's arguments in turn.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Motion for Reconsideration

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) “allows a litigant to move for reconsideration or modification of a district court's interlocutory order disposing of ‘fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties' ‘at any time' before the court's entry of final judgment.” Cobell v. Jewell, 802 F.3d 12, 19 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b)). In particular, a district court has discretion “to set aside a judgment whose enforcement would work inequity.” Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 234 (1995). Courts will reconsider an opinion when they have “patently misunderstood a party[, ] . . . [when they have] 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.” Scahill v. District of Columbia, 286 F.Supp.3d 12, 17-18 (D.D.C. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted) (alterations in original). “[I]n order to promote finality and protect [courts'] judicial resources, [courts are] loath to revisit [their] prior decision[s] absent extraordinary circumstances such as where the initial decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice.” Hall & Assocs. v. EPA, 210 F.Supp.3d 13, 18 (D.D.C. 2016) (citation omitted). “The burden is on the moving party to show that reconsideration is appropriate and that harm or injustice would result if reconsideration were denied.” United States ex rel. Westrick v. Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., 893 F.Supp.2d 258, 268 (D.D.C. 2012).

         B. Motion to Disqualify

         Two statutory provisions govern disqualification. First, 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) requires a federal judge to “disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). “The standard for disqualification under [Section] 455(a) is an objective one. The question is whether a reasonable and informed observer would question the judge's impartiality.” United States v. Microsoft Corp., 253 F.3d 34, 114 (D.C. Cir. 2001). The party seeking disqualification must show either that a judge relied on an extrajudicial source or that there was “deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible.” Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 554-55 (1994).

         Second, 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(1) requires recusal where the judge “has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(1). “To compel recusal under Section 455(b), the movant must demonstrate that the judge has ‘actual bias or prejudice based upon an extrajudicial source.'” Jordan v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 315 F.Supp.3d 584, 591 (D.D.C. 2018) (quoting Tripp v. Exec. Office of the President, 104 F.Supp.2d 30, 34 (D.D.C. 2000)).

         III. ...


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