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McNeil v. Harvey

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 28, 2019

ROBERT A. MCNEIL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
G. MICHAEL HARVEY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO ALTER JUDGMENT; DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTIONS TO STRIKE; DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFFS TO COMPLY WITH FED. R. CIV. P. RULE 5(B)(1)

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs in this case brought suit against the federal judges who dismissed multiple prior cases in which Plaintiffs had alleged the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) was engaged in a tax falsification program. The Court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for lack of Article III standing, and Plaintiffs have now filed a motion pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seeking to alter or amend the Court's judgment. Plaintiffs also renew a motion to strike all filings by Defendants, based on allegedly improper conduct by the attorney representing them. Defendants separately move for an order directing Plaintiffs to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 5(b)(1). Because Plaintiffs seek to reargue points this Court has already decided, most of which were immaterial in the decision to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the Court denies the motion to alter the judgment. The Court accordingly denies as moot all remaining pending motions.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court has previously described the facts of this case, see McNeil v. Harvey, No. 17-1720, 2018 WL 4623571, at *1 (D.D.C. Sept. 26, 2018), and confines its recital here to the most relevant facts. Plaintiffs previously filed suits against the IRS and Department of Justice (“DOJ”), alleging a conspiracy to falsify tax records to wrongfully fine and incarcerate them. See generally Compl., ECF No. 1. Each of Plaintiffs' ten lawsuits were dismissed as barred by the Anti-Injunction Act. McNeil, 2018 WL 4623571, at *2.

         Plaintiffs then sued Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey and District Court judges Dale A. Drozd, Christopher Cooper, and Amy Berman Jackson (“Defendants”), [1] the judges who dismissed Plaintiffs' cases. Id. DOJ appeared and purported to represent Defendants in the matter. Defs.' Notice of Appearance at 1, ECF No. 19. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing, inter alia, that Plaintiffs lacked standing and that the Court accordingly lacked subject matter jurisdiction over their claim. McNeil, 2018 WL 4623571, at *3. Plaintiffs then filed a motion to strike Defendants' motion to dismiss from the record. Pls.' Mot. Strike Filing at 1, ECF No. 37. Plaintiffs claimed that because they had sued each judge in his or her personal capacity, Defendants were not entitled to legal representation by DOJ. Id. at 4-5. In response to Defendants' motion to dismiss, Plaintiffs argued that Defendants were not entitled to judicial immunity and that this Court could redress the wrongful dismissal of their earlier cases by granting declaratory relief, which would “give Plaintiffs standing to re-file [their] cases, and thus eventually, [t]o finally secure access to adequate, meaningful and effective judicial relief.” Pls.' Opp'n Mot. Dismiss at 5, ECF No. 27.

         On September 26, 2018, the Court issued an opinion resolving these issues and dismissing Plaintiffs' case. McNeil, 2018 WL 4623571, at *8. The Court found that “the declaratory judgment Plaintiffs seek would not void or recognize as void Defendants' orders” and therefore would not redress Plaintiffs' claimed injury. Id. at 5. Because it accordingly found that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their claims, the Court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Id. And although neither party addressed whether judicial immunity is available in a declaratory relief action, the Court separately raised the issue in a footnote, noting that Plaintiffs' claims were likely barred independently of standing because “judges acting in their judicial capacity, as here, are likely to be absolutely immune from actions for equitable relief under Bivens.” Id. at 3 n.2.

         On October 24, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a motion to alter the September 26, 2018 judgment. First, Plaintiffs argue that the Court failed to “accept, as true, Plaintiffs' Complaint allegations.” Pls.' Mot. Alter J. at 5, ECF No. 45. Second, they argue that the Defendants' previous rulings on Plaintiffs' cases are not binding because they went beyond issues raised by Plaintiffs, and therefore that this Court can redress those judgments. Id. at 6. Third, Plaintiffs allege that the Court erred when it suggested that Defendants had judicial immunity. Id. at 10-13. Fourth, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants unlawfully obtained DOJ representation after this Court fabricated a reason for DOJ to get involved in the case. Id. at 16-17. Fifth, Plaintiffs assert that their claims have not been adjudicated and that they have no meaningful appellate relief. Id. at 11, 14, 17. And sixth, Plaintiffs ask the Court to take judicial notice of orders and opinions filed in Ellis v. Jackson, No. 16-2313 (D.D.C.) and Stanley v. Lynch, No. 16-2313 (D.D.C.) on June 19, 2018 and June 20, 2018. Id. at 2. Plaintiffs argue that these filings provide evidence of “material relevance” for the Court to consider in deciding on their motion. Id. at 3.

         On November 16, 2018, Defendants filed a motion to direct Plaintiffs to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5(b)(1). Defs.' Mot. Direct, ECF No. 48. Plaintiffs filed a motion to strike Defendants' motion. Pls.' Mot. Strike Mot. Order, ECF No. 49. Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiffs' motion to strike, Defs.' Opp'n Mot. Strike, ECF No. 50, following which Plaintiffs filed a motion to strike all DOJ filings in this case, Pls.' Mot. Strike All DOJ Filings, ECF No. 52. Plaintiffs also filed a motion for a hearing regarding their previous motion to alter judgment.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion under Rule 59(e) is “disfavored and relief from judgment is granted only when the moving party establishes extraordinary circumstances.” Niedermeier v. Office of Baucus, 153 F.Supp.2d 23, 28 (D.D.C. 2001) (citing Anyanwutaku v. Moore, 151 F.3d 1053, 1057 (D.C. Cir. 1998)); see also Ciralsky v. CIA, 355 F.3d 661, 671 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Granting a Rule 59(e) motion “is discretionary and [the motion] 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); Solomon v. Univ. of S. Cal., 255 F.R.D. 303, 304 (D.D.C. 2009).

         In the Rule 59(e) context, “clear error” is “a very exacting standard, ” Bond v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 286 F.R.D. 16, 22 (D.D.C. 2012) (quoting Lightfoot v. District of Columbia, 355 F.Supp.2d 414, 422 (D.D.C. 2005)), tantamount to a requirement that the judgment be “dead wrong, ” Lardner v. FBI, 875 F.Supp.2d 49, 53 (D.D.C. 2012) (quoting Parts & Elec. Motors, Inc. v. Sterling Elec., Inc., 866 F.2d 228, 233 (7th Cir. 1988)). “Manifest injustice” on the other hand, requires a demonstration not only of “clear and certain prejudice to the moving party, but also a result that is fundamentally unfair in light of governing law.” Slate v. Am. Broad. Cos., 12 F.Supp.3d 30, 35-36 (D.D.C. 2013). Newly available evidence is “evidence that is newly discovered or previously unavailable despite the exercise of due diligence.” Niedermeier, 153 F.Supp.2d at 29. Newly available evidence excludes “relevant facts . . . known by the party prior to the entry of judgment [where] the party failed to present those facts.” Id. (collecting cases); see also S.E.C. v. Bilzerian, 729 F.Supp.2d 9, 15 (D.D.C. 2010) (denying movant Rule 59 relief because “[t]he evidence [the movant] alludes to is not newly available; it is simply newly received [by the court]”).

         Rule 59(e) affords no opportunity for the parties to “relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment.” Niedermeier, 153 F.Supp.2d at 28 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also New York v. United States,880 F.Supp. 37, 38 (D.D.C. 1995) (“A Rule 59(e) motion to reconsider is not simply an opportunity to reargue facts and theories upon which a court has already ruled.”). The party seeking reconsideration bears the ...


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