United States District Court, District of Columbia
ROBERT A. MCNEIL, et al., Plaintiffs,
JANICE R. BROWN, et. al, Defendants.
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO ALTER JUDGMENT
judgment from this Court dismissing Plaintiffs' claims
for lack of Article III standing, Plaintiffs have now filed a
motion pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure seeking to alter or amend the judgment. 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. For these reasons,
the motion will be denied.
Court has previously described the facts of this case,
see McNeil v. Brown, No. 17-cv-2602, 2018 WL
4623057, at *1 (D.D.C. Sept. 26, 2018), and confines its
recital here to the most relevant facts. Plaintiffs
previously filed suits against the Internal Revenue Service
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 4623057,
at *2. Plaintiffs then sued Judge Brown, one of the judges
who affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiffs' cases.
Id. The Department of Justice appeared and purported
to represent Judge Brown in the matter. Def.'s Notice
Appearance at 1, ECF No. 9. Judge Brown filed a
motion to dismiss, arguing, inter alia, that
Plaintiffs lacked standing and that the Court accordingly
lacked subject matter jurisdiction over their claim.
Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 3, 6, ECF No.
11-1. Then, Plaintiffs filed a motion to strike
Judge Brown's motion to dismiss from the record.
McNeil, 2018 WL 4623057, at *5. Plaintiffs claimed
that because they had sued Judge Brown in her personal
capacity, she was not entitled to legal representation by the
Department of Justice. Id. Plaintiffs also argued,
as relevant here, that Judge Brown was not the author of the
three orders upholding dismissal of Plaintiffs' prior
cases and that this Court could redress the violation by
granting declaratory relief. Id. at *3.
September 26, 2018, the Court issued an opinion resolving
these issues. Id. at * 8. The Court denied the
motion to strike, reasoning that the Attorney General has the
discretion to procure Department of Justice representation,
and that the Court would not interfere with that decision.
Id. at *5. The Court rejected Plaintiffs' other
arguments, reasoning that “the Court is not capable of
granting the relief Plaintiffs seek because the declaratory
judgment . . . would not void, recognize as void, or indeed
have any legal effect on Judge Brown's three
orders.” Id. at *6. 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 4 n. 4.
now ask this Court to alter its September 26, 2018 opinion
based on four points. First, Plaintiffs argue that the Court
wrongfully procured Department of Justice representation for
Judge Brown. Pls.' Mot. Alter J. at 10-11, ECF No. 34.
Second, they allege the Court erred in assuming the
authorship of the three appellate orders affirming the
dismissal of their cases. Id. at 8-9. Third,
Plaintiffs allege that the Court erred in finding that the
declaratory relief sought would not redress their claimed
injuries. Id. at 6-8. And fourth, Plaintiffs assert
that the Court erred when it suggested that absolute judicial
immunity likely barred their claims for equitable relief.
Id. at 9-10.
III. LEGAL STANDARD
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); see also Solomon v. Univ. of S.
Cal., 255 F.R.D. 303, 305 (D.D.C. 2009). And 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., Inc., 12 F.Supp.3d 30,
35-36 (D.D.C. 2013).
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 burden of establishing that relief
is warranted. Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. U.S. Dep't
of Homeland Sec., 811 F.Supp.2d 216, 226 (D.D.C. 2011).
claim that Rule 59(e) relief is appropriate due to the
“manifest injustice on Plaintiffs and their
cause” caused by the Court's alleged clear errors.
Pls.' Mot. Alter J. at 1. The Court first reviews
Plaintiffs' arguments, and notes that Plaintiffs seek
reconsideration based solely on arguments previously
considered and rejected by the Court. Compare Id. at
5-10, and McNeil, 2018 WL 4623057, at *2-3. Mindful
that a Rule 59(e) motion is not intended as an opportunity to
reargue facts or theories already decided, the Court then
considers whether its prior grant of dismissal was in clear
error or created manifest injustice. The Court denies the
Plaintiffs' Arguments Are Duplicative of ...