United States District Court, District of Columbia
Timothy J. Kelly, United States District Judge.
Jamie Rudert seeks relief from the Court's decision to
grant summary judgment against him and in favor of Defendants
on his claims that the Department of Education violated the
Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Fifth
Amendment's Due Process Clause when it determined that
loan payments he made while employed at Vietnam Veterans of
America (VVA) did not qualify for loan forgiveness under the
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Rudert has
moved to alter or amend the Court's judgment pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) after obtaining new
evidence-a letter issued by the Department to another former
VVA employee-that he contends justifies this extraordinary
remedy. However, he has not met the stringent requirements of
Rule 59(e) because the new evidence would not have altered
the Court's summary judgment decision. Accordingly, and
for the reasons explained below, the Court will deny his
Court's Memorandum Opinion, ECF No. 49 (“Mem.
Op.”), fully sets forth the factual background
underlying Rudert's claims. Accordingly, only some
relevant facts are recounted here.
began working at VVA, a 501(c)(19) not-for-profit
organization that provides advocacy and support services to
Vietnam veterans, in April 2012. ECF No. 17-2 ¶ 4; AR
315. While employed there, Rudert represented veterans with
service-connected disability claims before the Board of
Veterans' Appeals. ECF No. 17-2 ¶ 6. In July 2012,
Rudert sought confirmation from the Department of Education
(the “Department”) that he would be eligible to
participate in the PSLF Program while employed at VVA by
submitting an Employment Certification Form (ECF).
Id. ¶ 8. In response, he received a letter from
FedLoan Servicing, which manages ECF submissions on behalf of
the Department, indicating that his payments made while
employed at VVA from April to June 2012 qualified for the
PSLF Program. Id. About two years later, in October
2014, he received another letter confirming the same.
Id. ¶ 10. Rudert departed VVA as Deputy
Director in September 2015. Id. ¶ 11.
Subsequently, FedLoan Servicing informed Rudert that, as of
January 2015, he had made 30 qualifying payments while
employed at VVA. Id. ¶ 10.
early 2016, Rudert submitted another ECF, which covered the
remainder of his loan payments while at VVA. Id.
¶ 12. He received a denial letter from FedLoan Servicing
in April 2016 stating that, based on its “further
research and after consulting with the Department, ” it
“reversed [his] previously approved employment
period” because VVA “does not provide a
qualifying service.” AR 282-83. After receiving that
letter, Rudert sent a letter to the Department contesting the
denial, AR 289, along with additional documentation that, he
alleged, established that VVA “provides public
service[s] for individuals with disabilities, ” AR 286.
Subsequently, in June 2016, a congresswoman wrote to the
Department on Rudert's behalf, inquiring about his
eligibility for the PSLF Program. AR 320. In August 2016, the
Department replied to the congresswoman in a letter
confirming that VVA did not provide a qualifying service
because “while they facilitate the provision of
disability-related services to Vietnam Veterans, they do not
provide the services outright.” AR 331. The Department
also clarified that, although Rudert's initial ECF was
“approved in error, ” the payments he made while
employed at VVA did not qualify for the PSLF Program.
along with the American Bar Association and three other
individual borrowers (collectively,
“Plaintiffs”), then sued the Department and the
Secretary of Education (“Defendants”). ECF No. 1.
In their Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiffs argued that
the Department illegally changed its interpretation of the
PSLF regulation by adopting three new standards for assessing
whether non-501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations qualify as
public service organizations under the PSLF Program. See
generally ECF No. 17. According to Plaintiffs, the Department
determined that loan payments made by Rudert while employed
at VVA were ineligible for the PSLF Program based on its
application of a new interpretation of its
regulation-described as the Outright Provision of Services
standard-under which the Department required qualifying
organizations to provide disability-related services directly
to the recipient or “outright.” Id. at
32-33. Similarly, Plaintiffs alleged that payments made by
the other three individual borrowers were wrongfully denied
by operation of two other newly-applied interpretations: the
Primary Purpose and School-Like Setting standards.
Id. at 31-32. As relevant here, Plaintiffs alleged
that, under the Primary Purpose standard, the Department
required that a qualifying organization provide an otherwise
qualifying public service as part of that organization's
February 22, 2019, the Court entered summary judgment on
behalf of Defendants as to Rudert's claims. ECF No. 48.
In its accompanying Memorandum Opinion, the Court concluded
Plaintiffs had not established that the Outright Provision of
Services standard reflected a new interpretation; rather, the
record showed that the Department engaged in “a
straightforward application of the regulation” when it
issued the denial letter to Rudert. Mem. Op. at 39. In
contrast, the Court concluded that the other two standards
reflected new interpretations by the Department that it
adopted in violation of certain APA requirements. On that
basis, it entered summary judgment on behalf of the other
three individual borrowers and vacated those standards.
See Id. at 39-44, 53.
instant motion, Rudert seeks to alter or amend the
Court's judgment based on new evidence purportedly
showing that the Department relied upon the now-vacated
Primary Purpose standard when it determined that the payments
he made while employed at VVA did not qualify for the PSLF
Program. See ECF No. 50 (“Pl.'s
Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) provides a limited exception to
the rule that judgments are to remain final.”
Leidos, Inc. v. Hellenic Republic, 881 F.3d 213, 217
(D.C. Cir. 2018). Rule 59(e) motions to alter or amend a
judgment are “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). “Rule 59(e) motions on the
basis of new evidence are restricted to evidence that is
‘newly discovered or previously unavailable despite the
exercise of due diligence.'” Johnson v.
District of Columbia, 266 F.Supp.3d 206, 211 (D.D.C.
2017) (quoting Niedermeier, 153 F.Supp.2d at 29).
And a party moving for relief under Rule 59(e) has not met
its burden if the new evidence “would not have changed
[the Court's] outcome.” Roane v. Gonzales,
832 F.Supp.2d 61, 65 (D.D.C. 2011); see Odhiambo v.
Republic of Kenya, 947 F.Supp.2d 30, 36 (D.D.C. 2013)
(denying Rule 59(e) motion because the new proffered evidence
would not have altered the court's decision).
59(e) motions “are 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).
“The strictness with which such motions are viewed is
justified by the need to protect both the integrity of the
adversarial process in which parties are expected to bring
all arguments before the court, and the ability of the
parties and others to rely on the finality of
judgments.” U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Comm
'n v. McGraw-Hill Cos., 403 F.Supp.2d 34, 36 (D.D.C
argues that the Court should alter or amend its judgment
based on a March 2018 denial letter sent to another borrower,
Amanda Radke, who was employed at VVA around the same
time. ECF No. 50-3. He contends that this
“critical piece of evidence . . . would have been
outcome determinative for [his claims] had it been discovered
prior to the Court's entry of judgment.” Pl.'s
Mot. at 6. In the letter to Radke, the Department reversed
its prior position and determined that loan payments made by
her while employed at VVA did not qualify for the PSLF
Program because the VVA “d[id] not provide a qualifying
service for the PSLF program as its primary purpose.”
Id. The letter also noted that the Department
“could find no evidence that [VVA] provide[d] services
directly to individuals with disabilities as part of its
primary purpose.” Id. Rudert points to those
statements as evidence that the Department, contrary to its
representations, relied on the Primary Purpose standard in
determining that VVA was not a qualifying public service
organization. Pl.'s Mot. at 5-6. And because the
Department reaches PSLF-eligibility determinations based on
the nature of a borrower's employer, rather than each
borrower's specific duties while employed there, Rudert
argues that the ...