United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
G. Sullivan, United States District Judge
Rhonda Fleming was sentenced to 360 months in prison and
ordered to pay $6.3 million in restitution after being
convicted on over sixty counts of healthcare fraud and other
related offenses in the Southern District of Texas. Ms.
Fleming now alleges that she was not provided with certain
Medicare records during her criminal trial. See
Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1-2. Proceeding pro se, Ms. Fleming
brings suit against the Medicare Freedom of Information Group
- which the government has construed as being against the
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
(“CMS”) - and others seeking those records
pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. §
Ms. Fleming is a prolific filer, the Court required her to
obtain permission from the Court before making new filings in
this case. Minute Order of Sept. 1, 2016. Pending before the
Court are Ms. Fleming's objections to Magistrate Judge
Harvey's Report and Recommendation dated July 24, 2018
(“R&R”), which recommends that the Court deny
Ms. Fleming permission to file a motion for relief from two
judgments pursuant to Rule 60(d)(3) and the All Writs Act.
See R&R, ECF No. 162. Defendants have not
objected to the R&R. For the reasons set forth below, and
upon consideration of the R&R, Ms. Fleming's
objections to the R&R, and the relevant law, the Court
accepts the findings and adopts the recommendations of
Magistrate Judge Harvey contained in the R&R and
DENIES Ms. Fleming permission to file the
Court will not restate the full factual background of this
case, which is set forth in detail in Magistrate Judge
Harvey's prior R&R and reiterated in this Court's
Memorandum Opinion adopting that R&R. See
R&R, ECF No. 122 at 2-5; Mem. Op., ECF No. 152 at 2-3.
Briefly, at the center of this lawsuit are FOIA requests made
to CMS and the Executive Office for United States Attorneys
requesting documents “pertaining to HiTech Medical
Supply and First Advantage Nursing, ” which were the
companies from whom Ms. Fleming purchased supplier numbers in
her scheme to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare.
See Compl., ECF No. 1 at 2; R&R, ECF No. 122 at
2-3. Ms. Fleming asserts that defendants failed to release
records within the scope of her FOIA request, and requests
that the Court require production of the records; enter a
declaratory judgment against all defendants for violating
FOIA, obstructing justice, denying her access to the courts,
violating her due-process rights, and falsely imprisoning
her; and award her compensatory and punitive damages.
See Compl., ECF No. 1 at 4. Ms. Fleming initially
filed her suit in the District of Minnesota, which dismissed
her due-process and false-imprisonment claims pursuant to
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). See
R&R, ECF No. 15 at 3-4. The case was then transferred to
this district. Notice of Transfer, ECF No. 56. Thereafter,
this Court dismissed a bevy of Ms. Fleming's motions in
its Memorandum Opinion dated June 6, 2018. Mem. Op., ECF No.
152. Relevant to this motion, the Court dismissed Ms.
Fleming's motion for partial summary judgment in which
she brought claims for fraud against the government.
Id. at 2-3. The sole claim remaining before this
Court is her FOIA Claim.
request for permission to file her motion for relief, Ms.
Fleming requests that the Court vacate two previous
judgments. The first is a judgment for civil forfeiture.
United States v. $670, 706.55, No. 4:05-cv-00718
(S.D. Tex. Feb. 24, 2009), aff'd, 367 Fed.Appx. 532 (5th
Cir. 2010). See Pl.'s Mot. for Relief, ECF No.
136 at 1. The second was her criminal conviction. United
States v. Fleming, No. 4:07-cr-513-1 (S.D. Tex. filed
Dec. 13, 2007), aff'd, United States v. Arthur,
432 Fed.Appx. 414 (5th Cir. 2011). Id. Ms.
Fleming's civil forfeiture arose out of her conviction
for health care fraud as the government sought to seize the
proceeds that were traceable to that fraud. Fleming,
367 Fed.Appx. at 533. She alleges both judgments were
fraudulently obtained by the government. See
Pl.'s Mot. for Relief, ECF No. 136 at 1-3.
R&R recommends that the Court deny Ms. Fleming permission
to file the motion. The R&R found that Ms. Fleming's
arguments supporting her motion to vacate the two judgments
are “nearly identical to those she raised in her
previous motion for partial summary judgment, which were
rejected by [Magistrate Judge Harvey] in the [November 2017
R&R], which was adopted by [this Court]. R&R, ECF No.
162 at 4 (citing Mem. Op., ECF No. 152). Further, the R&R
noted that “the District of Minnesota has already
dismissed all of Plaintiff's Bivens claims based
on alleged attorney misconduct in connection with
Plaintiff's criminal case as barred by Heck v.
Humphrey.” Id. (citing Rep. and
Recommendation, ECF No. 15 at 3-4; Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994)). Therefore, the R&R
recommends that the Court deny permission to file the motion,
which seeks to raise claims previously rejected by this
Court, as barred by the law of the case doctrine.
Id. at 5.
Fleming timely filed her objections to the R&R, and this
motion is ripe for adjudication. Pl.'s Obj., ECF No. 165.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), once a magistrate
judge has entered a recommended disposition, a party may file
specific written objections. The district court “must
determine de novo any part of the magistrate
judge's disposition that has been properly objected to,
” and “may accept, reject or modify the
recommended disposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). Proper
objections “shall specifically identify the portions of
the proposed findings and recommendations to which objection
is made and the basis for objection.” Local Civ. R.
72.3(b). “As numerous courts have held, objections
which merely rehash an argument presented to and considered
by the magistrate judge are not ‘properly objected
to' and are therefore not entitled to de novo
review.” Shurtleff v. U.S. Envtl. Prot.
Agency, 991 F.Supp.2d 1, 8 (D.D.C. 2013).
motion, Ms. Fleming argued that defendants committed fraud on
both the court that presided over her criminal case and this
Court. See Pl.'s Mot. for Relief, ECF No. 136 at
1. In the R&R, Magistrate Judge Harvey rejected her claim
on the grounds that her allegations regarding fraud on the
court in her criminal case were barred under the
law-of-the-case doctrine. Ms. Fleming disagrees.
law-of-the-case doctrine [provides that] the same
issue presented a second time in the same case
in the same court should lead to the same
result.” LaShawn A. v. Barry, 87 F.3d
1389, 1393 (D.C. Cir. 1996); see Id. (noting that
“[i]nconsistency is the antithesis of the rule of
law” and that “[f]or judges, the most basic
principle of jurisprudence is that we must act alike in all
cases of like nature” (internal quotation marks
omitted)). The doctrine is applicable to “questions
decided ‘explicitly or by necessary
implication.'” Id. at 1394 (citation
omitted). Indeed, “the law of the case [doctrine] turns
on whether a court previously ‘decide[d] upon a rule of
law' . . . [, ] not on whether, or how well, it explained
the decision.” Christianson v. Colt Indus.
Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 817 (1988).
principles also apply to rulings of coordinate courts on
matters before a current Court. “A decision of a court
of coordinate status is entitled to be considered ‘law
of the case.'” Hill v. Henderson, 195 F.3d
671, 678 (D.C. Cir. 1999)(quoting Christianson, 486
U.S. at 817 (1988)). “Once a prior decision has become
the law of the case, it should not be disturbed by a court of
coordinate jurisdiction.” U.S. ex rel. Pogue v.
Diabetes Treatment Centers of America, Inc., 238
F.Supp.2d 258, 262 (D.D.C. 2002) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted). This “promotes the finality and
efficiency of the judicial process by protecting against the
agitation of settled issues.” Christianson,
486 U.S. 816 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Accordingly, reconsideration of the law of the case is only
appropriate where there are “exceptional
circumstances” or where it is necessary to prevent a