United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
ALTER OR AMEND JUDGMENT
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
April 23, 2019, this Court dismissed without prejudice Mr.
Roque De La Fuente's claims against the Democratic
National Committee (“DNC”) and its
then-chairperson, Deborah Wasserman Schultz. See generally
De La Fuente v. DNC Servs. Corp., No. 18-cv-336 (RC),
2019 WL 1778948 (D.D.C. Apr. 23, 2019). Mr. De La Fuente now
moves under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) to ask this
Court to alter or amend its April 23, 2019 Memorandum Opinion
(“April 23 Opinion”). See generally
Pl.'s Mot. Alter or Amend J., ECF No. 22. He further
requests 30 days to file an Amended Complaint. See
id. at 3. Having considered Plaintiff's Motion to
Amend or Alter Judgment, Defendants' Opposition to the
Motion, Plaintiff's Reply, and Defendants' Surreply,
this Court denies Plaintiff's Motion.
La Fuente is a Mexican-American entrepreneur who ran to
become the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nominee.
See Compl. at ¶ 5. In a Complaint filed on
February 20, 2018, Plaintiff argued that Defendants
deliberately undermined his campaign because they feared that
Hispanic Americans would prefer his candidacy to that of
Hillary Clinton. Id. ¶¶ 20, 23. Mr. De La
Fuente asserted claims of breach of contract, promissory
estoppel, race discrimination, conspiracy to violate civil
rights, and misrepresentation. See De La Fuente,
2019 WL 1778948, at *1. He sought over $6 million in
compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages as a
remedy. See Compl. at ¶ 141. As explained in
detail in this Court's April 23 Opinion, Plaintiff's
Complaint was dismissed without prejudice for failure to
state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
See De La Fuente, 2019 WL 1778948, at *2. On May 21,
2019, Mr. De La Fuente moved under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59(e) and asked this Court to alter or amend the
April 23 Opinion so that he will be able to seek leave to
amend his Complaint. See Pl.'s Mot. Alter or
Amend J. at 3. Mr. De La Fuente did not simultaneously move
to amend his Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
La Fuente argues that this Court should grant his Rule 59(e)
motion because the April 23 Opinion resulted in manifest
injustice. See Pl.'s Mot. Alter or Amend J. at
4. He maintains that, while the April 23 Opinion dismissed
his claims without prejudice, he cannot file a new complaint
because the statute of limitations has run for his claims.
See Pl.'s Reply Mot. Alter or Amend J. at 5-6.
ECF No. 24. He therefore requests that this Court alter or
amend its April 23 Opinion to enable him to file an Amended
Complaint. See Pl.'s Mot. Alter or Amend J. at
a Rule 59(e) motion can be brought only after a court has
issued a final judgment. See Cobell v. Jewell, 802
F.3d 12, 19 (D.C. Cir. 2015). When a court grants a motion to
dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the
court has the option of dismissing the entire action or only
the complaint. See Ciralsky v. C.I.A., 355 F.3d 661,
666 (D.C. Cir. 2004). “A district court's dismissal
of an entire action is a final appealable judgment.”
Robinson-Reeder v. Am. Council on Educ., 571 F.3d
1333, 1338 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (citing Ciralsky, 355
F.3d at 666). But if a court dismisses just the complaint
without prejudice-and not the underlying action-then there is
no final judgment. See Murray v. Gilmore, 406 F.3d
708, 712 (D.C. Cir. 2005).
April 23 Opinion, this Court's ruling on Defendants'
Rule 12(b)(6) motion “dismiss[ed] Mr. De La
Fuente's complaint without prejudice.”
De La Fuente, 2019 WL 1778948, at *1 (emphasis
added). This Court explicitly did not dismiss the entire
action. Rather, the Court chose to dismiss only the
complaint because it concluded that Mr. De La Fuente
was “entitled to another bite at the apple, ”
id., in the instant action. Because the
Court dismissed Mr. De La Fuente's Complaint without
prejudice and did not dismiss the underlying action, there
has not been a final judgment. See Robinson-Reeder,
571 F.3d at 1338. Therefore, Mr. De La Fuente's Motion is
improper, and this Court accordingly denies Mr. De La
Fuente's request to alter or amend the April 23
this denial does not preclude further steps by Mr. De La
Fuente, who may still seek leave to amend his Complaint under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 15. When a court
dismisses only a complaint and not the underlying
action, a plaintiff is able to “file[ ] a new complaint
in his original case” without having to commence a new
action. See Cohen v. Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of the
Dist. of Columbia, 819 F.3d 476, 478-79 (D.C. Cir.
2016). Moreover, because the underlying action is ongoing, if
any new claims relate back to the filing of the original
complaint, then “the statute of limitations [is] tolled
from the date of [the] original complaint.” Sodexo
Operations, LLC v. Not-for-Profit Hosp. Corp., 210
F.Supp.3d 138, 145 (D.D.C. 2016) (quoting Cohen, 819
F.3d at 478-79). Therefore, a district court's dismissal
of a complaint without prejudice is “akin to a grant of
leave to amend under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
15(c).” Murray, 406 F.3d at 713.
this Court's April 23 Opinion dismissed only the
complaint, such that Mr. De La Fuente was granted the
opportunity to amend his original complaint. Although
Plaintiff makes several statute of limitations arguments, his
concerns are wrong-headed. Because the April 23 Opinion was
not a final judgment, the underlying action is ongoing. Thus,
if any new claims relate back to the filing of the original
complaint, then the statute of limitations is tolled for Mr.
De La Fuente's claims. See Sodexo Operations,
LLC, 210 F.Supp. at 145 (citation omitted). Accordingly,
any amendments that Mr. De La Fuente makes to his Complaint
that relate back to the date of his original Complaint raise
no statute of limitations barriers. The April 23 Opinion did,
in short, exactly what it stated: “afford Mr. De La
Fuente another opportunity to remedy the complaint's
defects.” De La Fuente, 2019 WL 1778948, at
Mr. De La Fuente has not availed himself of that opportunity
by filing a Rule 15 motion with a Proposed Amended Complaint.
Instead, he asked this Court to grant him 30 days to seek
leave to amend his Complaint. See Pl.'s Mot.
Alter or Amend J. at 3. This Court is perplexed as to why Mr.
De La Fuente did not move to amend his Complaint under Rule
15 in lieu of the instant motion, or why he now requires 30
additional days to do so. Nevertheless, it is within this
Court's discretion to grant Mr. De La Fuente another
opportunity to seek leave to amend. See Firestone v.
Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (citing
Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)). This
Court will exercise that discretion and provide Mr. De La
Fuente with one final opportunity to seek leave to amend his
complaint. It therefore grants Mr. De La Fuente 30 days to
seek leave to amend his Complaint under Rule 15.
foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's Motion to Alter or Amend
Judgment is DENIED. An Order consistent with
this Memorandum Opinion is separately and contemporaneously
issued. Plaintiff is granted 30 days ...