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Sourgoutsis v. United States Capitol Police

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 9, 2020

CHRISAVGI SOURGOUTSIS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS FOR A DECLARATORY JUDGMENT AND FOR AMENDMENT OF THE CLERK'S JUDGMENT

          KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         At the conclusion of the eight-day jury trial that took place in this gender discrimination and retaliation case, the jury made two findings. First, it determined that Plaintiff Chrisavgi Sourgoutsis had proven that her sex was a motivating factor in Defendant United States Capitol Police's (“USCP's”) termination of her employment but that the USCP had also proven that it would have fired Sourgoutsis anyway; therefore, no damages were to be awarded. (See Verdict Form, ECF No. 138.) Second, it found that Sourgoutsis had failed to establish that her termination was in retaliation for her participation in an internal investigation. (Id.) Accordingly, this Court entered judgment in favor of the USCP on Sourgoutsis's discrimination and retaliation claims. (See Clerk's Judgment on the Verdict (“Judgment”), ECF No. 144.)

         Before this Court at present are two post-trial motions that Sourgoutsis has filed seeking a declaratory judgment and a more specific statement concerning the judgment that the Court's clerk has entered in this case. (See Pl.'s Mot. for Decl. Judgment, ECF No. 143; see also Pl.'s Mot. to Amend Clerk's Judgment Entered on Nov. 27, 2019 (“Pl.'s Mot. to Amend”), ECF No. 154.) Sourgoutsis's motion for a declaratory judgment-which was filed on November 25, 2019, before the clerk entered the judgment-asks the Court, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58(d), to order the clerk to enter a judgment to the effect that “Sourgoutsis proved by a preponderance of the evidence that her sex was a motivating factor in the United States Capitol Police's decision to terminate her employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as incorporated with respect to agencies of Congress by the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA).” (Pl.'s Mot. for Decl. Judgment at 1); see also Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 58(d) (“A party may request that judgment be set out in a separate document[.]”).[1] Sourgoutsis's motion to amend was filed on December 27, 2019-after the clerk entered judgment-and it seeks an amendment of the judgment's language “to reflect the jury's finding that . . . Sourgoutsis proved by a preponderance of the evidence that her sex was a motivating factor in USCP's decision to terminate her employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as incorporated with respect to agencies of Congress by the Congressional Accountability Act (‘CAA').” (Pl.'s Mot. to Amend at 1.)

         The basis for these unusual post-trial requests appears to be Sourgoutsis's conclusion that the wording of the clerk's judgment is insufficient or improper because it “makes no reference to the jury's finding of discrimination.” (Id. at 2.) But as explained below, the clerk's entry of judgment (which mooted Sourgoutsis's Rule 58(d) declaratory judgment motion) plainly reflects the jury's finding that Sourgoutsis proved discrimination under the motivating factor theory, and thus already contains the particular assertion that Sourgoutsis requests. Therefore, as set forth in the Order below, Sourgoutsis's motion for a declaratory judgment is DENIED AS MOOT, and her motion to amend the judgment is DENIED.

         I.

         The jury in this case rendered its verdict on November 18, 2019. (See Verdict Form at 2.) On November 25, 2019, Sourgoutsis filed two post-trial motions, a motion for a declaratory judgment (ECF No. 143) and a motion for a permanent injunction (ECF No. 142).[2] Sourgoutsis's motion for a declaratory judgment requests that this Court direct the clerk to enter a judgment pursuant to Rule 58(d). (See Pl.'s Mot. for Decl. Judgment at 1.) On December 2, 2019, after the declaratory judgment motion was filed, the Court's clerk entered a “Judgment on the Verdict, ” which included a statement of the jury's findings as to Sourgoutsis's discrimination and retaliation claims. (See Judgment at 1.)

         On December 23, 2019, Sourgoutsis filed a motion to amend the Court's judgment. (See Pl.'s Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 150.) This Court initially denied that motion without prejudice in a minute order dated December 26, 2019, for failure to comply with Local Rule of Civil Procedure 7(m)'s meet and confer requirement. (See Minute Order of Dec. 26, 2019.) Sourgoutsis refiled her motion to amend the judgment on December 27, 2019. (See Pl.'s Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 154.) Thus, pending before this Court are Sourgoutsis's motion for a declaratory judgment and her renewed motion to amend.

         II.

         Sourgoutsis's motion for a declaratory judgment is moot. As explained above, that motion seeks entry of judgment by the clerk, and the clerk entered judgment seven days after Sourgoutsis's motion for declaratory judgment was filed.[3] Sourgoutsis's suggestion that there is still a live issue with respect to that motion and/or that USCP has somehow “conceded” its substance (see Pl.'s Reply to Def.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 149, at 1) makes no sense. Thus, as indicated below, the motion for declaratory judgment is hereby summarily denied as moot.

         Turning to the motion to amend, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) authorizes a party to seek amendment of a judgment, and the D.C. Circuit has explained that such motion may be granted “(1) if there is an ‘intervening change of controlling law'; (2) if new evidence becomes available; or (3) if the judgment should be amended in order to ‘correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.'” Leidos, Inc. v. Hellenic Republic, 881 F.3d 213, 217 (D.C. Cir. 2018) (quoting Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (per curiam)). Sourgoutsis appears to be seeking amendment under the clear error or manifest injustice standard, because she asks the Court to amend the judgment in order to “accurately reflect the jury's verdict” and states that “it would be manifestly unjust to allow the judgment in this case to reflect that USCP did not act in a discriminatory manner with respect to Ms. Sourgoutsis, as she intends to seek her fees in this matter.” (Pl.'s Mot. to Amend at 2, 5.) “‘[M]anifest injustice' requires ‘at least (1) a clear and certain prejudice to the moving party that (2) is fundamentally unfair in light of governing law.'” Leidos, 881 F.3d at 217 (quoting Mohammadi v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 947 F.Supp.2d 48, 78 (D.D.C. 2013), aff'd, 782 F.3d 9 (D.C. Cir. 2015)).

         This Court finds that Sourgoutsis has failed to establish clear error or manifest injustice with respect to the Court's Judgment on the Verdict. Sourgoutsis asserts that the judgment “makes no reference to the jury's finding of discrimination[, ]” and she requests that “the judgment be amended to reflect the jury's finding that . . . Sourgoutsis proved by a preponderance of the evidence that her sex was a motivating factor in USCP's decision to terminate her employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as incorporated with respect to agencies of Congress by the Congressional Accountability Act (‘CAA').” (Pl.'s Mot. to Amend at 1, 2.) However, the first sentence of the Court's judgment, plainly states as follows:

[T]he Jury duly rendered its verdict that: as to Claim 1 (Discrimination), Plaintiff, Chrisavgi Sourgoutsis, proved by a preponderance of the evidence that her sex was a motivating factor in Defendant's, United States Capitol Police's (“USCP”), decision to terminate her, but that USCP proved by a preponderance of the evidence that it would have taken the same action in the absence of the impermissible motivating factor[.]

(Judgment at 1.) Thus, Sourgoutsis's assertion that the judgment makes no reference to the jury's findings of discrimination is mistaken. And the differences between the clerk's language and the language Sourgoutsis requests are immaterial, given that, in substance, the two statements are identical.

         Even more importantly, the language in the clerk's judgment is by far more accurate than the language Sourgoutsis proffers in so far as it mirrors the actual findings made by the jury in this case. (See Verdict.) The Verdict Form that the Court provided to the jury asked two questions with respect to motivating factor theory: “Has Ms. Sourgoutsis proven, by a preponderance of the evidence, that her sex was a motivating factor in the United States Capitol Police's decision to terminate her employment?” and “[H]as the Capitol Police proven, by a preponderance of the evidence, that it would have terminated her even if her sex had played no role in its decision?” (Id. at 1.) As noted infra, the jury found “Yes” as to both, ...


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