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STEWART PARK AND RESERVE COALITION INCORPORATED v. SLATER

June 22, 2005.

STEWART PARK AND RESERVE COALITION INCORPORATED (SPARC); ORANGE COUNTY FEDERATION OF SPORTSMEN'S CLUBS, INC.; and SIERRA CLUB, Plaintiffs,
v.
RODNEY E. SLATER, as United States Secretary of Transportation; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; KENNETH R. WYKLE, as Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration; HAROLD J. BROWN, as New York Division Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration; FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION; LOUIS R. TOMSON, as Chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority; NEW YORK STATE THRUWAY AUTHORITY; JOSEPH H. BOARDMAN, as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation; and NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RANDOLPH TREECE, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER*fn1

Once again this Court is being called upon to render a Decision in this action. Familiarity with the facts of this case is presumed.*fn2 Presently pending before the Court are three Motions from Plaintiffs, specifically, a Motion for Reconsideration, pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b)(2) & (3), a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment, pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e), and a Motion for a Stay Pending Appeal, pursuant to FED. R. APP. P. 8(a). Dkt. Nos. 123 & 129. Both the State and Federal Defendants jointly oppose Plaintiffs' Motions. Dkt. No. 131. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motions are denied.

  The Court finds it prudent, and accordingly accepts the invitation of the parties, to address the complex and somewhat anomalistic procedural history of this case. Specifically, a concern has been raised as to what, if any, jurisdiction this Court retained over this action after the Second Circuit issued its Mandate on the appeal of this Court's prior Memorandum Decision and Order, dated September 30, 2002. See Dkt. No. 71, SPARC I, 225 F. Supp. 2d 219 (N.D.N.Y. 2002) & Dkt. No. 98, SPARC III, 352 F.3d 545 (2d Cir. 2003). Since an appeal is currently pending of this Court's most recent Memorandum Decision and Order, dated February 25, 2005 (SPARC IV, 358 F. Supp. 2d 83 (N.D.N.Y. 2005)), a clarification of the jurisdictional basis for our last Decision, and this Decision, is warranted.

  I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

  Initially, we note that this action at all times has been equitable in nature, that is, from the outset, Plaintiffs sought only declaratory and injunctive relief from the Court. To be more specific, Plaintiffs initiated this action seeking (1) a declaration that Defendants failed to comply with state and federal environmental and transportation laws; (2) a mandatory injunction requiring Defendants to comply with the federal and state laws; and (3) an injunction requiring Defendants to revoke their approval of the Stewart Airport [expansion] project and the FEIS and prohibiting any further development of the project. Dkt. No. 2, Am. Compl. The fact that this action is equitable is significant, as explained more fully below, with regard to the Mandates of the Second Circuit and this Court retaining jurisdiction over this action.

  On September 30, 2002, this Court issued a Memorandum Decision and Order granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, denying Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, and directing the Clerk of the Court to enter Judgment for all Defendants and close the file; a Judgment was accordingly issued that same date. Dkt. No. 71, SPARC I; Dkt. No. 72, Judgment. On October 25, 2002, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit regarding this Court's September 30th Decision. Dkt. No. 76. Simultaneously, in accordance with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 8(a), Plaintiffs filed a Motion with this Court seeking multiple relief, namely, (1) a stay of execution of this Court's Judgment pending a determination on appeal; (2) an injunction barring Defendants from proceeding with construction, destruction, or any further development regarding the interchange and Stewart Airport; (3) a waiver of the requirement of a supersedeas bond; and (4) a temporary restraining order pending this Court's determination on the motion for a stay/injunction.*fn3 Dkt. Nos. 73-75 & 81. Defendants opposed the Plaintiffs' Motions. Dkt. Nos. 77-80 & 83.

  On November 21, 2002, this Court issued a Memorandum Decision and Order, (1) granting Plaintiffs' Motion for a Stay and Injunction pending appeal to the Second Circuit; (2) enjoining the Defendants from "proceeding with construction, destruction, or any further development regarding the I-84 and I-87 Interchanges and Stewart Airport" pending a decision on the appeal; (3) granting Plaintiffs' Motion to waive the supersedeas bond requirement; and (4) denying Plaintiffs' Application for a Temporary Restraining Order as moot. Dkt. No. 85, SPARC II, 232 F. Supp. 2d 1 (N.D.N.Y. 2002). On December 9, 2002, by Order to Show Cause, the State Defendants sought reconsideration of the November 21st Decision and an order vacating the stay pending appeal (Dkt. No. 86), which Plaintiffs opposed (Dkt. Nos. 89-90). The State Defendants also filed a Notice of Appeal to the Second Circuit regarding our November 21st Decision. Dkt. No. 91. On December 23, 2002, in ruling on the Motion for Reconsideration, this Court modified the November Order only to the extent we mistakenly enjoined construction of the I-84/I-87 Interchanges when the subject of the litigation is solely the I-84/Drury Lane Interchange. Dkt. No. 93. All other relief sought was denied. Id. On December 27, 2002, the State Defendants filed a Notice of Appeal to the Second Circuit of that Decision.*fn4 Dkt. No. 94.

  On May 18, 2004, the Second Circuit issued its Mandate regarding the appeal of this Court's September 30th Decision. Dkt. No. 98, SPARC III.*fn5 In reviewing this Court's September 30th Decision, the Second Circuit reversed our Judgment for Defendants only "to the extent [the district court] declared that the Defendants were not required to perform the analysis set forth in Section 4(f) before approving construction of the interchange[.]" Id. at 562. In this regard, the Second Circuit remanded the case back to this Court with instructions "to enter judgment for Plaintiffs with respect to [the 4(f)] issue and to remand to the Secretary of Transportation for further proceedings consistent with [the Second Circuit's] opinion for the purpose of conducting the analysis required by Section 4(f)." Id. In all other respects, the Decision of this Court was upheld. Id.

  II. JURISDICTION AFTER SPARC III

  In reviewing the Second Circuit's Mandate, this Court made the following interpretations. First, with regard to the direction to enter a judgment for Plaintiffs on the 4(f) issue, we determined that, in light of the equitable relief initially sought by Plaintiffs in this action, a judgment for Plaintiffs on the 4(f) issue meant a declaration that the Defendants violated 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966, 49 U.S.C. § 303, and the injunction we previously granted pending appeal would remain in place thereby precluding the Defendants from proceeding with construction of the Drury Lane/I-84 Interchange project. Second, with regard to the Circuit's direction for this Court to remand the 4(f) issue to the Secretary of Transportation for further proceedings, it was this Court's understanding that pending further review by FHWA, the aforementioned injunction would remain in place and this case would remain open in District Court.

  Inadvertently, this Court failed to enter an actual judgment for the Plaintiffs as directed. Had we issued a judgment for Plaintiffs, the judgment would have encompassed the above interpretations, that is, we would have had the Secretary of Transportation resubmit the 4(f) analysis, as mandated by the Second Circuit, to this Court for further review, which would have kept this action open and under this Court's jurisdiction. We believe this is a proper interpretation of the Second Circuit's Mandate in light of judicial economy and in the interest of rendering a final resolution to this matter. Had we not envisioned keeping the case open in District Court, the parties would have been immobilized unless and until one of the parties initiated a new plenary proceeding in District Court; invariably and logically, such new action would seek to remove the hindrance preventing them from going forward with the construction project, namely, the injunction. Neither the Court nor the parties viewed the Mandate as requiring closure and successive litigation. Had that been true, we believe the Second Circuit would have specifically stated such.

  A contributing reason why this Court was distracted from filing a judgment for the Plaintiffs, though by no means are the parties blameworthy, was the parties' quick inquest as to this Court's jurisdiction over the case after the Second Circuit's Mandate. Approximately two weeks or so after the Second Circuit's Mandate was issued and docketed by the Clerk of this Court, we received correspondence, dated June 7, 2004, from Lisa Burianek, Assistant Attorney General (AAG) and counsel for the State Defendants. Dkt. No. 99. By her correspondence, AAG Burianek sought a conference with the Court and all parties to discuss the status of this case. Id. Accordingly, a telephone conference was held on June 17, 2004, and it became apparent that all parties concurred with this Court's interpretation of the status of the action after the Second Circuit's Directives. It was revealed at that conference that even though this Court had not yet had an opportunity to officially enter a judgment for the Plaintiffs on the docket and officially remand the 4(f) issue to FHWA for further proceedings, FHWA had already engaged and completed what Defendants believed complied with the Second Circuit's Directives.*fn6 Notwithstanding this Court's inadvertence in officially entering judgment for Plaintiffs, all parties believed that an injunction was in place barring further construction. It was therefore decided, upon the consensus of the parties, that in order for the Court to review the actions taken by the Secretary a motion to vacate the stay and injunction should be filed. A briefing schedule was established, which was twice amended at the request of the parties (Dkt. Nos. 107 & 109), with regard to exchange of certain discovery and motions. Subsequently, the Defendants filed their Motions to Vacate the Stay and Injunction (Dkt. Nos. 102 & 103), which Plaintiffs opposed (Dkt. No. 110).

  On February 11, 2005, the Court heard Oral Arguments on the matter (Dkt. No. 118) and a Memorandum Decision and Order was issued by this Court on February 25, 2005 (Dkt. No. 119, SPARC IV). In reviewing the further proceedings completed by the Secretary, this Court found that the Secretary complied with the Second Circuit's Directives as well as the transportation laws. SPARC IV, 358 F. Supp. 2d at 105. Accordingly, we granted Defendants' Joint Motion to lift the Stay and Injunction. Id. Due to clerical error, a Judgment for Defendants was not issued until April 21, 2005. Dkt. No. 128. On March 23, 2005, prior to the Judgment being entered by the Clerk of the Court, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Appeal to the Second Circuit regarding this Court's February 25th Decision. Dkt. No. 120. Then, on April 19, 2004, in accordance with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 8(a), Plaintiffs filed a "Motion for a Stay Pending Appeal, for Injunctive Relief, and Waiver of Supersedeas Bond" and, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), a Motion to Reconsider the February 25th Decision on the grounds, inter alia, that the Court was provided with false information at Oral Argument. Dkt. No. 123. After a Judgment for Defendants had been docketed by the Clerk of the Court, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. Dkt. No. 129. Defendants jointly oppose all of Plaintiffs' current Motions. Dkt. No. 131.

  III. JURISDICTION OVER PLAINTIFFS' CURRENT MOTIONS

  Before we review the substance of Plaintiffs' current Motions, we must assess the Court's jurisdictional basis to entertain the Motions in light of the timing of the filing of Plaintiffs' Notice of Appeal and their Motions.

  A. Plaintiffs' Rule 60(b) Motion*fn7

  Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) lists six grounds for seeking reconsideration of a court's order or judgment. While Plaintiffs fail to specifically reference under which of the six subdivisions they seek relief, they do state that the basis for their Reconsideration Motion is that the Court was presented with false evidence and, in turn, erroneously relied upon such evidence in resolving the Defendants' Joint Motion to Vacate the Stay/Injunction. Dkt. No. 123. Plaintiffs further state that newly discovered evidence, which could not have been diligently discovered prior to either Oral Argument or this Court's February Decision, contradicts the "false evidence" submitted to the Court at Oral Argument and, therefore, warrants reconsideration of this Court's prior Order vacating the Injunction. Id. Based upon such arguments, it appears to this Court that Plaintiffs seek reconsideration under ground three, which includes fraud, misrepresentation, or ...


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