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Spinelli v. Secretary of the Dep't of the Interior

October 19, 2006

RENEE SPINELLI, PAUL SPINELLI, HOPE C. STUART, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, UNITED STATES PARK POLICE, DAVID RAGUSA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph F. Bianco, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Renee Spinelli ("Spinelli"), her husband, Paul Spinelli, and Hope Stuart ("Stuart") (collectively, "plaintiffs") commenced separate employment discrimination actions against defendants Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior ("the Secretary"), and the United States Park Police ("USPP") (collectively, "federal defendants"), and against David Ragusa ("Ragusa"), individually and in his official capacity, alleging, inter alia, violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (Title VII); the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); the equal protection clauses of the United States and New York Constitutions; and New York State Executive Law § 290, et seq. (NYSHRL), as well as state law tort claims.

Plaintiff Spinelli has moved for reconsideration of an August 2, 2004 Opinion and Order by the Honorable Sandra J. Feuerstein, which dismissed her claims against the federal defendants. For the reasons that follow, the motion for reconsideration is denied.

Defendant Ragusa has moved, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, for summary judgment dismissing all of plaintiffs' claims. For the reasons that follow, defendant Ragusa's motion for summary judgment is granted in its entirety.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This action was filed on December 13, 1999. The case was assigned to the Honorable Edward R. Korman. On October 15, 2003, the case was reassigned to the Honorable Sandra J. Feuerstein. The federal defendants moved to dismiss and for summary judgment on February 24, 2004. By Opinion and Order dated August 2, 2004, Judge Feuerstein granted in part, and denied in part the federal defendants' motion. Specifically, with respect to the federal defendants, the court dismissed Spinelli's claims in their entirety and all of Stuart's claims, except for Stuart's Title VII claims against the Secretary.

Over the course of the next year, the parties continued preparing for trial, attended several court conferences, and, according to the docket sheet, filed a joint pre-trial order on April 27, 2005. On June 20, 2005, the parties appeared before Judge Feuerstein for a status conference, and trial was scheduled to begin on October 5, 2005. The trial was adjourned, and, on March 10, 2006, the case was reassigned to this Court. Thereafter, at this Court's first conference on April 19, 2006, plaintiffs' counsel requested permission to move for reconsideration of Judge Feuerstein's August 2, 2004 Opinion and Order.

At the April 19, 2006 conference, the Court directed plaintiffs' counsel that, should she choose to move forward with her motion for reconsideration, she should first explain to the Court the reasons why the motion should even be considered by this Court, given the amount of time that has passed since Judge Feuerstein's decision. Plaintiffs' counsel requested, and this Court granted, several extensions of time for her to file the instant motion. On or about September 12, 2006, plaintiffs' counsel moved for reconsideration.

Defendant Ragusa moved for summary judgment on August 17, 2006.

II. SPINELLI'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

Plaintiff Spinelli asks this Court to reconsider the portion of Judge Feuerstein's August 2, 2004 Opinion and Order dismissing Spinelli's Title VII claims for failure to timely exhaust administrative remedies. (See Pl.'s Mem. at 2.) Specifically, Spinelli contends that newly discovered evidence - in the form of an expert's report - and deposition testimony contradict the Court's finding that Spinelli had notice of the administrative remedies available to her with respect to her Title VII claims and failed to exhaust them in a timely manner. (See id.)

A. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The standards controlling a motion for reconsideration are set forth in Local Civil Rule 6.3 and Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Such motions are subject to a strict standard - "reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked - matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995); see also Green v. City of N.Y., No. 05-CV-0429 (DLI) (ETB), 2006 WL 2516468, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2006). "The major grounds justifying reconsideration are an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence or the need to correct a clear error or to prevent manifest injustice." United States v. Tenzer, 213 F.3d 34, 39 (2d Cir. 2000); see also Hightower v. Nassau County Sheriff's Dept., 343 F. Supp. 2d 191, 192 (E.D.N.Y. 2004) (quoting Tenzer, 213 F.3d at 39). A motion for reconsideration is not intended to be a substitute for an appeal, and should not be granted when it "seeks solely to relitigate an issue already decided." Shrader, 70 F.3d at 257; Green, 2006 WL 2516468, at *1 ("A party cannot merely reiterate or repackage an argument previously rejected by the court; that argument is for appeal.") (internal citation and quotation omitted).

A similarly strict standard applies to motions made for relief from a final judgment, order or proceeding pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. "Because `final judgments should not be lightly reopened, Rule 60(b) may not be used as a substitute for timely appeal . . . . Since 60(b) allows extraordinary relief, it is invoked only upon a showing of exceptional circumstances." Central Vt. Public Service Corp. v. Herbert, 341 F.3d 186, 190 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Nemaizer v. Baker, 793 F.2d 58, 61-62 (2d Cir. 1986)). According to the terms of the rule, relief may be granted for the following reasons:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether heretofore denominated intrinsic or extrinsic) , misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged, or a prior judgment upon which it is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment should have prospective application; or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment. The motion shall be made within a reasonable time, and for reasons (1), (2), and (3) not more than one year after the judgment, order, or proceeding was entered or taken.

FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b). The provisions are mutually exclusive, see Pioneer Investment Services Co. v. Brunswick Assoc. Ltd. Partnership, 507 U.S. 380, 393 (1993), and a court "may treat a motion to vacate a prior judgment as having been made under 60(b)(6) only if the other, more specific grounds for relief encompassed by the rule are inapplicable." Maduakolam v. Columbia University, 866 F.2d 53, 55 (2d Cir. 1989); see also Oparaji v. N.Y. Dept. of Educ., No. 00-CV-5953 (ENV) (VVP), 2006 WL 2220836, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. July 20, 2006) (quoting Maduakolam). Relief under the catch-all provision of Rule 60(b)(6) is reserved for cases presenting "extraordinary circumstances." Rodriguez v. Mitchell, 252 F.3d 191, 201 (2d Cir. 2001).

B. DISCUSSION

Spinelli's motion for reconsideration is untimely and lacks merit. Given the amount of time that had passed since Judge Feuerstein's decision, the Court directed plaintiffs' counsel, both orally and in an Order, to explain what legal authority would allow consideration of this motion. Although describing her serious illness in 2003 and 2004 in an affirmation, plaintiffs' counsel does not point to any authority, and the Court is not aware of any, allowing this Court, on this record, to reconsider Judge Feuerstein's Opinion and Order where such reconsideration was sought almost two years after the decision was issued.*fn1 In addition, even after considering Spinelli's motion on its merits, it must be denied.

1. The Motion is Untimely

In her memorandum of law, Spinelli did not state or provide which specific ground for relief she is moving under as enumerated in Rule 60(b)(1)-(6). In any event, as set forth below, after analyzing the record under each of the enumerated provisions of the Rule, there are no grounds for relief.

As discussed supra, Rule 60(b) provides six grounds for relief. To the extent she moves under (1), (2), or (3), it is absolutely time-barred. See FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b) ("[F]or reasons (1), (2), and (3) not more than one year after the judgment, order, or proceeding was entered or taken."); see also Warren v. Garvin, 219 F.3d 111, 114 (2d Cir. 2000) (noting that the one year "limitations period is `absolute'") (citing 12 James Wm. Moore, Moore's Fed. Practice § 60.65[2][a], at 60-200 (3d ed. 1997)). Hence, as over two years have passed since Judge Feuerstein's decision, Spinelli is time-barred from moving under Rule 60(b)(1), (2), or (3).*fn2

Further, to the extent Spinelli moves under the "catch-all" provision of Rule 60(b)(6) ("any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment"), the Court cannot consider it. "Rule 60(b)(6) only applies if the reasons offered for relief from judgment are not covered under the more specific provisions of Rule 60(b)(1)-(5)." Warren, 219 F.3d at 114; see also Liljeberg v. Health Serv. Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 863 & n.11 (1988) ("Rule 60(b)(6) . . . grants federal courts broad authority to relieve a party from a final judgment . . . provided that the motion . . . is not premised on one of the grounds for relief enumerated in clauses (b)(1) through ...


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