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Thomas A. Williams and Robin E. Pellegrini v. County of Nassau

March 30, 2011

THOMAS A. WILLIAMS AND ROBIN E. PELLEGRINI, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF NASSAU, NASSAU COUNTY CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, THOMAS R. SUOZZI, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, JOHN J. SENKO, JR., IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL
CAPACITIES, JAMES F. DEMOS, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND
INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, DAVID J. GUGERTY, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, ANTHONY M. CANCELLIERI, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, JOHN DONNELLY, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, PETER SYLVER, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, BRUCE NYMAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, AND PATRICIA BOURNE, IN HER OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mauskopf, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Defendants, the County of Nassau, the Nassau County Civil Service Commission, Thomas R. Suozzi, John J. Senko, Jr., James F. Demos, David J. Gugerty, Anthony M. Cancellieri, John Donnelly, Peter Sylver, Bruce Nyman, and Patricia Bourne (together, "Defendants"), move for reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b) and Local Rule 6.3 of this Court's January 22, 2010 Memorandum and Order denying their motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiffs Thomas Williams and Robin Pellegrini's (together, "Plaintiffs") First Amendment retaliation claims. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is DENIED as to Pellegrini and GRANTED as to Williams. Accordingly, Williams' claims of First Amendment retaliation are DISMISSED.

BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiffs commenced this civil rights action on December 18, 2003. (Doc. No. 1.) They asserted numerous causes of action against the County of Nassau, the Nassau County Civil Service Commission ("CSC"), and the Office of Housing and Intergovernmental Affairs ("OHIA"), as well as various individuals in both their official and individual capacities. Plaintiffs amended their Complaint on February 18, 2004. (Doc. No. 19.)

On March 31, 2005, Judge Feuerstein dismissed a number of Plaintiffs' claims. (Doc. No. 61.) On December 26, 2007, Defendants moved for summary judgment on the remaining six causes of action, (Doc. No. 126), and this Court referred that motion to Magistrate Judge E. Thomas Boyle on November 12, 2008. On February 2, 2009, Judge Boyle issued a Report and Recommendation (the "R&R") that summary judgment should be granted in favor of Defendants as to all claims, except Plaintiffs' First Amendment retaliation claims. (Doc. No. 143.) On January 22, 2010, this Court adopted the R&R in its entirety. (Doc. No. 151.) Accordingly, the following claims were dismissed: (1) Williams' conspiracy claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (second cause of action); (2) Pellegrini's claim of race and color discrimination brought pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (first cause of action); (3) Pellegrini's age discrimination claim brought pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623 (fourth cause of action); and (4) Plaintiffs' whistleblower claims brought pursuant to the New York State Civil Service Law § 75-b (sixth cause of action). Additionally, the Court dismissed Defendant OHIA from the case.

The Court denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to Williams' and Pellegrini's claims of First Amendment retaliation (the second and third causes of action).

Defendants now move for reconsideration of that portion of the decision pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b) and Local Rule 6.3. Defendants argue that Pellegrini's First Amendment retaliation claims should be dismissed because the R&R overlooked the causal element of a prima facie case for retaliation. Further, Defendants argue that the Second Circuit's opinion in Weintraub v. Bd. of Educ., 593 F.3d 196 (2d Cir. 2010), which was decided after this Court adopted the R&R, changes the analysis of whether Williams spoke as a citizen or in his official capacity as Executive Director of the CSC.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The standard for making a successful motion for reconsideration is stringent, "and 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." See Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995) (citations omitted); Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992) ("The major grounds justifying reconsideration are an intervening change in controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice." (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)). A motion for reconsideration is not an opportunity to relitigate claims that have already been adjudicated. See Sequa Corp. v. GBJ Corp., 156 F.3d 136, 144 (2d. Cir. 1998) (stating that a motion for reconsideration "is not a vehicle for relitigating old issues, presenting the case under new theories, securing a rehearing on the merits, or otherwise taking a second bite at the apple" (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)); Davidson v. Scully, 172 F. Supp. 2d 458, 461-- 62 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (explaining that motions for reconsideration brought pursuant to Local Rule 6.3 must be "narrowly construed and strictly applied so as to avoid repetitive arguments on

issues that have been considered fully by the Court," and may not be used to advance new facts, issues, or arguments not previously presented to the court (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)).

DISCUSSION

1. Timeliness

Plaintiffs first argue that Defendants' motion for reconsideration must be denied as untimely. (Pls.' Mem. of Law in Opp. to Mot. for Recons. ("Pls.' Br.") at 2.) It is true that Defendants filed their motion for reconsideration beyond the time-limits prescribed by Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b) and 59(e), and Local Rule 6.3. Plaintiffs' argument, however, ignores a fundamental principle. A district court retains absolute authority to reconsider or otherwise affect its interlocutory orders any time prior to appeal. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b); see also Catskill Dev., L.L.C. v. Park Place Entm't Corp., 217 F. Supp. 2d 423, 428 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). Moreover, this Court, fully aware of the Second Circuit's decision in Weintraub, invited reconsideration and additional briefing, thereby extending the time-limit imposed by Local Rule 6.3, which establishes the only ground available for Defendants to move for reconsideration of this Court's interlocutory Order. *fn2 ...


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