United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
November 7, 2005.
STEVIE HARDY, Plaintiff,
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL, UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: PAUL PLUNKETT, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure ("Rule") 59 motion for reconsideration. Stevie
Hardy ("Plaintiff") asserts that the Court should reconsider its
ruling because he now presents newly discovered evidence that was
in existence at the time summary judgment was entered, but was
not presented to the Court. For the following reasons,
Plaintiff's motion is denied.
Plaintiff sued John E. Potter, postmaster general of the United
States Postal Service ("Defendant"), for his alleged violations
of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e,
et seq. Hardy claims he was discriminated against because of
his race a light-skinned African American. Hardy admitted that
throughout his employment, he incurred a significant number of
unscheduled absences that justifiably resulted in disciplinary
action. However, his contention was that he was punished in ways that other Caucasian
or dark-skinned African-American employees were not.
To prove his racial discrimination claim, Hardy must have first
established a prima facie case of discrimination. Chiaramonte v.
Fashion Bed Group, 129 F.3d 391, 396 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations
omitted). To do so, he needed to show through admissible evidence
that: (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was meeting
his employer's legitimate employment expectations; (3) he
suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated
individuals who are not in his protected class were treated more
favorably. Gordon v. United Airlines, Inc., 246 F.3d 878,
885-86 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing McDonnell Douglas,
411 U.S. at 801). This burden to prove discrimination always remains with the
plaintiff. See Sattar v. Motorola, 138 F.3d 1164, 1169 (7th
Cir. 1998). The McDonnell Douglas analysis continues only after a
plaintiff has successfully made this initial showing. See
generally McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 801.
Defendant filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 ("Rule")
motion for summary judgment claiming there were no disputed facts
as to elements three and four of Hardy's prima facie case. After
careful review, on August 22, 2005, this Court granted
Defendant's motion for summary judgment because Hardy failed to
establish that he suffered from an adverse action and that he was
similarly situated employees were not treated more favorably for
the same violations.
On September 6, 2005, Plaintiff asked this Court to alter or
amend its August 22, 2005 ruling in part pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Hardy claims that he offers "newly discovered
evidence," which should prompt this Court to alter its August 22,
2005 ruling as to the adverse employment prong. Specifically,
Plaintiff submits a letter dated July 12, 2005, that denies him a
transfer to another post office because of his "unacceptable
attendance and live discipline records." (Pl's Mot. Rec. at 5.) Plaintiff claims that the denial of his transfer
request rises to the level of an adverse employment action as
contemplated under the anti-discrimination statute.
Motions for reconsideration serve a limited function of
correcting manifest errors of law or fact or presenting newly
discovered evidence or an intervening change of law. Cosgrove v.
Bartolotta, 150 F.3d 729, 732 (7th Cir. 1998). Reconsideration
is appropriate when "the Court has patently misunderstood a party
or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented
to the Court by the parties or has made a an error not of
reasoning but of apprehension." Spearman Indus., Inc. v. St.
Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 139 F.Supp.2d 943, 945 (N.D. Ill.
2001), (quoting Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales,
Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cire. 1990). A motion for
reconsideration cannot be used to introduce new legal theories
for the first time, to raise legal arguments that could have been
heard during the pendency of the previous motion, or to present
evidence that could have been adduced during the pendency of the
original motion. Publishers Res., Inc. v. Walker-Davis Publ'ns,
Inc., 762 F.2d 557, 561 (7th Cir. 1985).
The purpose of a Rule 59(e) motion is to allow "the court to
correct its own errors and thus avoid unnecessary appellate
procedures." Moro v. Shell Oil Co., 91 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir.
1996). A party is thus invited to "direct the district court's
attention to newly discovered evidence or a manifest error of law
or fact." Id. To be considered, this newly discovered evidence
must have been in existence at the time of trial. Peacock v. Bd.
of School Comm'rs, 721 F.2d 210, 214 (7th Cir. 1983).
Furthermore, the new information may be considered only if it
could not have been presented prior to the final disposition of
the case. Bordelon v. Chicago School Reform Bd. of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000). In a summary judgment context,
"time of trial" has been interpreted as before or at the time
that judgment was entered. Canady v. Erbe Elektromedizin GmbH,
99 F. Supp. 2d 37, 44 (D.D.C. 2000). The motion is not, however,
a vehicle for rehashing old arguments already decided by the
court prior to issuing its order. Schmude v. Sheahan,
318 F. Supp. 2d 606, 654 (N.D. Ill. 2004). Furthermore, "[w]hether to
grant or deny a Rule 59(e) motion is entrusted to the sound
judgment of the district court." Id. (quoting Matter of
Prince, 85 F.3d 314, 324 (7th Cir. 1996)).
Plaintiff brings a timely motion to alter or amend judgment
pursuant to Rule 59(c). Plaintiff contends that he can present
newly discovered evidence that was in existence at the time of
judgment but could not have been previously presented to the
Court which consisted of a letter dated July 12, 2005, that
denies him a transfer to another post office because of his
"unacceptable attendance and live discipline records." (Pl's Mot.
Rec. at 5.) Plaintiff claims that this evidence, as dated, was in
existence at the time of judgment, but he was unable to present
it to the court prior to judgment. Plaintiff avers that he was
unable to present the information to this Court prior to August
22, 2005, almost six weeks after the letter was written, because
his counsel was investigating the merits of the letter and then
subsequently was unavailable due to vacation and illness.
Furthermore, Plaintiff claims that this letter denying his
transfer request rises to the level of an adverse employment
action as contemplated under the anti-discrimination statute, and
this Court should amend its ruling accordingly. Defendant argues that Plaintiff had ample opportunity to inform
the Court of the July 12, 2005 letter issued by the North
Carolina postal facility and reconsideration is not appropriate.
Furthermore, Defendant contends that Plaintiff should have
presented the letter to the Court instead of investigating its
merits because the information provided in the letter should not
have required an investigation as it contains facts that
Plaintiff already conceded. Furthermore, Defendant asserts that
even if this Court were to reconsider, the letter is irrelevant
and does not impact the Court's prior analysis.
Initially, our task here is not to consider whether merits of
the newly discovered evidence would impact this Court's decision.
Rather, we must first discern whether the evidence was in
existence at the time of judgement and whether it could not have
been previously presented to the Court. Plaintiff received the
letter dated July 12, 2005, presumably, sometime in mid-July.
Plaintiff informed counsel of the letter, but counsel chose not
to bring it to the Court's attention, but instead chose to
investigate the merits of the letter. Counsel then proceeded to
sit on the letter from mid-July until the first day of his
two-week vacation, August 2, 2005, all the while knowing that the
briefing had been completed and that this Court was preparing a
decision on the matter. Counsel avers that due to his unforeseen
illness after the completion of his vacation, he was unable to
bring the letter to this Court's attention in two days that
remained between the end of his vacation and the scheduled ruling
date of August 18, 2005. Even if Plaintiff's counsel had not
fallen ill, waiting to present the information to the Court until
after his vacation made it virtually impossible to present the
information to the Court prior to the ruling. Although counsel
claims he was investigating the merits of letter, he should have
been cognizant of this time restraint between his return from
vacation and the ruling date and should have presented the
information to the Court earlier, Rule 59 (e) "does not provide a vehicle for a party to undo its own procedural
failures, and it certainly does not allow a party to introduce
new evidence or advance arguments that could and should have been
presented to the district court prior to the judgment." Moro,
91 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir. 1996). Furthermore, we are not at a
loss to understand just exactly what investigation was needed.
The letter is clear on its face and certainly standing alone
could have been presented to show an adverse employment action.
Thus, we need not address the issue. We are uncertain as to
whether a decision by an employer not to permit a transfer to
another facility in the same position or the same pay even
qualifies as an adverse action. In any event, we held that
Plaintiff's procedural failure prevents us from considering the
letter available weeks before this Court's ruling.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's motion to alter or amend
judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) is denied. This is a final and
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