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Akins-Brakefield v. Philip Environmental Services Corp.

May 17, 2010

STAVENA AKINS-BRAKEFIELD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PHILIP ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

I. Introduction

On March 17, 2010, the Court entered several orders (Docs. 139, 141 & 142), granting a partial dismissal of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 70). Specifically, the Court dismissed without prejudice Counts IX and X, brought pursuant to the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"), 775ILL.COMP.STAT.5/1-101-5/10-104, against all Defendants, finding that because Plaintiff had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the IHRA, it did not have jurisdiction over these claims. Plaintiff now moves for a reconsideration of the dismissal (Doc. 143), which Defendants oppose (Doc. 146).*fn1 The issues are now properly before the Court and ripe for ruling.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard

In Plaintiff's Motion, she moves for the Court's reconsideration of its orders dismissing Counts IX and X against Defendants. Plaintiff does not, however, state the legal basis authorizing her to make such a motion. Defendants, in their Response, assuming she requests relief pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 59(e), assert that under the rules of federal civil procedure, "motions to reconsider do not technically exist" (Doc. 146, p. 2, citing Eiland v. Arctic Food Serv., Inc., No. 08-cv-0066-DRH, 2008 LEXIS 88210 at *2 (S.D. Ill. Oct. 31, 2008) (Herndon, J.)). Defendants construe Plaintiff's Motion as one which challenges the Court's dismissal orders as an erroneous application of law and therefore, to be analyzed under Rule 59(e) (Doc. 146, pp. 2-3). Defendants continue, asserting that Rule 59(e) requires a movant to show that the error made by the Court was a "manifest error of law" (Id. at 2-4, citing Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 494 (7th Cir. 2008)). Defendants further argue that Plaintiff has failed to show that the Court committed a manifest error of law in determining that she had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the IHRA and therefore, it does not have jurisdiction over her IHRA claims in Counts IX and X against Defendants.

In her Recitation of Exceptional Circumstances (Doc. 149), Plaintiff contests Defendants' assumption that she is moving pursuant to Rule 59(e), pointing out that because the dismissal was without prejudice and her other claims were not dismissed, the Court's ruling was not a judgment. Therefore, Plaintiff not only concludes that a Rule 59(e) analysis is inapplicable to her Motion for Reconsideration, she also concludes that she is not required to establish that the Court made a manifest error of law (Id. at 1). What is problematic, however, is that Plaintiff fails to cite any legal basis for her request for reconsideration. Therefore, the Court will deem her Motion filed pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 60(b), which allows a party to seek relief from a final judgment or order. Its analysis will thus proceed in accordance to the standard set forth by Rule 60(b).

Essentially, "'Rule 60(b) relief is an extraordinary remedy and is granted only in exceptional circumstances.'" Karraker v. Rent-A-Center, Inc., 411 F.3d 831, 837 (7th Cir. 2005)(quoting Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Flanders Elec. Motor Serv., Inc., 131 F.3d 625, 628 (7th Cir. 1997)). A Rule 60(b) motion permits relief from a final judgment, order or proceeding when it is based on one of six specific grounds listed in the rule. See Talano v. Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, Inc., 273 F.3d 757, 762 (7th Cir. 2001). Rule 60(b) provides, in pertinent part, that "[t]he Court may relieve a party... from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: (1)mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect...." FED.R.CIV. P. 60(b)(1).

Motions to reconsider interlocutory orders "are left subject to the complete power of the court rendering them" and should be granted "as justice requires," FED.R.CIV. P. 60 Advisory Committee's Notes, and must be "consonant with equity." John Simmons Co. v. Grier Brothers, 258 U.S. 82, 90-91 (1922); see also 12JAMES WM.MOORE ET AL.,MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE ¶ 60 App.108[2] (3d ed. 2004). However, "[r]econsideration is not an appropriate forum for rehashing previously rejected arguments or arguing matters that could have been heard during the pendency of the previous motion." Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole, 90 F.3d at 1270. Thus, Rule 60(b) "is not an appropriate vehicle for addressing simple legal error...." Russell v. Delco Remy Div. of Gen. Motors Corp., 51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995).

B. Analysis

Essentially, Plaintiff challenges the Court's interpretation of the IHRA in its conclusion that Plaintiff was not privy to the 2008 amendments of the IHRA, which allow a complainant, such as Plaintiff, to file IHRA claims directly in a circuit court (see, e.g., Doc. 139, pp. 15-16). These amendments to the IHRA apply only to charges filed after January 1, 2008 (Id. at 16). For charges filed prior to January 1, 2008, under the IHRA, a complainant is required to first bring (and then to perfect) the charge before the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") (Id.). There is no dispute regarding the Court's finding that Plaintiff filed her charge with the IDHR before January 1, 2008. Plaintiff's contention is that because she filed her civil complaint in this district court after January 1, 2008, the IHRA 2008 amendments should apply. In support, Plaintiff cites to 775 ILL.COMP.STAT. 5/8-111(F) (West 2010), which reads: "The changes made to this Section by this amendatory Act of the 95th General Assembly apply to charges or complaints filed with the Department or the Commission on or after the effective date of those changes" (Doc. 143, p. 1) (emphasis originally added by Plaintiff). Plaintiff thereafter cites a passage of text from the House Bill 1509, detailing the changes made to the section of the IHRA that deals with the requisite procedures for filing a charge with the IHRA, 775 ILL.COMP.STAT. 5/7A-102 (West 2010) (Id. at 2-4, citing H.B. 1509, 95th Gen. Assem. (Ill. 2007)). Reasoning that the term "complaint" as used within the IHRA is not synonymous with the term "charge," Plaintiff deduces:

[I]t is quite possible for a charge to have been filed prior to January 1, 2008 and a "complaint" to be filed after that date.... It is clear that the legislature intended to allow an aggrieved party who had not yet filed a complaint to have the benefit of the changes in the law. (Id. at 4) (emphasis originally added by Plaintiff).

First, the Court finds no grounds which would warrant reconsideration of its March 17, 2010 orders dismissing Plaintiff's IHRA claims in Counts IX and X of her Second Amended Complaint. In other words, Plaintiff is asserting the argument that the Court committed a mistake of law in its interpretation of the applicability of the 2008 amendments to the IHRA. The argument Plaintiff presents in her instant motion should have initially been presented as part of her response to Defendants' several motions to dismiss. If such argument was previously made, however, then Plaintiff's instant motion for reconsideration constitutes a mere rehashing of her prior argument. Either way, the Court fails to find that Plaintiff has shown an exceptional circumstance warranting relief from its dismissal orders.

Secondly, if the Court were to consider the substance of Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider, it alternatively finds that unlike Plaintiff argues, it did not commit a mistake of law. As Defendants accurately note in their Response, the crux of Plaintiff's argument ignores the context in which the term "or complaint" is used in 775 ILL.COMP.STAT. 5/8-111(F) (West 2010) (Doc. 146, p. 5). While it does connote a distinction between charges and complaints, it does not pertain to complaints filed in a circuit (or district) court, as Plaintiff attempts to advance. It is clear from a plain language interpretation of the statute that the 2008 amendment changes to the IHRA applies to charges "or complaints filed with the Department or the Commission on or after the effective date of those changes." 775 ILL.COMP. STAT. 5/8-111(F) (West 2010) (emphasis added). It remains undisputed, as Defendants assert, that Plaintiff only filed a charge, not a complaint, with either the IDHR or the Commission (Doc. 146, p. 5, ...


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