The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, District Judge
This cause is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Reconsider Order and Judgment of May 6, 2010 (Motion to Reconsider) (d/e 77), Memorandum in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion to Reconsider Order and Judgment of May 6, 2010 (d/e 78), Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend Judgment (Motion to Amend Judgment) (d/e 79), Plaintiffs' Post Judgment Motion to Amend Their Complaint to Include Issues Tried by Consent (Motion to Amend Complaint) (d/e 83), Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs' Post-Judgment Motion to Amend Their Complaint to Include Issues Tried by Consent (d/e 84), Motion for Leave to File Reply to Defendants' Opposition to Motions for Reconsideration, to Amend Judgment, and to Amend Complaint (Reply Motion) (d/e 87, p. 1-4), and Plaintiffs' Reply to Defendants' Opposition to Motions for Reconsideration and to Amend Judgment and to Amend Complaint (Reply )(d/e 87, p. 5-11). Defendants have filed Defendants' Opposition to Motion for Reconsideration, Motion to Amend Judgment and Motion to Amend Complaint (Response) (d/e 85), and Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Stay Pending Appeal (d/e 86).
These matters are fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. For the following reason, the Motion to Reconsider, Motion to Amend Judgment, and Motion to Amend Complaint are denied, and the Reply Motion is granted.
On April 9, 2009, Plaintiffs filed this suit under the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (4-R Act), 49 U.S.C. § 11501, seeking to enjoin Defendants from imposing an allegedly discriminatory maintenance assessment for tax year 2009 on Plaintiffs' properties within the Sny Island Levee Drainage District (Sny Island), located in Central Illinois. Complaint (d/e 1). Plaintiffs subsequently amended their Complaint. Amended Complaint (d/e 18). After a bench trial on April 6, 2010, the Court issued an Opinion on May 6, 2010, finding in favor of Defendants on all issues presented in the Amended Complaint. Opinion of May 6, 2010 (d/e 75). The Court entered judgment in favor of Defendants, and ordered that the monies held in the Court's registry be disbursed to Defendants within fourteen days. Judgment in a Civil Case (d/e 76).
Plaintiffs then filed the Motions currently before the Court, in addition to their Emergency Motion to Stay Disbursement of Funds from Court Registry (Emergency Motion) (d/e 81), which the Court granted in part on May 13, 2010. Text Order of May 13, 2010. Plaintiffs now ask the Court to reverse its findings and enter judgment in their favor.
As an initial matter, the Court allows Plaintiffs' Reply Motion, and deems the Reply properly filed.
I. MOTIONS TO RECONSIDER & AMEND JUDGMENT
A motion for reconsideration based on alleged errors of law is properly analyzed as a motion to alter or amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 493-94 (7th Cir. 2008); see Oto v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000). Under Rule 59, a federal district court can amend or alter a judgment only if the moving party "can demonstrate a manifest error of law or present newly discovered evidence." Obriecht, 517 F.3d at 494; Sigsworth v. City of Aurora, 487 F.3d 506, 511-12 (7th Cir. 2007); Rothwell Cotton Co. v. Rosenthal & Co., 827 F.2d 246, 251 (7th Cir. 1987). A manifest error of law is the "'wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.'" Oto, 224 F.3d at 606 (quoting Sedrak v. Callahan, 987 F.Supp. 1063, 1069 (N.D. Ill. 1997)).
Plaintiffs' first argument does not meet the standard for reconsideration under Rule 59. Plaintiffs state that the Court's Opinion of May 6, 2010, is inconsistent with its Opinion of August 18, 2009 (d/e 27). In the Opinion of August 18, 2009, the Court wrote that "Plaintiffs have alleged a violation of subsection (4), which is not confined to property taxes and they provided no evidence of true market value. Such evidence is unnecessary to prove a violation of § 11501(b)(4), but the Court cannot order a preliminary injunction under § 11501(c) without it ." Opinion of August 18, 2009, p. 16-17 (emphasis added). The Court observed in its Opinion of May 6, 2010, that "evidence of true market value and assessed value is required before the Court can issue an injunction under § 11501(c)," based on a "plain reading of the statutory language . . . ." Opinion of May 6, 2010, p. 12.
Even if Plaintiffs' argument somehow implicated a manifest error of law, it has no merit. In the Motion to Reconsider, Plaintiffs quote the Court's Opinion of August 18, 2009, conveniently omitting the language italicized above. Section 11501(c) states that "[r]elief may be granted under this subsection only if the ratio of the assessed value to true market value of rail transportation property exceeds by at least 5 percent the ratio of assessed value to true market value of other commercial and industrial property in the same assessment jurisdiction." 49 U.S.C. § 11501(c) (emphasis added). The Court's Opinions are consistent with one another and with this statutory language.
Nor is the Court's Opinion of May 6, 2010, inconsistent with its Opinion of September 29, 2009, where the Court noted that it "may grant prospective injunctive relief under § 11501(c)" should Plaintiffs prove a violation of § 11501(b)(4). Opinion of September 29, 2009 (d/e 39), p. 8 (emphasis added). Plaintiffs seem to believe that merely demonstrating a violation of § 11501(b)(4) is sufficient to obtain an injunction, but this is not the case under the 4-R Act. Plaintiffs were still required to make the specified assessment-ratio showing under § 11501(c). Had they done so, the Court would have had the power to enjoin the maintenance assessments at issue. Plaintiffs did not make this showing, and therefore the Court did not enjoin Defendants from imposing the 2009 maintenance assessments.
Finally, Plaintiffs cite a variety of cases where other courts have enjoined practices that violate § 11501(b)(4) without evidence of the assessment-value ratio called for by § 11501(c). See, e.g., Burlington Northern R. Co. v. City of Superior, 932 F.2d 1185 (7th Cir. 1991); Union Pacific R. Co. v. Minnesota Dept. of Revenue, 507 F.3d 693 (8th Cir. 2007); Kansas City Southern Ry. Co. v. McNamara, 817 F.2d 368 (5th Cir. 1987); Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co. v. Dept. of Taxation, Com. of Va., 762 F.2d 375 (4th Cir. 1985); National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. State Bd. of Equalization, 652 F.Supp. 923 (N.D. Cal. 1986); Alabama Great Southern R. Co. v. Eagerton, 541 F.Supp. 1084 (M.D. Ala. 1982). Defendants correctly recognize that, with the exception of Superior, none of the cases cited above is precedential, and thus none is controlling here. See Howard v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 160 F.3d 358 (7th Cir. 1998) ("[A] district court's decision does not have precedential authority . . . ."); United States v. Glaser, 14 F.3d 1213, 1216 (7th Cir. 1994) ("Opinions 'bind' only within a vertical hierarchy."). Plaintiffs are correct that the Court may consider ...