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Perez v. BKJ Investments, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

November 8, 2017

THOMAS E. PEREZ, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff,
BKJ INVERSTMENTS, LLC d/b/a CAFÉ 123, et al., Defendants.


          Susan Russ Walker United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the court on the plaintiff's consent motion to reconsider the court's entry of final judgment. See Doc. 45. The plaintiff argues that this court committed clear error and caused manifest injustice by granting a joint motion to dismiss, denying the parties' motion for entry of a proposed consent judgment, and closing this case after the parties notified the court that they had reached a final settlement agreement on all areas of dispute. Id.

         In support of its motion, the plaintiff relies on a case decided in the Middle District of Alabama, Richardson v. U.S., 67 F.Supp.2d 1321 (M.D. Ala. 1999), for the proposition that a motion for reconsideration is due to be granted “to correct clear error or manifest injustice.” Doc. 45 at 1 (citing Richardson, 67 F.Supp.2d at 1321). However, the motion to reconsider standard that the Court applied in Richardson is not applicable to the instant motion. The Richardson Court ruled on a motion to reconsider several interlocutory orders - not, as here, on a post-judgment request to alter or amend a final judgment. The basis for the pending motion here is in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and a different standard of review applies to post-judgment motions.

         “A post-judgment motion may be treated as made pursuant to either Fed.R.Civ.P. 59 or 60 - regardless of how the motion is styled by the movant - depending on the type of relief sought.” Bush v. Hughes, 2010 WL 2465527, at *1 (M.D. Ala. June 15, 2010) (quoting Mays v. U.S. Postal Serv., 122 F.3d 43, 46 (11th Cir. 1997)). In the present motion, the plaintiff moves to set aside the final judgment and asks the court to enter the parties' proposed consent judgment in its place; thus, the motion is properly characterized as one under Rule 59(e) to “alter or amend a judgment.” Id. The plaintiff's motion “is a timely motion pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that ‘[a] motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment.'” Giles v. Winn-Dixie Montgomery, LLC, 2014 WL 590333, at *1 (S.D. Ala. Feb. 14, 2014), aff'd, 574 F. App'x 892 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Green v. Drug Enforcement Admin., 606 F.3d 1296, 2010 WL 1993846, *1 (11th Cir. May 19, 2010) (explaining that lower courts have almost without exception treated post-judgment motions to reconsider as Rule 59 motions, regardless of their label)).

         Upon consideration of plaintiffs' motion, as well as the correct legal basis for the requested relief, the court will exercise its discretion amend the final judgment by entering the parties' proposed consent judgment in the interests of finality, justice and judicial economy and for the reasons explained below. See American Home Assur. Co. v. Glenn Estess & Assocs., Inc., 763 F.2d 1237, 1238-39 (11th Cir. 1985) (a trial court has discretion to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e)). However, the court does not conclude that it committed error or that manifest injustice resulted from its denial of the parties' motion for entry of the proposed consent judgment based on the record at the time that final judgment was entered.

         I. Background

         This lawsuit was filed on January 12, 2016. See Doc. 1. On June 20, 2016, the court held a scheduling conference. At that hearing, counsel for the plaintiff represented that the parties were nearing a settlement, and that only limited discovery would be needed. Defense counsel agreed with plaintiff's counsel's assessment. The parties proposed, and the court accepted, a short discovery period. On July 7, 2016, this cause was set for mediation before United States Magistrate Judge Terry Moorer. See Doc. 17. Thereafter, the parties filed three motions to continue the mediation, and Judge Moorer granted those motions. Five months after the order setting the mediation hearing, Judge Moorer mediated this case on December 7, 2017. The parties did not reach a settlement at mediation.

         After mediation, on December 12, 2016, the parties filed a joint motion to stay. In that motion, the parties represented that they had “made significant steps towards a potential settlement, ” and they requested a 60-day stay of all deadlines, including discovery and dispositive motions deadlines. Doc. 29 at 1. The parties did not give any reason for the necessity for a stay - e.g., they did not argue, for example, that the stay was likely to help facilitate a settlement. The court set a telephone status conference regarding the motion to stay, which was continued once at the request of defense counsel. See Doc. 30, Doc. 31, Doc. 32. Following the status conference, at which the parties reaffirmed their shared desire to reach a settlement, the court granted in part and denied in part the motion to stay and set deadlines for the parties to complete discovery and to file dispositive motions. See Doc. 34. The dispositive motions deadline expired on March 27, 2017. See id.

         The parties did not file dispositive motions, and the parties took no action on the record to advance this litigation until August 4, 2017 - approximately eight months after the status conference regarding the motion to stay - when one of defendants' lawyers filed a motion to withdraw. See Doc. 36. The court set another status conference, settlement conference, and a hearing on the motion to withdraw for August 16, 2017. See Doc. 37. On the day of the hearing, plaintiff filed a consent motion to continue because “the parties achieved a settlement agreement … on August 15, 2017. The [plaintiff] expects to file a proposed consent judgment within the next 30 days.” Doc. 38 at 1. The court granted the motion to continue, and ordered plaintiff to file a motion to dismiss this cause pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2) “or other appropriate pleading” by September 18, 2017. See Doc. 39. The court also continued the final pretrial conference that was set for August 31, 2017, because of the parties' notice of settlement. See Doc. 40. However, the plaintiff's deadline lapsed, and the plaintiff did not comply with the court's order.

         On September 20, 2017, the court entered an order setting this cause for a final pretrial hearing on September 22, 2017, noted that discovery was closed and the deadline for filing dispositive motions and Daubert motions had passed, and directed that

[t]he deadline for filing a motion to continue the final pretrial hearing set by this order is 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 21, 2017. Any such motion to continue may be summarily denied if it is not accompanied by a motion to dismiss or other appropriate filing that places the parties' proposed settlement before the court or, if the parties have not reached a final settlement, a notice that this matter is not settled and the parties are prepared to go to trial.

         Doc. 41 at 3 (emphasis in original). Thereafter, the parties filed an untimely joint motion to continue the final pretrial hearing, and, once again, the parties represented that they “reached an agreement” to resolve this lawsuit. Doc. 42 at 1; see also Doc. 42-1 (proposed consent judgment).

         In an order entered on September 21, 2017, the court set out the following, inter alia:

At 2:30 p.m. on September 21, the parties filed a belated motion to continue the final pretrial hearing. See Doc. 42. The parties did not seek leave of court to file the motion out of time, nor did they acknowledge that the motion was untimely under the court's September 20, 2017 order. Ordinarily, the court might not be overly concerned with a 30-minute delay, particularly if cause were established in the motion, but this is not the first example of the parties' operating outside of the court's orders. The parties have ignored or violated the court's orders on ...

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