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Felker v. Exeter Township

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 23, 2018

GINA FELKER and TODD GRUDZINSKI, Plaintiffs
v.
EXETER TOWNSHIP, JOHN RUANE, et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 29, 2018, the court issued a Memorandum and Order, which in pertinent part, denied defendants' motions for summary judgment, (Doc. 22, Doc. 25), as to liability on plaintiffs' procedural due process claims under the 14th Amendment. Plaintiffs, former part-time police officers for the defendant Exeter Township, alleged that they did not receive notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to their lay-offs by the Township and their claims were based, in part, on a contractual right to continued employment and based on pre-termination due process rights provided in the CBA between the police association and the Township. The court also granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 19), as to liability on their stated procedural due process claims. Judgment was also entered in favor of the plaintiffs and against defendants as to liability on the plaintiffs' procedural due process claims.[1] (Docs. 39 & 40). See also 2018 WL 585606.

         On February 6, 2018, defendants filed a motion for reconsideration of the court's stated Memorandum and Order, and a brief in support.[2] (Docs. 42 & 43). After being granted an extension of time, plaintiffs filed their brief in opposition on March 5, 2018. (Doc. 47). Defendants did not file a reply brief and the time within which to do so has expired.

         Based on the filings of the parties and the court's review of its January 29, 2018 Memorandum, it will DENY defendants' motion.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion for reconsideration may be used to seek remediation for manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence which, if previously discovered, might have affected the court's decision. United States el rel. Schumann v. Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals. LP.. 769 F.3d 837T 848 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Max's Seafood Cafe v. Ouineros. 176 F.3d 669.677 (3d Cir. 1999)): Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki. 779 F.2d 906. 909 (3d Cir. 19851 A party seeking reconsideration must demonstrate at least one of the following grounds: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the motion; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice. Lazaridis v. Wehmer. 591 F.3d 666. 669 (3d Cir. 2010V Max's Seafood Cafe. 176 F.3d at 677 (citing North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194. 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)). However, "[b]ecause federal courts have a strong interest in the finality of judgments, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly." Continental Casualty Co. v. Diversified Indus. Inc., 884 F.Supp. 937. 943 (E.D. Pa. 1995).

         Reconsideration is generally appropriate in instances where the court has "misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the [c]ourt by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning, but of apprehension." York Int'l Corp. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co.. 140 F.Supp.3d 357. 360-61 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting Rohrbach v. AT & TNassau Metals Corp.. 902 F.Supp. 523. 527 (M.D. Pa. 1995)). It may not be used as a means to reargue unsuccessful theories that were presented to the court in the context of the matter previously decided "or as an attempt to relitigate a point of disagreement between the [c]ourt and the litigant." Id. at 361 (quoting Oaden v. Keystone Residence. 226 F.Supp. 2d 588. 606 (M.D. Pa. 2002)1 The "motion will not be granted merely because a party is dissatisfied with the court's ruling, nor will a court consider repetitive arguments that were previously asserted and considered." Frazier v. SCI Med. Dispensary Doctor 2 Staff Members. No. 1:07-194. 2009 WL 136724. at *2 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 16. 2009) (collecting cases).

         III. DISCUSSION

         For the most part, defendants' motion focuses on the court's finding that even though neither plaintiff submitted a schedule with their availability to the Township by August 14, 2016 to work in September 2016, as required by Article XV of the CBA, the "CBA did not state that termination or lay off was the sanction for plaintiffs' non compliance." Rather, the court pointed out that Article XV clearly provided that "[i]f written availability is not received by that date, it will be assumed the officer is unavailable to work during the upcoming month and the shift may be offered to another officer(s)." Defendants again argue that since Article XXV of the CBA defines a part-time police officer as one who was scheduled for duty in accordance with Article XV, and since plaintiffs were not scheduled for duty in September 2016 in accordance with Article XV, they were no longer part time officers with the Township and they were not entitled to the pre-discipline procedural due process rights afforded by the CBA. Thus, defendants maintain that plaintiffs were properly laid-off without receiving any of the due process rights afforded to part-time officers in the CBA. However, under the language of Article XV, it was merely assumed that both plaintiffs would be unavailable to work during September 2016. In fact, the only penalty specified in Article XV for a part-time officer who did not submit availability was that the officer would be "assumed [he/she] is unavailable to work during the upcoming month and the shifts may be offered to another officer(s)."

         With respect to defendants' first contention, they are relying upon the third ground to support a motion for reconsideration, namely, "the need to correct clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." See Lazaridis. 591 at 669). Defendants argue that the failure of Article XV to mention termination as a sanction "can be easily reconciled with Article XXV which defined a part time officer utilizing Article XV" and, that Article XXV "clearly deems a part time officer as one who has complied with Article XV."

         In short, the court thoroughly discussed its rationale regarding its above stated conclusions based on Article XV and Article XXV with respect to both plaintiffs in its January 29, 2018 Memorandum, and finds that defendants are impermissible using their instant motion to re-argue their case. See Blystone v. Horn, 664 F.3d 397, 415-16 (3d Cir. 2011) ("The scope of a motion for reconsideration ... is extremely limited" and "[s]uch motions are not to be used as an opportunity to relitigate the case.").

         Additionally, defendants state that they "interpret the Court's Memorandum as making [the above] decision, in part, based on alleged acquiescence by Chief Nancy Smith and Felker's testimony that she advised various Supervisors of her summer schedule for 2016", and seemingly also based on Grudzinski's testimony that Smith was aware of his failure to submit his availability for September 2016 and that she had still allowed him to work on his cases with the Township as she did in the past. However, as discussed above, the court based its decision on the Articles of the CBA.

         Since defendants only sought the court to reconsider its January 29, 2018 decision on the above stated basis with respect to Felker, their motion will be denied as to this plaintiff. Further, insofar as defendants also rely upon the above argument with respect ...


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