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Hale v. Emporia State University

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 19, 2019




         On July 16, 2019, the court entered a Memorandum and Order finding for plaintiff Angelica Hale on her Title VII retaliation claim (Doc. 149-1). This ruling followed a trial to the court on January 8-10, 2019. Now, defendant Emporia State University (“ESU”) has filed a Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 154). In it, defendant argues that the court should reconsider its Order because the court misapprehended facts about final decision-making authority for hiring personnel, misapprehended the law governing supervisory authority, and misapprehended plaintiff's position about her claims. Doc. 154 at 2. Plaintiff has filed a Response (Doc. 155). Defendant has filed a Reply (Doc. 156). For reasons explained below, the court denies defendant's Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 154).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff asserts that defendant retaliated against her after she discovered and reported a racial slur written in a graduate teaching assistant's notebook. Doc. 149-1 at 1. After a two-day bench trial, the court found for plaintiff on her Title VII retaliation claim. Doc. 149-1. The court evaluated plaintiff's claim under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting test. Id. at 9. “The McDonnell Douglas framework . . . requires a plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of retaliation by showing that: ‘(1) [s]he engaged in protected activity; (2) [s]he suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) there is a causal connection between [her] protected activity and the adverse employment action.'” Id. The court found that plaintiff had shouldered her burdens under this test. First, the court found that plaintiff had shown that she had engaged in protected activity when she reported the racial slur to Dean Alexander and Provost Cordle. Id. at 11. Second, the court found that plaintiff had proved by a preponderance of evidence two materially adverse actions by defendant ESU: (1) its decision not to renew Ms. Hale's temporary appointment, and (2) its decision not to post a full-time position for Ms. Hale. Id. at 12. Last, the court found that plaintiff had proved that-but for her complaint-Dean Alexander would have posted a full-time position specifically formulated for plaintiff. Id. at 15.

         II. Legal Standard Governing the Reconsideration Motion

         Neither the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure nor this court's local rules allow for a motion for reconsideration of a dispositive order when no judgment has been entered. But, the court has authority to revise any interlocutory order before the entry of final judgment. And the court generally considers such motions under the same standards as a motion to reconsider:

[I]t is well within the court's discretion to revise an interlocutory order at any time prior to the entry of final judgment. Consequently, the court will treat the motion as a motion for reconsideration based on the court's inherent power to review its interlocutory orders. In doing so, the court will apply the legal standards applicable to a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend and/or a motion to reconsider a non-dispositive order under D. Kan. Rule 7.3, which are essentially identical.

Ferluga v. Eickhoff, 236 F.R.D. 546, 549 (D. Kan. 2006) (citations omitted). The court thus evaluates defendant's motion as a motion for reconsideration.

         Under D. Kan. Rule 7.3(b), a motion to reconsider “must be based on: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; or (3) the need to correct clear error to prevent manifest injustice.” “A motion to reconsider is appropriate where the court has obviously misapprehended a party's position or the facts or applicable law, or where the party produces new evidence that could not have been obtained through the exercise of due diligence.” Comeau v. Rupp, 810 F.Supp. 1172, 1174-75 (D. Kan. 1992) (citations omitted). But, a disappointed litigant may not use reconsideration to revisit issues already addressed or assert new arguments or supporting facts that were available for presentation when the court originally decided the question. Id. (citing Van Skiver v. United States, 952 F.2d 1241, 1243 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 828 (1992)). A court has considerable discretion when deciding a motion to reconsider. Hancock v. Okla. City, 857 F.2d 1394, 1395 (10th Cir. 1988); Shannon v. Pac. Rail Servs., 70 F.Supp.2d 1243, 1251 (D. Kan. 1999) (citing Phelps v. Hamilton, 122 F.3d 1309, 1324 (10th Cir. 1997)).

         III. Analysis

         Under D. Kan. Rule 7.3, a movant seeking reconsideration must file its motion within 14 days after the order is filed, unless the court extends the time. D. Kan. Rule 7.3(b). The court issued its Memorandum and Order finding in plaintiff's favor on her Title VII retaliation claim on July 16, 2019. Doc. 149-1. Defendant never asked the court to extend the deadline for filing a reconsideration motion. Nearly 60 days later, on September 11, 2019, defendant filed the current motion. To state the obvious, defendant didn't file a timely motion.

         While it could decline to consider the motion, the court, in its discretion, has decided to accept the motion and rule it on its merits. But the outcome is the same. A motion for reconsideration isn't an “appropriate [device] to revisit issues already addressed.” Ferluga, 236 F.R.D. at 549. Likewise, reconsideration motions are no place to raise arguments “that could have been raised in prior briefing.” Id.

         Defendant's motion asks the court to reconsider the following: (1) its factual finding that Dean Alexander exercised control over the decision not to hire plaintiff for a full-time position (Doc. 149-1 at 17 n.6); (2) its legal conclusion that Dean Alexander's decision not to hire plaintiff was sufficient to establish retaliation against plaintiff (id.); and (3) its consideration of plaintiff's claim that defendant had retaliated against her by failing to hire her for a full-time position (id. at 12-13). Doc. 154.

         A. ...

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