BEG Invs., LLC v. Alberti

Decision Date24 March 2015
Docket NumberCivil Action No.: 13–cv–0182 RC
Citation85 F.Supp.3d 54
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia
PartiesBEG Investments, LLC, Plaintiff, v. Nicholas Alberti, et al., Defendants.

Matthew August Lefande, Law Offices of Matthew August Lefande, Arlington, VA, for Plaintiff.

Chad Wayne Copeland, Gary Daniel Feldon, Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

Re Document No.: 10

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's Dismissal of Plaintiff's Claims

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff BEG Investments, LLC, believes that six members of the D.C. Alcohol Beverage Control Board (“the Board”) acted unlawfully when they conditioned Plaintiff's liquor license on the hiring of a police detail to patrol the area surrounding Plaintiff's establishment. Plaintiff views the Board members' imposition of a police detail requirement as extortion, and claims that the Board members violated the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. On March 31, 2014, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint, explaining that the Board members were entitled to qualified immunity as to Plaintiff's claims under RICO, and that Plaintiff's allegations relating to an obligation to pay money were insufficient to establish a takings claim under the Fifth Amendment. Now before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. Plaintiff contends that this Court's decision was erroneous in two respects: first, it misapplied the qualified immunity doctrine, and second, it ignored controlling Supreme Court authority that supported Plaintiff's takings claim. Upon consideration of Plaintiff's motion and the memoranda in support thereof and opposition thereto, the Court will deny the motion for reconsideration as to both claims.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a company that operated Twelve Restaurant and Lounge in the District of Columbia. Defendants Nicholas Alberti, Donald Brooks, Herman Jones, Calvin Nophlin, Mike Silverstein, and Ruthanne Miller (collectively, Defendants), are members of the Board who issued a series of orders pertaining to Plaintiff's liquor license.1

As detailed in this Court's Memorandum Opinion of March 31, 2014,2 the Board was established by D.C.Code § 25–201, and it is authorized to “issue licenses to persons who meet the requirements” set forth in the Alcoholic Beverage Statute and to impose “certain conditions” on those licenses if the Board “determines that the inclusion of the conditions will be in the best interest of the locality ... where the licensed establishment is to be located.” D.C.Code § 25–104(a), (e). The Board also oversees the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (“ABRA”), which provides “professional, technical, and administrative staff assistance to the Board in the performance of its functions.” D.C.Code § 25–202.

On June 22, 2011, the Board issued an order on Plaintiff's application for renewal of its liquor license. Compl. ¶ 26, ECF No. 1; Board Order 2011–289.3 After finding that there had been three assaults and fifteen calls to MPD at the establishment's address, and that MPD had increased patrols in the area due to intoxicated individuals leaving Plaintiff's establishment, the Board granted Plaintiff's application for renewal of its license on the condition that Plaintiff hire a Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) reimbursable detail “whenever the establishment provides any entertainment permitted by the establishment's entertainment endorsement.” Compl. ¶ 26; Board Order 2011–289 at 4, 7.4 A reimbursable detail is comprised of “MPD officers [who] patrol the surrounding area of an establishment for the purpose of maintaining public safety.” See D.C.Code § 25–798(a)(3) ; Emergency Suspension of Liquor Licenses Act of 2005, D.C. Act 16–20.

Upon Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, the Board modified its June 22 order on August 10, 2011, ordering that Plaintiff hire an MPD reimbursable detail “whenever the establishment provides any DJs or live music as entertainment at the establishment.” Compl. ¶ 30; Board Order 2011–368 at 12.5 Additionally, the modified order required that the MPD detail “be hired for a minimum of four hours and shall end no sooner than one hour after closing.” Compl. ¶ 30. On July 11, 2012, the Board fined Plaintiff $1500 for failing to hire an MPD reimbursable detail when a DJ performed at Plaintiff's establishment on October 9, 2011. Compl. ¶ 33; Board Order 2012–301 at 22.6

Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a six-count complaint against Defendants in their individual capacities on February 11, 2013. Plaintiff claimed that the Board's order requiring Plaintiff to hire an MPD detail at a rate of over $55 per hour—more than double the basic wage of police officers—was unlawful and extortionate. As is pertinent here, Plaintiff alleged: (1) racketeering in violation of RICO, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c) ; (2) conspiracy to commit racketeering in violation of RICO § 1962(d) ; and (3) deprivation of property interests pursuant to the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Defendants moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the Court granted Defendants' motion. Compl. ¶¶ 83–90, 94–98.

In its Memorandum Opinion, this Court explained that Plaintiff's two RICO claims, which were predicated on violations of the Hobbs Act, failed because Plaintiff did not allege that Defendants' imposition of a reimbursable detail violated clearly established law. BEG Investments, 34 F.Supp.3d at 80–84. As a result, Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Id. The Court also dismissed Plaintiff's Takings Clause claim, finding that Plaintiff's allegation that he was obligated to pay money was insufficient to state a claim under the Fifth Amendment. Id. at 86–88.

Plaintiff now argues that the Court erred in both analyses, first by misapplying the qualified immunity doctrine to Plaintiff's extortion-based RICO claims, and second, by failing to consider the effect of Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Mgmt. Dist., ––– U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 2586, 186 L.Ed.2d 697 (2013), on Plaintiff's Takings Clause claim. The Court addresses each issue in turn.

III. ANALYSIS
A. Legal Standard

Because Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of an interlocutory order, Rule 54(b) governs the Court's analysis. See Judicial Watch v. U.S. Dep't of Army, 466 F.Supp.2d 112, 123 (D.D.C.2006) (discussing Rule 54(b)'s application to denials of dispositive motions). Rule 54(b) is silent, however, on the standard of review applicable to motions for reconsideration of such interlocutory decisions and orders. “To fill this gap, courts in this district have held that ‘relief upon reconsideration [of an interlocutory decision] pursuant to Rule 54(b) is available as justice requires.’ United States v. Coughlin, 821 F.Supp.2d 8, 18 (D.D.C.2011) (quoting Hoffman v. District of Columbia, 681 F.Supp.2d 86, 90 (D.D.C.2010) ). Under the “as justice requires” standard, reconsideration may be warranted when a court has “patently misunderstood the parties, made a decision beyond the adversarial issues presented, made an error in failing to consider controlling decisions or data, or where a controlling or significant change in the law has occurred.” U.S. ex rel. Westrick v. Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., 893 F.Supp.2d 258, 268 (D.D.C.2012) (internal citation, quotation, and alteration omitted); see also Cobell v. Norton, 224 F.R.D. 266, 272 (D.D.C.2004).

“These considerations leave a great deal of room for the court's discretion and, accordingly, the ‘as justice requires' standard amounts to determining ‘whether relief upon reconsideration is necessary under the relevant circumstances.’ Lewis v. District of Columbia, 736 F.Supp.2d 98, 102 (D.D.C.2010) (quoting Cobell, 224 F.R.D. at 272 ). [I]n general, a court will grant a motion for reconsideration of an interlocutory order only when the movant demonstrates: (1) an intervening change in the law; (2) the discovery of new evidence not previously available; or (3) a clear error in the first order.” Stewart v. Panetta, 826 F.Supp.2d 176, 177 (D.D.C.2011) (quoting Johnson–Parks v. D.C. Chartered Health Plan, 806 F.Supp.2d 267, 269 (D.D.C.2011) ). At the same time, a court's discretion under Rule 54(b) is “limited by the law of the case doctrine and subject to the caveat that where litigants have once battled for the court's decision, they should neither be required, nor without good reason permitted, to battle for it again.” Singh v. George Washington Univ., 383 F.Supp.2d 99, 101 (D.D.C.2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). A court therefore may deny a motion for reconsideration when it merely asserts ‘arguments for reconsideration [that] the court has already rejected on the merits.’ McLaughlin v. Holder, 864 F.Supp.2d 134, 141 (D.D.C.2012) (quoting Capitol Sprinkler Inspection, Inc. v. Guest Servs., Inc., 630 F.3d 217, 227 (D.C.Cir. 2011) ). Finally, [t]he burden is on the moving party to show that reconsideration is appropriate and that harm or injustice would result if reconsideration were denied.” Second Chance Body Armor, 893 F.Supp.2d at 268.

B. Qualified Immunity

Plaintiff's complaint alleged that Defendants violated and conspired to violate RICO by demanding payment to MPD's reimbursable detail program under color of official right but without lawful authority, using wrongful economic harm and wrongful fear of economic harm to obtain property for the benefit of MPD police officers in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951. Compl. ¶¶ 83–90. In granting Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's RICO and underlying Hobbs Act claims, this Court explained that state actors are entitled to qualified immunity on RICO claims for “conduct that does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”...

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4 cases
  • United States ex rel. Landis v. Tailwind Sports Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • January 12, 2016
    ... ... BEG Investments, LLC v. Alberti , 85 F.Supp.3d 54, 58 (D.D.C.2015) (quoting Stewart v. Panetta , 826 F.Supp.2d 176, 177 (D.D.C.2011) ). So although the law-of-the-case doctrine does ... ...
  • United States ex rel. Landis v. Tailwind Sports Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • January 12, 2016
    ... ... BEG Investments, LLC v. Alberti , 85 F.Supp.3d 54, 58 (D.D.C.2015) (quoting Stewart v. Panetta , 826 F.Supp.2d 176, 177 (D.D.C.2011) ). So although the law-of-the-case doctrine does ... ...
  • Fbme Bank Ltd. v. Mnuchin, Case No. 15-cv-01270 (CRC).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • April 14, 2017
    ... ... Alberti , 85 F.Supp.3d 54, 58 (D.D.C. 2015) (quoting Stewart v. Panetta , 826 F.Supp.2d 176, 177 (D.D.C. 2011) ). "The burden is on the moving party to show ... ...
  • Kennedy v. Dist. of Columbia
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • November 16, 2015
    ... ... BEG Invs., LLC v. Alberti , 85 F.Supp.3d 54, 58 (D.D.C.2015) (alteration in original) (quoting McLaughlin v. Holder , 864 F.Supp.2d 134, 141 (D.D.C.2012) ... ...

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