In re Navy Chaplaincy, Miscellaneous Action No. 07–269 (RMU).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRICARDO M. URBINA
Citation850 F.Supp.2d 86
PartiesIn re NAVY CHAPLAINCY.
Docket NumberMiscellaneous Action No. 07–269 (RMU).
Decision Date21 March 2012

850 F.Supp.2d 86

In re NAVY CHAPLAINCY.

Miscellaneous Action No. 07–269 (RMU).

United States District Court,
District of Columbia.

March 21, 2012.


[850 F.Supp.2d 90]


Arthur A. Schulcz, Sr., The Law Office of Arthur A. Schulcz, Sr., Vienna, VA, for In re Navy Chaplaincy.


MEMORANDUM OPINION
Denying the Plaintiffs' Motion to Alter or Amend the Court's January 10, 2002 Interlocutory Judgment, or, in the Alternative, to Certify Judgment; Denying Plaintiff Chaplaincy Full Gospel Churches' Motion to Alter or Amend the Court's August 17, 2000 Interlocutory Judgment, or, in the Alternative, to Certify Judgment; Granting in Part and Denying in Part the Defendants' Motion for Partial Dismissal.

RICARDO M. URBINA, District Judge.
I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court on the plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend the court's interlocutory judgment that was issued on January 10, 2002, or, in the alternative, to certify the judgment for appeal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). The court further considers a similar motion filed by one of the plaintiffs, the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches (“CFGC”), requesting that the court alter or amend its August 17, 2000 decision, or, in the alternative, that it certify judgment. Lastly, the court addresses the defendants' motion for partial dismissal. For the reasons explained below, the court denies both of the plaintiffs' motions to alter or amend the court's previous judgments, as well as the alternative requests for certification under Rule 54(b). Furthermore, the court grants in part and denies in part the defendants' motion for partial dismissal.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Because the court has published more than a dozen opinions in this case, it will dispense with a full recitation of its

[850 F.Supp.2d 91]

lengthy and convoluted background.1 For ease and readability, however, the court presents here a skeletal description of the plaintiffs' claims,2 offering a more comprehensive background throughout its discussion where such information proves necessary.

Briefly stated, the plaintiffs claim that the Department of the Navy and several of its officials (collectively, “the defendants”) have discriminated against the plaintiffs on the basis of their religion, by establishing, promoting and maintaining “illegal religious quotas” and religious preferences in their personnel decision-making. Adair v. England, Civ. No. 00–566 (“Adair”), 4th Am. Compl. ¶ 1; Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches v. England, Civ. No. 99–2945 (“CFGC”), 4th Am. Compl. ¶ 1; Gibson v. Dep't of Navy, Civ. No. 06–1696 (“Gibson”), Am. Compl. ¶ 1. More specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the Navy discriminates against members of “non-liturgical” religions 3 when making decisions for the promotion, accession,4 retention and separation of Navy chaplains. Adair, Mem. Op. (Jan. 10, 2002), 183 F.Supp.2d at 37–41.

Three cases were commenced, all raising “substantially similar constitutional challenges to the Navy Chaplaincy program.” In re Navy Chaplaincy, Miscellaneous No. 07–269, Mem. Order (June 18, 2007) at 3–4. The court ultimately determined that these cases, Adair v. England, CFGC v. England and Gibson v. Dep't of the Navy, should be consolidated under the caption In re Navy Chaplaincy. See id. at 4.

Although their constitutional challenges are nearly identical, the plaintiffs in each case are varied. The Adair plaintiffs are 17 current and former non-liturgical chaplains in the Navy. Adair, Mem. Op. (Jan. 10, 2002), 183 F.Supp.2d at 35. In the CFGC case, the plaintiffs are composed of an endorsing agency for non-liturgical military chaplains called the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches and seven of its individual members. Id. Lastly, the Gibson plaintiffs consist of 41 individual plaintiffs and one organizational plaintiff, the Associated Gospel Churches, which is “a fellowship of non-denominational, evangelical churches.” Gibson, Am. Compl. ¶ 3.

In the latest iteration of this longstanding dispute, the plaintiffs move the court to alter or amend two of its previous judgments. Alternatively, the plaintiffs ask the court to certify these judgments for appeal under Rule 54(b). The defendants, for their part, move the court to partially dismiss the plaintiffs' claims. With the parties' respective motions ripe for consideration, the court turns to the parties' arguments and the applicable legal standards.

[850 F.Supp.2d 92]

III. ANALYSIS
A. The Court Denies Both of the Plaintiffs' Rule 54(b) Motions

1. Legal Standard for Altering or Amending an Interlocutory Judgment

A district court may revise its own interlocutory decisions “at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b); see also Childers v. Slater, 197 F.R.D. 185, 190 (D.D.C.2000) (citing the Advisory Committee Notes to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)). The standard for the court's review of an interlocutory decision differs from the standards applied to final judgments under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b). Compare Muwekma Tribe v. Babbitt, 133 F.Supp.2d 42, 48 n. 6 (D.D.C.2001) (noting that “motions for [relief upon] reconsideration of interlocutory orders, in contrast to motions for [relief upon] reconsideration of final orders, are within the sound discretion of the trial court”) and United Mine Workers v. Pittston Co., 793 F.Supp. 339, 345 (D.D.C.1992) (discussing the standard applicable to motions to grant relief upon reconsideration of an interlocutory order) with LaRouche v. Dep't of Treasury, 112 F.Supp.2d 48, 51–52 (D.D.C.2000) (analyzing the defendant's motion for relief from judgment under Rule 60(b)) and Harvey v. District of Columbia, 949 F.Supp. 878, 879 (D.D.C.1996) (ruling on the plaintiff's motion to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e)). A motion pursuant to Rule 59(e), to alter or amend a judgment after its entry, is not routinely granted. Harvey, 949 F.Supp. at 879. The primary reasons for altering or amending a judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) are an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice. Id.;Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C.Cir.1996) (per curiam); Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b); LaRouche, 112 F.Supp.2d at 51–52.

By contrast, relief upon reconsideration of an interlocutory decision pursuant to Rule 54(b) is available “as justice requires.” Childers, 197 F.R.D. at 190. “As justice requires” indicates concrete considerations of whether the court “has patently misunderstood a party, has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the [c]ourt by the parties, has made an error not of reasoning, but of apprehension, or where a controlling or significant change in the law or facts [has occurred] since the submission of the issue to the court.” Cobell v. Norton, 224 F.R.D. 266, 272 (D.D.C.2004) (internal citation omitted). 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.” Id. Nonetheless, the 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 University, 383 F.Supp.2d 99, 101 (D.D.C.2005) (internal citations omitted).

2. Legal Standard for Rule 54(b) Certification of Final Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) allows a district court in a case with multiple parties or multiple claims to “direct the entry of a final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties

[850 F.Supp.2d 93]

only upon an express determination that there is no just reason for delay and upon an express direction for the entry of judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). The purpose of Rule 54(b) is to “mediate[ ] between the sometimes antagonistic goals of avoiding piecemeal appeals and giving parties timely justice.” Taylor v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 132 F.3d 753, 760 (D.C.Cir.1997).

Whether a case is one of the “exceptional cases” qualifying for Rule 54(b) certification is a decision that falls within the discretion of the district court, which is “most likely to be familiar with the case and with any justifiable reasons for delay.” Bldg. Indus. Ass'n of Super. Calif. v. Babbitt, 161 F.3d 740, 743 (D.C.Cir.1998) (quoting Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351 U.S. 427, 437, 76 S.Ct. 895, 100 L.Ed. 1297 (1956)). Under the rule, “the district court [functions] as a dispatcher, determining in its sound discretion when a claim should proceed on to appellate resolution and when it should await its fellows.” Petties v. District of Columbia, 227 F.3d 469, 472 (D.C.Cir.2000) (internal quotations omitted); see also Hill v. Henderson, 195 F.3d 671, 672 (D.C.Cir.1999) (describing Rule 54(b) as an “escape hatch” permitting a partial disposition to become a final judgment).

The district court, however, must make certain determinations on the record before the appellate court can acquire jurisdiction. Bldg. Indus. Ass'n, 161 F.3d at 743;see also Haynesworth v. Miller, 820 F.2d 1245, 1253 (D.C.Cir.1987) (noting that a district court's “[f]ailure to take the steps specified in Rule 54(b) is more than a mere technicality; without compliance, a federal court of appeals lacks jurisdiction to entertain challenges to the order”). First, the district court must ensure that it is dealing with a final judgment: “final” in the sense that it is “an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action,” and “a ‘judgment’ in the sense that it determines a claim for relief.” Bldg. Indus. Ass'n, 161 F.3d at 744 (quoting Curtiss–Wright...

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  • Montgomery v. Comey, Civil Action No. 17–1074 (RJL)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • March 5, 2018
    ...absent evidence to the contrary, "that government officials will conduct themselves properly and in good faith," In re Navy Chaplaincy , 850 F.Supp.2d 86, 94 (D.D.C. 2012), I presume that defendants have acted in accordance with the limitations imposed by the USA FREEDOM Act.4 Thus, because......
  • In re Navy Chaplaincy, Misc. Case No. 07-269 (JDB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 30, 2018
    ...pending, Judge Urbina resolved one of the dispositive motions that was then pending in the underlying case, see In re Navy Chaplaincy, 850 F.Supp.2d 86, 105–117 (D.D.C. 2012) (granting in part and denying in part the Navy's 2008 motion to dismiss on exhaustion, standing, and mootness ground......
  • Lewis v. Sec'y of the Navy, Civil No. 10-0842 (RBW)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • July 1, 2016
    ...F.2d 699, 701 (D.C.Cir.1990) ). Nevertheless, "[a] case is not moot if a court can provide an effective remedy." In re Navy Chaplaincy, 850 F.Supp.2d 86 (D.D.C.2012) ; see also United States v. Chrysler Corp., 158 F.3d 1350, 1353 (D.C.Cir.1998) (noting that " ‘even the availability of a par......
  • Bennett v. Donovan, Civil Action No. 11–0498 (ESH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • December 4, 2013
    ...law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” In re Navy Chaplaincy, 850 F.Supp.2d 86, 92 (D.D.C.2012); see also Anyanwutaku v. Moore, 151 F.3d 1053, 1057–58 (D.C.Cir.1998)). Such motions are “not simply an opportunity to reargue......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Montgomery v. Comey, Civil Action No. 17–1074 (RJL)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • March 5, 2018
    ...to the contrary, "that government officials will conduct themselves properly and in good faith," In re Navy Chaplaincy , 850 F.Supp.2d 86, 94 (D.D.C. 2012), I presume that defendants have acted in accordance with the limitations imposed by the USA FREEDOM Act.4 Thus, because the b......
  • In re Navy Chaplaincy, Misc. Case No. 07-269 (JDB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 30, 2018
    ...pending, Judge Urbina resolved one of the dispositive motions that was then pending in the underlying case, see In re Navy Chaplaincy, 850 F.Supp.2d 86, 105–117 (D.D.C. 2012) (granting in part and denying in part the Navy's 2008 motion to dismiss on exhaustion, standing, and mootness ground......
  • Lewis v. Sec'y of the Navy, Civil No. 10-0842 (RBW)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • July 1, 2016
    ...701 (D.C.Cir.1990) ). Nevertheless, "[a] case is not moot if a court can provide an effective remedy." In re Navy Chaplaincy, 850 F.Supp.2d 86 (D.D.C.2012) ; see also United States v. Chrysler Corp., 158 F.3d 1350, 1353 (D.C.Cir.1998) (noting that " ‘even the availability of ......
  • Bennett v. Donovan, Civil Action No. 11–0498 (ESH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • December 4, 2013
    ...law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” In re Navy Chaplaincy, 850 F.Supp.2d 86, 92 (D.D.C.2012); see also Anyanwutaku v. Moore, 151 F.3d 1053, 1057–58 (D.C.Cir.1998)). Such motions are “not simply an opportunity to reargue......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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