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Ransdell v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort

December 13, 2017

WILLIAM RANSDELL, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge

         On November 30, 2015, William Ransdell sued the United States Postal Service and Postmaster General Megan Brennan for employment discrimination. This Court decided, first, that the USPS was not an appropriate party and should be dismissed. [R. 30 at 4-5.] Next, this Court granted Summary Judgment in favor of the Defendants because Mr. Ransdell did not follow the required administrative procedures. Id. at 13-14. Now, Mr. Ransdell has filed a Motion to Alter or Amend this Court's judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 59(e), or in the alternative, Relief from Final Judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60. For the following reasons, Mr. Ransdell's Motion [R. 32] is DENIED.

         I

         This Motion stems from the same factual basis as the original Memorandum Opinion & Order [R. 30], and therefore, the facts from that opinion are incorporated here by reference.[1] In Mr. Ransdell's Complaint, he alleged disability discrimination based on the USPS's failure to promote him and failure to accommodate his request to use his personal vehicle on Route 9. [R. 1; R. 17.] The United States has waived its sovereign immunity to allow federal employees to sue under Title VII and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 791, et seq., so long as a plaintiff satisfies “rigorous administrative exhaustion requirements and time limitations.” Brown v. Gen. Servs. Admin., 425 U.S. 820, 833 (1976); see also McFarland v. Henderson, 307 F.3d 402, 406 (6th Cir. 2002). This Court found, however, that Mr. Ransdell did not satisfy these requirements. [R. 30 at 13-14.] The administrative requirement presently at issue compels a plaintiff to “initiate contact with a[n] [Equal Employment Opportunity] Counselor within 45 days of the matter alleged to be discriminatory or, in the case of personnel action, within 45 days of the effective date of the action.” 29 C.F.R. § 1614.105(a)(1); McFarland, 307 F.3d at 406. While a federal employee's obligation to contact an EEO counselor within that particular period is generally “a precondition to filing suit, ” the deadline is also “subject to equitable tolling, waiver, and estoppel.” Mitchell v. Chapman, 343 F.3d 811, 820 (6th Cir. 2003).

         Moreover, 29 C.F.R. § 1614.105(a)(2) requires a federal agency to extend the forty-five day time limit if a plaintiff shows that he or she “was not notified of the time limits and was not otherwise aware of them.” See Harris v. Gonzales, 488 F.3d 442, 444-45 (D.C. Cir. 2007). Because undisputed evidence indicated Mr. Ransdell was employed at a facility where the requisite EEO poster was appropriately posted, he attended a training session on EEO rights, and he was represented by an attorney at the relevant time, this Court considered him to be on constructive notice of the time limitation, and therefore, not eligible for “equitable tolling” of the deadline. [R. 30 at 11.]

         Mr. Ransdell now seeks relief under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 59 and 60, claiming this Court's opinion contains misrepresentations of facts and errors of law. [R. 32.] Rule 59(e) provides that a judgment can be set aside or amended for one of four reasons: (1) to correct a clear error of law; (2) to account for newly discovered evidence; (3) to accommodate an intervening change in the controlling law; or (4) to otherwise prevent manifest injustice. See also, ACLU of Ky. v. McCreary County, Ky., 607 F.3d 439, 450 (6th Cir. 2010); Intera Corp. v. Henderson, 428 F.3d 605, 620 (6th Cir. 2005). A district court has discretion to grant or deny a Rule 59(e) motion. GenCorp., Inc. v. Am. Int'l Underwriters, 178 F.3d 804, 832 (6th Cir. 1999). Re-argument is not an appropriate purpose for a motion to reconsider. Davenport v. Corrections Corp. of America, 2005 WL 2456241 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 4, 2005). Rule 60(b) allows a court to reconsider a prior final judgment, order, or proceeding in certain proscribed circumstances, such as mistake, excusable neglect, newly discovered evidence, or fraud. The statute includes a catchall category, allowing reconsideration for “any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6). Though granting reconsideration pursuant to Rule 60(b) is a matter within the court's discretion, allowing reconsideration is an exception rather than common practice. A court's power is limited by public policy favoring the finality of judgments. See Blue Diamond Coal Co. v. Trs. of the UMWA Combined Benefit Fund, 249 F.3d 519, 524 (6th Cir. 2001).

         Mr. Ransdell's Motion seemingly falls under Rule 60(b)(1), which provides that the “court may relieve a party . . . from a[n] . . . order” for a number of reasons including “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect, ” because he argues that the Court made a number of factually incorrect findings that resulted in a mistaken legal conclusion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60; [see R. 32 at 1].

         II

         A

         Mr. Ransdell first claims this Court based its decision on the “faulty assumption” that Mr. Ransdell attended a training session in 2006 on EEO rights. [R. 32 at 2.] In the opinion, this Court relied on evidence provided by the Postmaster General that Ransdell had indeed completed such a training program. [R. 30 at 12; R. 14-21.] In his Response, Mr. Ransdell did not refute this evidence, instead exhausting his arguments on the existence of the poster on the bulletin board. [R. 17 at 15-19.] Because the Postmaster General's evidence was not disputed, there was no genuine conflict “in the evidence, with affirmative support on both sides.” Dawson v. Dorman, 528 F. App'x 450, 452 (6th Cir. 2013).

         Now, Mr. Ransdell has submitted an affidavit stating he did not attend the training session. [R. 32-2 at 1.] Having not previously been entered into the record, this is new evidence. A movant may succeed on a motion filed under Rule 59(e) based on new evidence if the evidence was “previously unavailable.” HDC, LLC v. City of Ann Arbor, 675 F.3d 608, 615 (6th Cir. 2012). Mr. Ransdell's own affidavit cannot be considered “previously unavailable.” In order to succeed under Rule 60 based on newly discovered evidence, Mr. Ransdell must demonstrate (1) he exercised due diligence in obtaining the information and (2) the new evidence is material and controlling, such that the new evidence would clearly have produced a different result if presented prior to the original judgment. Good v. Ohio Edison Co., 149 F.3d 413, 423 (6th Cir. 1998). Mr. Ransdell has not met either of these burdens. As this is a statement from Mr. Ransdell himself, with no other evidence to support the statement, this evidence was easily accessible at the time of the original Motion and could have been disclosed in his Response. Furthermore, even if this was “newly discovered, ” the existence of his own affidavit is not enough to survive a motion for summary judgment. See Ashbrook v. Block, 917 F.2d 918, 921 (6th Cir. 1990) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). Had Mr. Ransdell introduced this affidavit in his Response, this evidence would still not create a genuine issue of material fact, as he presented no other evidence in addition to his affidavit. Therefore, Mr. Ransdell's argument that the Court relied on misrepresentations of fact to determine he attended the training session are unsubstantiated.

         B

         Next, Mr. Ransdell attacks the Opinion because he provided a copy of the letter to his personal attorney and not the attorney representing him in this matter. [R. 32 at 2.] However, the identity of the attorney is unimportant. Mr. Ransdell does not dispute that he was, in fact, represented by an attorney at the time. “Constructive knowledge of a time limit will usually be imputed when the plaintiff retains an attorney within the limitations period.” Steiner v. Henderson, 354 F.3d 432, 436 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Weigel v. Baptist Hosp., 302 F.3d 367, 376 (6th Cir. 2002)). Even though his attorney was different at the relevant time ...


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