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Clemons v. Shelby County Board of Education

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

July 3, 2019

KESHIA CLEMONS, as Mother and Next Friend of T.W. PLAINTIFF
v.
SHELBY COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION; SCOTT RICKE; JOHN LEEPER; and JAMES NEIHOF, Superintendent DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GREG N. STIVERS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Alter, Amend, or Vacate (DN 49). The motion is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons outlined below, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND CLAIMS

         Plaintiff Keshia Clemons (“Clemons”) is the mother of T.W., a minor who was an eighth grader and a ninth grader at Martha Layne Collins High School (“MLCHS”) during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years, respectively. Defendant Shelby County Board of Education (“SCBE”) is the governing body overseeing Shelby County Public Schools, which includes MLCHS. Defendant Scott Ricke (“Ricke”) was the MLCHS girls' tennis coach for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. For the relevant time period, Defendant John Leeper (“Leeper”) was the Principal at MLCHS, and Defendant Dr. James Neihof (“Neihof”) is the Superintendent of SCBE. The facts giving rise to this lawsuit are discussed at length in this Court's prior Memorandum Opinion and Order (DN 47) and are incorporated by reference.

         In the prior Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court granted summary judgment for Defendants on all claims. In the present motion, Clemons moves to alter, amend, or vacate pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) and 60(b) the granting of summary judgment for Defendants. (Pl.'s Mot. Alter, Amend, or Vacate J., DN 49).

         II. JURISDICTION

         This Court has subject-matter jurisdiction of this matter based upon federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) provides that a party may file a motion to alter or amend a judgment no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Rule 59(e) motions allow district courts to correct their own errors, “sparing the parties and appellate courts the burden of unnecessary appellate proceedings.” Howard v. United States, 533 F.3d 472, 475 (6th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The decision of whether to grant relief under Rule 59(e) is left to the district court's sound discretion. See In re Ford Motor Co. Sec. Litig., Class Action, 381 F.3d 563, 573 (6th Cir. 2004). Such a motion will generally be granted only if the district court made a clear error of law, if there is an intervening change in the controlling law, or if granting the motion will prevent manifest injustice. See GenCorp, Inc. v. Am. Int'l Underwriters, 178 F.3d 804, 834 (6th Cir. 1999). A Rule 59(e) motion is not properly used as a vehicle to re-hash old arguments or to advance positions that could have been argued earlier but were not. See Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Indian Tribes v. Engler, 146 F.3d 367, 374 (6th Cir. 1998).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) provides relief from judgment in six instances: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged; or (6) any other reasons justifying relief from the operation of the judgment. The motion must be made within a reasonable time, and for reasons (1)-(3) not more than one year after the judgment, order, or proceeding was entered. Rule 60(b)(6) gives the Court broad authority to grant relief if justice requires; however, it can only do so in exceptional or extraordinary circumstances not addressed by the first five clauses of the rule. See Liljeberg v. Health Servs. Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 863-64 (1988); McDowell v. Dynamics Corp. of Am., 931 F.2d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 1991) (noting that the Sixth Circuit “adheres to the view that courts should apply Rule 60(b)(6) only in exceptional or extraordinary circumstances which are not addressed by the first five numbered clauses of the Rule.”). Relief under Rule 60(b) is “circumscribed by public policy favoring finality of judgments and termination of litigation.” Waifersong Ltd., Inc. v. Classic Music Vending, 976 F.2d 290, 292 (6th Cir. 1992).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. 2013-14 Tennis Season

         Clemons' argument that her claims relating to the 2013-14 tennis season were timely asserted in this action is well-taken. The arguments relating to this season were raised in briefing on the parties' respective dispositive motions. Thus, the Court will consider the merits of the claims relating to that season.

         In considering whether a party is entitled to summary judgment, the Court must determine whether there is any genuine issue of material fact that would preclude entry of judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden stating the basis for the motion and identifying evidence in the record that demonstrates an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the moving party satisfies its burden, the non-moving party must then produce specific evidence proving the existence of a genuine issue of fact for trial. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         While the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show the existence of some “metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (citation omitted). Rather, the non-moving party must present specific facts proving that a genuine factual issue exists by “citing to particular parts of the materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         1. Title IX

         Based on the Court's review of the allegations in the Complaint, Clemons asserted a Title IX claim relating only to the 2014-15 season, not 2013-14.[1] (Compl. ¶¶ 10-12). Thus, the Court will grant summary judgment on the Title IX claim to the extent it relates to 2013-14 tennis season.

         2. Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act

         Clemons contends that Defendants discriminated against T.W. during the 2013-14 tennis season because of her disability. (Compl. ¶¶ 13-14). In particular, Clemons alleges:

13. That Defendant Ricke was fully aware of T.W.'s disability in the 2013-2014 school year; and regarded her as having a disability; and discriminated against her in violation of Section 504 of the Disability Act of 1973 by:
a. Making verbal statements regarding T.W. being different and/or not being the same as the other female members of the tennis Martha Layne Collins tennis team; or words to that effect; and,
b. Did not invite T.W. to the team banquet at the end of the 2013-2014 school year; 14. That the Plaintiff(s) voiced numerous protests in regard to Defendant Ricke's verbal discrimination of T.W.; which was clearly in violation of T.W.'s accommodations pursuant to Federal and State law . . . .

(Compl. ¶¶ 13-14).

         In relevant part, the Rehabilitation Act provides that “[n]o otherwise qualified individual with a disability . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance . . . .” 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). The law applies to ...


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