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Cutonilli v. Federal Transit Administration

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 26, 2015

JOHN CUTONILLI, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER, District Judge.

This case arises from a dispute concerning the Baltimore Red Line Project, a proposed east-west mass transit line to serve Baltimore City and Baltimore County ("Red Line Project" or "Project"). See generally ECF 1 ("Complaint"). The plan for the Project ("Preferred Alternative"), announced in the Record of Decision issued by the Federal Transit Administration on February 28, 2013, is a 14.1-mile light rail line.

Plaintiff John Cutonilli, who is self-represented, sued the Federal Transit Administration ("FTA") and the Maryland Transit Administration ("MTA") (collectively "Agencies"), defendants, alleging that, in regard to the Project, the Agencies failed to comply with "federal environmental laws, " including the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq., and its implementing regulations, at 40 C.F.R. § 1500 et seq. ECF 1, Complaint. Plaintiff does not oppose the Red Line Project generally. Instead, he complains that defendants improperly rejected his proposed alternative for the Project and failed adequately to consider or respond to his comments when finalizing the environmental impact statement prepared for the Project.

Defendants moved for summary judgment. ECF 44, MTA Motion for Summary Judgment; ECF 45, FTA Motion for Summary Judgment. The motions were fully briefed. See ECF 47; ECF 50; ECF 51. By Memorandum Opinion (ECF 56) and Order (ECF 57) dated March 30, 2015, I granted defendants' motions for summary judgment.

As I explained in the Memorandum Opinion, NEPA does not establish a private cause of action. ECF 56 at 30, Memorandum Opinion (citing Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed., 497 U.S. 871, 882 (1990)). Rather, the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA, " 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. ) sets forth the basis for judicial review of a final agency action. See Friends of Back Bay v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, 681 F.3d 581, 586 (4th Cir. 2012); Lee v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., 592 F.3d 612, 619 (4th Cir. 2010); Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal v. Aracoma Coal Co., 556 F.3d 177, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). The Administrative Record in this case was compiled and submitted by the FTA, consisting of of nineteen DVD's that contain over 145, 000 pages of documents.

Review under the APA is highly deferential, and the agency action enjoys a presumption of validity. Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 415 (1971), abrogated on other grounds, Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99 (1977); Ohio Valley Envtl Coal. v. Aracoma Coal Co., 556 F.3d 177, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc. v. EPA, 16 F.3d 1395, 1400 (4th Cir. 1993)). Under the APA, the party challenging an agency decision bears the burden of demonstrating that the agency action was arbitrary and capricious. Sierra Club v. Marita, 46 F.3d 606, 619 (7th Cir. 1995). "The scope of review under the arbitrary and capricious' standard is narrow and a court is not to substitute its judgment for that of the agency...." Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n of the United States v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983).

In the Memorandum Opinion granting summary judgment in favor of defendants, I concluded that, upon a review of the administrative record in this case, and given the deferential standard of review under the APA, plaintiff failed to meet his burden. I reasoned, ECF 56 at 61, Memorandum Opinion:

[T]he Agencies have satisfied their obligations under NEPA as to Mr. Cutonilli's proposed alternative and the comments he submitted [with respect to] the [environmental impact statement]. Even if another decisionmaker might have reached a contrary result, it surely was not a clear error of judgment, or arbitrary and capricious, for the Agencies not to select plaintiff's alternative for detailed study or to decline to respond to Mr. Cutonilli's proposed alternative in greater detail.

Mr. Cutonilli subsequently filed a Motion for Reconsideration (ECF 58, "Motion"), supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 58-1, "Cutonilli Memo."), challenging the Court's ruling granting summary judgment in favor of defendants. He asserts that I "clearly errored [sic] in a number of ways" and complains that my decision "amounts to a rubber stamping of the NEPA process." ECF 58-1 at 1, Cutonilli Memo. Cutonilli recounts several "[i]nstances of clear errors" by the court, id. at 2, as well as instances of misapplication of the law. Id. at 2-9.

The MTA filed a response in opposition to the Motion (ECF 62, "MTA Opposition"). The FTA also opposes the Motion (ECF 63, "FTA Opposition").

No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I will deny plaintiff's Motion.[1]

As a preliminary matter, I note that plaintiff's Motion is titled "Motion for Reconsideration" (ECF 58). It was filed on April 27, 2015. Pursuant to Local Rule 105.10, a motion to reconsider "shall be filed with the Clerk not later than fourteen (14) days after entry of the order, " except as otherwise provided under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50, 52, 59, or 60. Because the Motion was filed on April 27, 2015, twenty-eight days after the entry of the Memorandum and Order of March 30, 2015 (ECF 56; ECF 57), the Motion is untimely unless it falls under an applicable federal rule.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not contain an express provision for a "motion for reconsideration" of a final judgment. Katyle v. Penn Nat'l Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 470 n.4 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 115 (2011). But, to avoid elevating form over substance, a motion to reconsider may be construed as a motion to alter or amend judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), or a motion for relief from judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). MLC Auto., LLC v. Town of S. Pines, 532 F.3d 269, 278-80 (4th Cir. 2008). Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) is captioned "Motion to Alter or Amend a Judgment." It states: "A motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment."[2]

In the Fourth Circuit, the key factor to ascertain which rule shall govern is the timing of the motion. The Fourth Circuit has said that "a motion filed under both Rule 59(e) and Rule 60(b) should be analyzed only under Rule 59(e) if it was filed no later than [28] days after entry of the adverse judgment and seeks to correct that judgment." Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corp. LLC, 599 F.3d 403, 412 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing Small v. Hunt, 98 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir. 1996)); see In re Burnley, 988 F.2d ...


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