United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUNG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
December 12, 2017, a jury returned a verdict in favor of
Defendants Board of Education of Prince George's County,
Maryland; Janice Briscoe; Karyn Lynch; and Jacqueline Naves
on all of Plaintiff Suzanne Windsor's claims. After the
verdict was taken, Windsor moved, for the first time, for
judgment as a matter of law on her claims. The Court set a
deadline of December 19, 2017 for briefing on the motion. On
December 20, 2017, Windsor filed two motions. Pursuant to
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 50 and 59, Windsor filed a
Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict or, in the
Alternative, for a New Trial (the "Rule 50/59
Motion"), ECF No. 125. Pursuant to Rule 60(b)(3),
Windsor filed a Motion for this Court to Grant a New Trial
(the "Rule 60 Motion"), ECF No. 126. Defendants
oppose the Motions and have also filed a Motion to Strike the
filings as untimely, ECF No. 128. For the reasons set forth
below, all of the Motions are DENIED.
begin, Defendants request that the Court strike Windsor's
Motions as untimely. As the transcript of the proceedings
confirms, Windsor was informed by the Court that any
post-trial motions were due by December 19, 2017. On notice
of that deadline, Windsor failed to meet it, a failure that
was another incident in a troubling pattern of Windsor's
failures to abide by the Court's scheduling requirements
and time limits throughout the case and trial. Nevertheless,
because, by rule, a party ordinarily has 28 days within which
to file post-trial motions, and the filings were made within
that time period, the Court will not strike the Motions as
untimely. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b), (d), 59(b).
extent that Windsor's Rule 50/59 Motion seeks judgment
notwithstanding the verdict, also known as a judgment as a
matter of law, it necessarily fails. Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 50 requires that any such motion be made
"before the case is submitted to the jury."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(2). After the jury has returned its
verdict, the rules permit only a renewal of a previously made
motion. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b). Because Windsor
made no such motion at the close of the evidence, her
post-verdict motion is procedurally improper and thus will be
denied. See Herrington v. Sonoma Cty., 834 F.2d
1488, 1500 (9th Cir. 1987) (noting that "a motion for a
directed verdict at the close of all the evidence is
a prerequisite for a post-trial motion for JNOV" and
that this requirement "is to be strictly
observed"); see also 9B Charles Allan Wright
& Arthur R. Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. § 2537
(3d ed. 2010) (stating that "the district court only can
grant the Rule 50(b) motion on the grounds advanced in the
[Rule 50(a)] motion, because the former is conceived of only
as a renewal of the latter").
Windsor's Rule 50/59 Motion seeks a new trial pursuant to
Rule 59. A court may grant a motion for a new trial "for
any reason" for which a new trial had been granted in a
federal trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(A). Typically, a new
trial may be warranted if the verdict is against the
"clear weight of the evidence." Williams v.
Nichols, 266 F.2d 389, 392 (4th Cir. 1959). While a Rule
50 motion requires the Court to evaluate the evidence in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party, a Rule 59
motion has a more flexible standard, requiring the court to
conduct a "comparison of opposing proofs."
Id. at 393. Even under that more generous standard,
however, Windsor's Motion fails.
observed the trial and upon consideration of the full record,
the Court finds no basis to grant a new trial. At trial,
Windsor alleged employment discrimination and retaliation
arising from three occasions when she was not promoted or
re-assigned to a more favorable position and alleged
mistreatment afterwards. Windsor offered no direct evidence
of discriminatory intent by the decisionmakers for any of
those personnel actions. Defendants, however, provided
testimony and evidence that the selections were made for
non-discriminatory reasons focused on the backgrounds and
qualifications of the successful applicants. The evidence
offered by Windsor to rebut such testimony focused on
tangential incidents in which she was allegedly treated
unfairly by supervisors, but which were largely unconnected
to the hiring decisions, to race, or to prior protected
activity. Notably, the evidence established that other School
Board personnel, not within the protected class, were also
treated unfairly by the same supervisors. She also offered
evidence that certain decisionmakers had personal
relationships with successful candidates, but such evidence
did not reveal any racial or retaliatory motivation for their
decisions. Such evidence did not effectively refute
Defendants' evidence or otherwise demonstrate that
Defendants acted with discriminatory or retaliatory intent.
After comparing the opposing proofs offered by the parties at
trial, the Court is satisfied that the jury's verdict was
not against the clear weight of the evidence. The Rule 50/59
motion will therefore be denied.
also moves pursuant to Rule 60(b)(3) for relief from
judgment, and seeks a new trial, on the grounds that the
trial was marred by fraud and misconduct by Defendants.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(3). To prevail on a Rule 60(b)(3) motion,
a party must establish (1) a meritorious defense, (2)
misconduct by the non-moving party by clear and convincing
evidence, and (3) that the misconduct prevented the moving
party from fully presenting her case. Schultz v. Butcher,
III, 24 F.3d 626, 630 (4th Cir. 1994). Windsor fails to
satisfy these requirements.
Windsor asserts that Defendants' counsel engaged in
misconduct by failing to disclose that he "previously
represented her as he advised her Union Representative"
on matters that were referenced during the trial. Rule 60
Mot. ¶ 15. Notably, Windsor would have necessarily been
aware of any such relationship and never raised it before
trial. In any event, Windsor has not offered persuasive
evidence that defense counsel acted inappropriately, or that
any such prior activity prevented her from fully presenting
her case to the jury.
Windsor appears to assert that Defendants suborned perjury,
attaching to her Motion various documents that, she contends,
establish that certain trial testimony was false. To the
extent that some of the documents appear to contradict
certain trial testimony, however, they do not establish by
clear and convincing evidence that Defendants were suborning
perjury, where discrepancies, such as whether there was more
than one discrimination complaint against Naves, could have
been based on innocent mis-recollection. More importantly,
these documents, most if not all of which date from 2013 to
2015, were available to Windsor before trial. Because Windsor
was in a position to reveal the alleged falsehoods through
cross examination, she cannot establish that she was
prevented from fully presenting her case.
the testimony to which the documents relate consisted of
collateral matters. Windsor complains that Amana Simmons, the
School Board's Equal Employment Opportunity officer,
falsely testified that Windsor was the only person to have
filed a discrimination complaint against Naves, that Shauna
Battle falsely testified about Anthony Boyd's position,
and that Janice Briscoe falsely testified that she had not
been previously demoted based on her interactions with
Windsor. None of this testimony relates to the primary issues
in the case of whether Windsor was subjected to race
discrimination in certain promotion or reassignment decisions
or was subjected to retaliation. Windsor fails to articulate
how the alleged false testimony on such side issues would
have prevented her from fully presenting her case. Because
Windsor has not established that she is entitled to relief
under Rule 60(b)(3), her Motion will be denied.
Schultz, 24 F.3d at 630.
it is hereby ORDERED that
1. Windsor's Rule 50/59 Motion for Judgment
Notwithstanding the Verdict, or in the Alternative, Motion
for a New Trial, ECF No. 125, is DENIED.
2. Windsor's Rule 60 Motion for a New Trial, ECF No. 126,
3. Defendants' Motion to Strike, ECF No. 128, is DENIED.
The Clerk is directed ...