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Carrero v. Farrelly

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 12, 2018

CHRISTOPHER FARRELLY, et al., Defendants.


          James K. Bredar Chief Judge.

         Mirna Rubidia Artiga Carrero (“Plaintiff”) filed a five-count Complaint against various state and federal officials and entities seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages stemming from her alleged unlawful arrest in 2014, which she contends was caused in part by federal policy regarding the identification and apprehension of aliens, like her, that are subject to a final order of removal. Defendants the United States of America; Jefferson B. Sessions III, Attorney General of the United States; Elaine C. Duke, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”); and Thomas D. Homan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) (the “Federal Defendants”) filed a motion to dismiss, inter alia, Count Five of the Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which the Court granted. (Order, ECF No. 34.) Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider that Order. (ECF No. 44.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion will be DENIED.

         I. Background[1]

         In its previous Memorandum and Order, the Court held that it lacked jurisdiction over Count Five of Plaintiff's Complaint, which alleged that the Federal Defendants caused Plaintiff to be falsely arrested and imprisoned and sought damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). Specifically, the Court found that Plaintiff's tort claims against the United States brought pursuant to the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity were barred by 8 U.S.C. § 1252(g), which strips federal courts of jurisdiction to “hear any cause or claim by or on behalf of any alien arising from the decision or action by the Attorney General to commence proceedings, adjudicate cases, or execute removal orders against any alien under this chapter.” (Memorandum, ECF No. 33, at 32 (citing Reno v. Am.-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. (AADC), 525 U.S. 471, 482 (1999)).) The Court found that “the decision to arrest Plaintiff (and the request that Officer Farrelly do so) constitute[d] a decision or action to execute a removal order, ” and therefore the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over her intentional tort claims in Count Five. (Id. at 33 (emphasis added).) The Court, however, concluded that “Plaintiff‘s claims regarding the Federal Defendants' decision to enter her civil warrant in the NCIC database d[id] not arise from a decision or action to execute a removal order, ” and therefore were not jurisdictionally barred by § 1252(g). (Id. at 34.)

         The Federal Defendants raised several other defenses to Plaintiff's tort claims, including that they were jurisdictionally barred by the discretionary function exception to the FTCA, 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a), and the intentional tort exception to the FTCA, 28 U.S.C. § 2680(h), and that Plaintiff failed to state a valid claim for false arrest and imprisonment under Maryland law. The Court did not address these arguments because it was unnecessary to do so in light of the Court's conclusion that § 1252(g) barred these claims in their entirety.

         II. Standard for Motion to Reconsider

         Plaintiff now asks that the Court reconsider its Order dismissing Count Five of the Complaint. Specifically, she seeks reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), which provides that the Court “may relieve a party . . . from a final judgment, order or proceeding” due to “mistake, inadvertence, . . . [or] other reason that justifies relief.” However, the Court's previous order left unresolved two of Plaintiff's claims against the Federal Defendants and all of her claims against the State Defendants. Accordingly, despite being styled as a Rule 60(b) motion, Plaintiff's motion is more properly considered under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), which governs reconsideration of orders that do not constitute final judgments in a case (i.e., interlocutory orders). That rule provides that “any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b).

         While relevant as a matter of procedural principle, it makes little to no difference in practice whether Plaintiff's claim is evaluated under Rule 60(b) or 54(b). Rule 54(b) motions “are not subject to the strict standards applicable to motions for reconsideration of a final judgment” under Rules 59(e) and 60(b). Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy Farms, Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514 (4th Cir. 2003) (emphasis added). Yet, even though “the standards articulated in Rules 59(e) and 60(b) are not binding in an analysis of Rule 54(b) motions, courts frequently look to these standards for guidance in considering such motions.” Butler v. DirectSAT USA, LLC, 307 F.R.D. 445, 449 (D. Md. 2015) (citation omitted). Under Rule 59(e), a motion to amend a final judgment may be granted only “(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 1993). And under Rule 60(b), a court may grant relief from a final judgment or order for the following reasons: “(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud or misconduct by the opposing party; (4) voidness; (5) satisfaction; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.” Butler, 307 F.R.D. at 449 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)). Although there may be many valid reasons to reconsider an order, “a motion to reconsider is not a license to reargue the merits or present new evidence” that was previously available to the movant. Royal Ins. Co. of Am. v. Miles & Stockbridge, P.C., 142 F.Supp.2d 676, 677 n.1 (D. Md. 2001) (citing RGI, Inc. v. Unified Indus., Inc., 963 F.2d 658 (4th Cir. 1992)). As another judge of this Court has astutely explained:

Hindsight being perfect, any lawyer can construct a new argument to support a position previously rejected by the court, especially once the court has spelled out its reasoning in an order. It is hard to imagine a less efficient means to expedite the resolution of cases than to allow the parties unlimited opportunities to seek the same relief simply by conjuring up a new reason to ask for it.

Potter v. Potter, 199 F.R.D. 550, 5553 (D. Md. 2001). In other words, a motion to reconsider is not a vehicle to advance new arguments not previously articulated with clarity after those that were made have been rejected.

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff contends that the Court should reconsider its Memorandum and Order dismissing her tort claims “because it appears to have been based on an inadvertent misapprehension of [her] allegations.” (Mot. to Reconsider, ECF No. 43, at 3.) Plaintiff argues that, although she set forth two, alternative grounds in support of her tort claims, the Court failed to address one of these grounds in dismissing the claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff is correct.

         In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleged the following with regard to her fifth cause of action:

64. DHS employees' unlawful entry of the civil administrative warrant against Ms. Artiga into NCIC and its dissemination to state and local law enforcement offices caused Ms. Artiga to be ...

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