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Lamb v. Spencer

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 8, 2019



          Paula Xinis United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Jerry Goralski Lamb's Motion to Withdraw Counsel and for Relief from a Judgment or Order. ECF No. 77. The motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons, the Motion to Withdraw Counsel is GRANTED, and the Motion for Relief from a Judgment or Order is DENIED.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff Jerry Lamb was employed by the Navy and Naval Air Systems Command (collectively, “the Agency”) as a Contracts Specialist from 2009 until his termination on August 17, 2015. ECF No. 41 ¶¶ 17, 52. Lamb filed suit in this Court, challenging the Merit Systems Protection Board's (“MSPB”) affirmance of the Agency's decision to terminate his employment.

         Beginning on March 9, 2015, Lamb left work to begin treatment for his back, along with his anxiety and depression. ECF No. 41 ¶ 33. After Lamb failed to provide requested medical documentation to support his extended leave, his supervisor, Terrence O'Connell, coded Lamb's missed days as Absent Without Leave (“AWOL”). Id. ¶ 46. At the end of April 2015, Lamb did not return to work due to other health-related reasons. Id. ¶ 50. On or about May 14, 2015, O'Connell filed a Proposed Action for Removal against Lamb based on his AWOL status from March to May for a total of 43 days. Id. ¶ 51. On August 17, 2015, Lamb's employment was terminated. Id. ¶ 52.

         On August 20, 2015, Lamb appealed his removal from the Agency to the MSPB. ECF No. 23-23 at 1. After conducting a two-day hearing, the MSPB issued its Initial Decision on February 11, 2016, finding that the Agency had properly coded Lamb as AWOL and that Lamb had “failed to prove any of his affirmative defenses . . . by preponderant evidence.” Id. at 34. On July 27, 2016, Lamb filed this action to appeal the MSPB's decision, alleging the MSPB erred because the Agency had violated the Rehabilitation Act (“Rehab Act”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). ECF No. 41 ¶¶ 53-82.

         On April 9, 2018, Defendant moved to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment in his favor. See ECF No. 47. The Court granted Defendant's motion on December 7, 2018, dismissing Lamb's ADA and FMLA claims, and further granting summary judgment in Defendant's favor on the Rehab Act claims. ECF No. 69 at 8-13. On January 7, 2019, Lamb noted his appeal of the Court's decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. See ECF No. 72. The appeal is still pending.

         Lamb now moves for relief from this Court's December 7 decision under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). ECF No. 77 at 1. Lamb also asks that this Court allow his current counsel to withdraw from representation. Id. The Court addresses the motions separately.

         II. Motion to Withdraw Counsel

         Lamb “seeks leave to withdraw his current counsel of record” and proceed pro se. ECF No. 77 at 1. Lamb's attorneys previously moved to withdraw from representation while the case was on appeal. The Court denied the request because the notice of appeal had deprived this court of jurisdiction. See ECF No. 75. However, now that Lamb has filed his reconsideration motion pursuant to Rule 60(b), this Court may exercise limited jurisdiction to decide the motion so as to “preserve[] judicial resources and eliminate[] unnecessary expense and delay.” Fobian v. Storage Tech. Corp., 164 F.3d 887, 890 (4th Cir. 1999) (internal marks and citations omitted). Accordingly, the Rule 60(b) motion has resurrected question of representation before this Court.

         Lamb no longer wishes for counsel to represent him and counsel concurs in the sentiment. Counsel's appearance is therefore stricken, and Lamb proceeds pro se.

         III. Motion for Relief from a Judgment or Order

         Lamb seeks relief from the Court's final judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(2) and (b)(6). ECF No. 77 at 1. Rule 60(b) allows a district court to relieve a party “from a final judgment, order, or proceeding” based on a list of enumerated grounds, or for “any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). To receive Rule 60(b) relief, a “plaintiff must make a threshold showing of timeliness, a meritorious claim or defense, and a lack of unfair prejudice to the opposing party.” Bank v. M/V "Mothership", No. ELH-18-3378, 2019 WL 2192488, at *4 (D. Md. May 20, 2019) (citing Aikens v. Ingram, 652 F.3d 496, 501 (4th Cir. 2011)). “After a party has crossed this initial threshold, he then must satisfy one of the six specific sections of Rule 60(b).” Id. (quoting Dowell v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Auto. Ins. Co., 993 F.2d 46, 48 (4th Cir. 1993)).

         Importantly, “Rule 60(b) does not authorize a motion merely for reconsideration of a legal issue.” United States v. Williams, 674 F.2d 310, 312 (4th Cir. 1982); see also M/V “Mothership”, 2019 WL 2192488, at *4 (“Rule 60(b) was not intended as a substitute for a direct appeal from an erroneous judgment.”) (citation omitted). “Where the motion is nothing more than a request ...

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