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Blue v. City of Hartford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 10, 2019

KENNETH BLUE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HARTFORD, KELLY KIRKLEY-BEY, individually and in her professional capacity, RJO WINCH, individually and in her professional capacity & THOMAS J. CLARKE II, individually and in his professional capacity, Defendants.

          RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

          CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On February 13, 2019, this Court issued a ruling (the "Omnibus Ruling") on motions to dismiss by Defendants the City of Hartford, Kelly Kirkley-Bey, Councilwoman RJO Winch, and Council President Thomas J. Clarke II. Blue v. City of Hartford, No. 3:18-cv-00974, 2019 WL 612217 (D. Conn. Feb. 13, 2019). Plaintiff alleged in his Complaint that Defendants had engaged in Title VII violations, harassed and retaliated against him, and intentionally and negligently inflicted emotional distress upon him. Doc. 1 ("Compl.") ¶¶ 157-162, 163-171, 178-183, 184-188. He also asserted a negligence claim against only the City of Hartford. Id. ¶¶ 172-177. The Title VII claims are the only federal claims in the Complaint, and this Ruling will refer to them interchangeably.

         The Omnibus Ruling resulted in the dismissal with prejudice of Plaintiff's federal claims as to all Defendants, and dismissal of Plaintiff's state law claims without prejudice to filing in a state court of competent jurisdiction. Blue, 2019 WL 612217, at *9. Plaintiff has now filed a motion for reconsideration.[1] Doc. 39 ("Reconsideration Mtn"). The Court assumes familiarity with the underlying facts and procedural history and will only relate those facts necessary to address the arguments raised in Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of the Omnibus Ruling.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Regarding motions for reconsideration, this District's Local Rules state that:

Such motions will generally be denied unless the movant can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked in the initial decision or order. In circumstances where such motions are appropriate, they shall be filed and served within seven (7) days of the filing of the decision or order from which such relief is sought, and shall be accompanied by a memorandum setting forth concisely the controlling decisions or data the movant believes the Court overlooked.

D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 7(c). The Second Circuit has explained that "[t]he major grounds justifying reconsideration are 'an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.'" Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). This standard is "strict," and reconsideration should be granted only if "the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked-matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). If "the moving party [is] seek[ing] solely to relitigate an issue already decided," the court should deny the motion for reconsideration and adhere to its prior decision. Id.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff presents four reasons for reconsideration. First, he is entitled to an opportunity to amend or replead. Reconsideration Mtn, at 3. Second, the Complaint had sufficiently met the Title VII pleading standard, contrary to the Court's Omnibus Ruling. Id. at 6. Third, there is newly available evidence attained from depositions to support his federal claims. Id. at 11. Fourth, reconsideration is needed to correct a clear error in the scheduling order. Although the second and fourth arguments are without merit, the Court finds the first and third arguments sufficiently persuasive to require modification of its prior Ruling, solely with respect to the dismissal of Plaintiff's Title VII claims against the City of Hartford.

         A. Re-litigating

         "Plaintiff avers he satisfied the pleading standards to at least be afforded an opportunity to amend or replead his federal claims against employer City of Hartford." Reconsideration Mtn, at 6. Specifically, he argues that he had met the Title VII pleading standard by alleging in his Complaint that "he was discriminated against on the basis of his race-African American, and sex-male, with respect to his terms, conditions and privileges of employment in that he was repeatedly harassed and sexually harassed by Defendant Kirkley-Bey without consequence." Id. at 7.

         This appears to be an attempt to re-litigate the Court's conclusion that Plaintiff did not meet the pleading standard for a Title VII status-based discrimination claim. Blue, 2019 WL 612217, at *6. While "[i]t is well-settled that a motion for reconsideration is not a vehicle for relitigating old issues, presenting the case under new theories, securing a rehearing on the merits, or otherwise taking a 'second bite at the apple, '" Cope v. Wal-Mart Stores E., LP, No. 3:15-CV-01523 (CSH), 2017 WL 4542045, at *1 (D. Conn. Oct. 11, 2017) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted), the Court finds it necessary to clarify the Omnibus Ruling's determination that Plaintiff had not pleaded a Title VII claim.

         Plaintiff attempts to re-argue the matter when insisting that he had pleaded his membership in a protected class and adverse employment action. Reconsideration Mtn, at 8-10. The Omnibus Ruling never established that his errors with respect to these elements were fatal.[2] Even though it doubted that Plaintiff could demonstrate adverse employment action with respect to his status-based discrimination claim, the Court gave Plaintiff the benefit of that doubt in order to more closely examine the more serious deficiencies contained therein. Blue, 2019 WL 612217, at *6. It also acknowledged that Plaintiff did sufficiently allege adverse employment action within his Title VII retaliation claims. Id. at *7. As for class membership, the Court acknowledged Plaintiff had either African American or Latin American heritage-which are both Title VII protected classes-despite the Complaint's lack of clarity regarding which of these protected classes to which Plaintiff was claiming membership.[3] Id. at *6. The Court discussed the confusion surrounding Plaintiff's background because Plaintiff had pointed to instances that were allegedly indicative of racial discrimination but knowing Plaintiff's claimed racial membership was important to evaluating those examples. Id. The Court nonetheless agreed with Plaintiff that a slur directed at him could show a discriminatory motive before it turned to the decisive reason for why his Title VII claims failed. Id.

         "The chief issue is that Plaintiff has not alleged that these adverse employment actions, or any actions for that matter, were done because Plaintiff is a member of a protected class." Id. (emphasis added). Plaintiff's motion briefly mentions this, citing Gregory v. Daly, 243 F.3d 687, 689 (2d Cir. 2011), for the proposition that all that is needed is an allegation that permits "the inference that plaintiff was subjected to a hostile work environment" due to his membership in a protected class. Reconsideration Mtn, at 7. Plaintiff thus recognizes the problem, but he fails to point to anything in the Complaint that would permit the Court to infer a connection between Plaintiff's identity as an ...


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