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Coleman v. City of Hattiesburg

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

February 13, 2018

DANA COLEMAN PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF HATTIESBURG DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Keith Starrett UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Reconsider [54] filed by Defendant City of Hattiesburg. After considering the submissions of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that this motion is not well taken and should be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Dana Coleman (“Plaintiff”) was employed by Defendant City of Hattiesburg (the “City”) from 2012 until 2016, as the office manager for Municipal Court Judge Jerry Evans (“Judge Evans”). Her position required her to work directly with Faye Hicks (“Hicks”), the municipal clerk. The deputy clerks of the municipal court answered to both Hicks and Plaintiff. Plaintiff and Judge Evans are white. Hicks and most[1] of the deputy clerks are African American.

         On September 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court against Defendants the City and former Mayor Johnny Dupree (“Dupree”) (collectively “Defendants”), alleging that she had been the victim of racial harassment and bringing claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, and state law claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. She later filed an Amended Complaint [28], alleging that, because of this ongoing harassment, she was forced to quit her job, and adding a claim of constructive discharge.

         Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment [47] on December 14, 2017. The Court ruled on this motion on January 24, 2018, leaving only the following claims pending against the City:[2] the hostile work environment claim under Title VII, the constructive discharge claim under Title VII, the intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the negligent infliction of emotional distress. The City now challenges the Court's ruling in its Motion to Reconsider [54].

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         “A motion asking the court to reconsider a prior ruling is evaluated . . . as a motion . . . under Rule 59(e) . . . [when] filed within twenty-eight days after the entry of judgment . . . .” Demahy v. Schwarz Pharma, Inc., 702 F.3d 177, 182 n.2 (5th Cir. 2012). The City's Motion to Reconsider [54] falls within this twenty-eight day time period.

         “A Rule 59(e) motion calls into question the correctness of a judgment.” Templet v. Hydrochem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 478 (5th Cir. 2004). There are three grounds for altering or amending a judgment under Rule 59(e): “(1) an intervening change in controlling law, (2) the availability of new evidence not previously available, or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Williamson Pounders Architects, P.C. v. Tunica Cnty., Miss., 681 F.Supp.2d 766, 767 (N.D. Miss. 2008). The City argues that the Court must reconsider its ruling to correct a clear error of law and prevent manifest injustice.

         Rule 59(e) motions are “not the proper vehicle for rehashing evidence, legal theories, or arguments that could have been offered or raised before the entry of judgment, ” Templet, 367 F.3d at 478, and they “should not be used to . . . re-urge matters that have already been advanced by a party.” Nationalist Movement v. Town of Jena, 321 F.App'x 359, 364 (5th Cir. 2009). Reconsideration of a previous order is “an extraordinary remedy that should be used sparingly.” Id. Before filing a Rule 59(e) motion, parties “should evaluate whether what may seem to be a clear error of law is in fact simply a point of disagreement” with the Court. Atkins v. Marathon LeTourneau Co., 130 F.R.D. 625, 626 (S.D.Miss. 1990).

         B. Hostile Work Environment Claim

         The City insists that this is a “reverse discrimination” case and implies that the burden in such cases is heavier than those in other Title VII cases. It further contends that the Court should have addressed the hostile work environment claim through analogy to other similar cases and not, as the Court did, evaluate the facts of this case solely on their own merit.

         The City gives no supporting law that supports its contention that a “reverse discrimination” case should be more difficult to meet than any other case brought under Title VII, and the Court has never held that a heavier burden exists for what the ...


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