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Patton v. Wayne County

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

February 13, 2018

MICHAEL PATTON, et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
WAYNE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Keith Starrett UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Reconsideration [151] filed by Plaintiffs, and the Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (“Motion to Alter”) [153] filed by Defendant Wayne County, Mississippi. After considering the submissions of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that neither motion is well taken and that both should be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Sheriff Jody Ashley (“Sheriff Ashley”) was elected Sheriff of Wayne County, Mississippi, in 2015, and took office in January 2016. Plaintiffs Michael Patton (“Patton”), Patrick Johnson (“Johnson”), Chartaviaunca Odom (“Odom”), Dawatha Pickens (“Pickens”), Mamie Turner (“Turner”), Reginald Evans (“Evans”), and DeAnthony Jones (“Jones”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) were employed by the Sheriff Department under the previous administration headed by Sheriff Darryl Woodson (“Sheriff Woodson”). Plaintiffs are all African American. Prior to Sheriff Ashley taking office, Plaintiffs were informed that they would not have a job under the Ashley administration.

         On November 3, 2016, Plaintiffs filed suit in this Court against Sheriff Ashley[1] and Wayne County, Mississippi (the “County”), bringing claims of racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII, as well as claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The County filed its Motion for Summary Judgment [135] on October 31, 2017. The Court issued its Order [150] granting in part and denying in part the motion on January 10, 2018. At issue in the current motions are the Court's ruling dismissing the claims of Patton, Odom, Johnson, and Everett, and its ruling regarding the liability of the County.

         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). Both the Motion for Reconsideration [151] and the Motion to Alter [153] fall within this twenty-eight day 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). 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. Motion for Reconsideration [151]

         1. Deposition of Mike Mozingo

         The first argument Plaintiffs make in favor of reconsideration is that the Court erred in considering the testimony of Chief Mike Mozingo. Plaintiffs contend that it was error for the Court to consider Mozingo's testimony as to the reasons why Plaintiffs were not rehired because the decision came from Sheriff Ashley and not Mozingo. Plaintiffs, however, never made this argument in their response or sur-response, and it will not be considered now. See Templet, 367 F.3d at 478 (holding that Rule 59(e) motions are not the vehicle to assert arguments that could have been offered prior to judgment being entered).

         2. Michael Patton

         Plaintiffs argue that the Court should not have considered the fact that there is no dispute that Patton cannot make a prima facie case of racial discrimination under ยง 1981 and Title VII and, even if the Court did consider this failure, Patton still ...


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