Class Action Defense Cases-Howard v. Gutierrez: District Of Columbia Federal Court Denies Motion To Reconsider Ruling Striking Class Action Allegations Holding Delay In Seeking Class Action Certification Was Not Excusable
Local Rule Requiring Class Action Certification Motion be Filed Within 90 days of Class Action Complaint runs from Filing of First Class Action Complaint not from any Subsequent Amended Class Action Complaint and District of Columbia Federal Court Holds Contrary Interpretation to be “Untenable” and “Unreasonable”
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against the Department of Commerce (DOC) and its Secretary for violations of Title VII alleging that the performance-review system resulted in systemic racial discrimination. Defense attorneys moved to dismiss the individual claims and to strike the class action allegations. The district court granted the motion in part, striking the class action claims. See Howard v. Gutierrez, 474 F.Supp.2d 41 (D.D.C. 2007). Plaintiffs sought reconsideration and certification of an interlocutory appeal. Howard v. Gutierrez, 503 F.Supp.2d 392, 393-94 (D.D.C. 2007). The district court denied the motion for reconsideration and refused to certify an interlocutory appeal.
With respect to the motion for reconsideration, the district court noted that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly authorize such motions and that they are “typically treat[ed]…as motions to alter or amend a judgment” under Rule 59(e). Howard, at 394. Reconsideration motions are addressed to the sound discretion of the court, are not “lightly” granted, and are not to be used to present arguments “that could have been advanced earlier.” Id. (citations omitted). With that background, the district court first rejected plaintiffs’ attempt to “rehash” arguments made previously with respect to their failure to file a motion for class action certification within 90 days of the filing of the class action complaint, and held that any new arguments in support of this old theme could have been raised earlier. Id. The district court concluded at page 394, “There has been no intervening change in controlling law, nor have plaintiffs advanced new evidence not previously available to them. Finding nothing in plaintiffs' motion that warrants revisiting its prior holding, the Court now reaffirms that the ninety-day period in Local Rule 23.1(b) applies from the date of the filing of the first complaint to assert class claims.”