FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Juan M. Pérez-Giménez, U.S.
Roberto Márquez-Sánchez on brief for appellant.
Rosangela Sanfilippo-Resumil on brief for appellees.
Kayatta and Barron, Circuit Judges, and McAuliffe,
KAYATTA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
March 2012, Lourdes del Rosario Fontanillas-Lopez
("Fontanillas") filed sex discrimination claims
under federal and Puerto Rico law against her former
employer, Morell Bauzá Cartagena & Dapena, LLC
("MBCD"), and several individual defendants.
Following discovery, the district court granted summary
judgment in favor of MBCD on Fontanillas's federal claims
and, having dismissed all of Fontanillas's other claims,
later awarded attorneys' fees to the defendants.
Fontanillas moved for relief from the summary judgment order
and for reconsideration of the fees award. The district court
denied both motions. On appeal, Fontanillas challenges the
denial of both motions, as well as the denial of her request
to exceed the normal page limits in filing those motions. She
also directly challenges the award of attorneys' fees to
the defendants. For the following reasons, we affirm.
began working as an attorney in MBCD's Tax Department in
January 2009. Fontanillas-Lopez v.
Morel Bauza Cartagena & Dapena LLC
("Fontanillas I"), 995 F.Supp.2d 21, 28
(D.P.R. 2014). Fontanillas's supervisor soon grew
concerned with Fontanillas's poor relationships with her
female co-workers, substandard work performance, and failure
to comply with MBCD rules. Id. at 40. On the
supervisor's recommendation, MBCD's capital partners
decided in August 2011 to terminate Fontanillas. Id.
Several months later, Fontanillas filed a complaint against
MBCD and its co-owners and administrator in federal district
court. Fontanillas's complaint raised sexual
harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation claims
under Puerto Rico law and Title VII of the federal Civil
Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., as
well as claims sounding in Puerto Rico employment and tort
a year into the proceedings, during the course of discovery,
the individual defendants moved to dismiss the federal claims
against them. The district court granted this motion over
Fontanillas's opposition, leaving MBCD as the lone
remaining defendant on Fontanillas's federal claims.
Several months thereafter, the defendants moved for summary
judgment on all remaining claims. In a thorough written
opinion, the district court granted summary judgment in favor
of MBCD on Fontanillas's federal claims and dismissed
Fontanillas's supplemental claims under Puerto Rico law
without prejudice. Fontanillas I, 995 F.Supp.2d at
entry of judgment on February 7, 2014, the defendants moved
for attorneys' fees. The district court, in a November
18, 2014, written opinion, accepted the defendants'
argument that Fontanillas had continued to litigate even
after she had been "duly apprised" during the
course of discovery that "her claims were devoid of any
merit." Fontanillas-Lopez v. Morel
Bauza Cartagena & Dapena LLC ("Fontanillas
II"), 59 F.Supp.3d 420, 425 (D.P.R. 2014). In
consequence, the district court found Fontanillas liable to
the defendants for the $53, 662.50 in attorneys' fees
they had accrued following the point at which, in the
district court's estimation, Fontanillas should have been
aware that she held a losing hand. Id. at 427.
December 16, 2014, Fontanillas filed a 40-page motion for
reconsideration of the attorneys' fees award under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) ("the Rule 59(e)
motion") and a motion for relief from the underlying
summary judgment order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
60(b) ("the Rule 60(b) motion"), the latter of
which was accompanied by a 39-page memorandum. Because these
filings exceeded the 25-page limit applicable to certain
motions and memoranda under the district court's local
rules, see D.P.R. Civ. R. 7(d), Fontanillas filed a
contemporaneous motion for leave to submit filings in excess
of the allowed pages. On January 23, 2015, the district court
denied Fontanillas leave to exceed the page limits and so
struck her Rule 59(e) motion and her Rule 60(b) motion, with
its accompanying memorandum, from the record. The order
denying leave invited Fontanillas to re-file compliant
motions, which she did six days later, on January 29,
awaiting decision on these motions, Fontanillas filed on
February 23, 2015, a notice of appeal as to the November 18,
2014, award of attorneys' fees and the January 23, 2015,
denial of leave to file in excess of the local page limits.
Just after the initial appellate briefing schedule had been
set, the district court issued an opinion and order on
September 30, 2015, denying Fontanillas's Rule 59(e) and
60(b) motions. Fontanillas-Lopez v.
Morel Bauza Cartagena & Dapena LLC
("Fontanillas III"), 136 F.Supp.3d 152,
160 (D.P.R. 2015). Fontanillas then timely amended her notice
of appeal to include challenges to these denials. In all,
Fontanillas asks us to review four of the district
court's rulings: (1) the denial of leave to submit
filings in excess of the local page limits; (2) the award of
attorneys' fees to the defendants; (3) the denial of her
Rule 59(e) motion to reconsider that award; and (4) the
denial of her Rule 60(b) motion for relief from the
underlying summary judgment order. We consider these rulings
Leave to Exceed Local Page Limits
first claim of error is that the district court abused its
discretion in declining to allow her Rule 59(e) motion and
the memorandum in support of her Rule 60(b) motion to exceed
the page limits established by the district court's local
rules. Fontanillas recognizes that district courts'
"broad latitude in administering local rules"
entitles those courts "to demand adherence to specific
mandates contained in th[ose] rules." Air Line
Pilots Ass'n v. Precision Valley
Aviation, Inc., 26 F.3d 220, 224 (1st Cir. 1994). But
Fontanillas seeks to turn this broad discretion to her
advantage, arguing that because the District of Puerto
Rico's local rules permit a district court to waive the
applicable page limits "by prior leave, " D.P.R.
Civ. R. 7(d), the district court here had "ample
latitude" to allow her overlength filings.
argument flips abuse-of-discretion review on its head by
suggesting that we may reverse the district court merely
because it could have exercised its "ample
latitude" differently. This is not the prerogative of an
appellate court. Cf. NEPSK, Inc. v.
Town of Houlton, 283 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2002)
(finding it "within the district court's
discretion" to enforce local rules where "the
result does not clearly offend equity"). Fontanillas did
not offer the district court any reason to grant an exception
to the usual page restrictions beyond the bare assertion that
her arguments required her to "address numerous issues
of fact and quote extensively from the evidence in the
case." Nor does Fontanillas provide a more robust
explanation on appeal as to why she required the extra pages
she sought. Instead, she observes that the district court had
previously granted the defendants' motion to file an
overlength motion for summary judgment and suggests that
"[w]hat's good for the goose, is good for the
gander." The district court, though, was within its
discretion to find that the defendants, having the burden of
persuasion in trying to prove a negative (i.e., that
there are no disputed issues of material fact supportive of a
discrimination claim) and the need to anticipate arguments
that might or might not be made in response, presented a more
persuasive case for an exception to the usual page limits
than did Fontanillas. Under these circumstances, the district
court did not abuse its wide discretion in holding
Fontanillas to the default standards the local rules
establish as appropriate for the typical litigant.
next appeals both the award of attorneys' fees to the
defendants and the district court's denial of her Rule
59(e) motion for reconsideration of that award. The
defendants accept that this court has jurisdiction over the
latter appeal but argue that we do not have jurisdiction over
the former. This distinction could matter: on appeal from the
denial of a Rule 59(e) motion, it is not fully settled to
what extent the reviewing court may revisit the underlying
judgment, see McKenna v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 693
F.3d 207, 213-14 & n.5 (1st Cir. 2012), and, in any
event, "Rule 59(e) relief is granted sparingly, and only
when 'the original judgment evidenced a manifest error of
law, if there is newly discovered evidence, or in certain
other narrow situations, '" Biltcliffe
v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 772 F.3d 925, 930
(1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Global Naps, Inc.
v. Verizon New Eng., Inc., 489 F.3d 13, 25
(1st Cir. 2007)); see also Ira Green, Inc.
v. Military Sales & Serv. Co., 775 F.3d
12, 28 (1st Cir. 2014) ("[R]evising a final judgment
[pursuant to Rule 59(e)] is an extraordinary remedy . . .
we have jurisdiction to entertain the merits of
Fontanillas's challenge to the attorneys' fees award
turns on whether the notice of appeal seeking review of that
award was timely. A civil appellant must typically file a
notice of appeal "within 30 days after entry of the
judgment or order appealed from." Fed. R. App. P.
4(a)(1)(A). The district court entered its order granting
attorneys' fees to the defendants on November 18, 2014,
and Fontanillas filed her notice of appeal as to that order
on February 23, 2015--well outside the usual 30-day window.
Without more, this timeline would defeat our jurisdiction
over the appeal. S ...