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Labrecque v. Stackley

United States District Court, D. Maine

April 28, 2017

JOHN G. LABRECQUE, Plaintiff,
v.
SEAN J. STACKLEY[1], Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR EXPEDITED SCREENING AND DENYING MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Plaintiff, an employee at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, alleges that shortly after he complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Office about age discrimination and was promoted to a supervisory position, he was subjected to retaliation and a hostile work environment. The Navy moved for summary judgment on the claims, which the Court granted. Following the Court's Order, the Plaintiff's counsel withdrew from representation, and the Plaintiff then moved pro se for reconsideration. Although framed as a motion for reconsideration, the Plaintiff's motion is in essence a vehicle to complain about his prior lawyers. Concluding that the gravamen of the Plaintiff's complaint is really about the enacted law, not his former lawyers, the Court concludes that his motion does not state a proper basis for relief under Rule 60(b) and denies the motion for reconsideration.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         John G. LaBrecque filed an Amended Complaint on July 27, 2015 alleging one count of retaliation by the Navy under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. Pl.'s Am. Compl. (ECF No. 19). The Navy moved for summary judgment on April 25, 2016. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 51). The Court granted the Navy's motion on February 16, 2017, Order on Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 74) (Order), and the Clerk of the Court entered judgment in favor of the Secretary of the Navy and against John G. LaBrecque on the same day. J. (ECF No. 75).

         On March 2, 2017, Mr. LaBrecque's attorneys filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for Mr. LaBrecque, Mot. for Leave to Withdraw as Counsel for the Pl. (ECF No. 76), which the Court granted the following day. Order Granting Mot. to Withdraw (ECF No. 77).

         On April 12, 2017, Mr. LaBrecque filed a pro se letter motion asking the Court to reconsider its summary judgment order and the judgment against him.[2] Mot. for Recons. (ECF No. 80) (Pl.'s Mot.). Additionally, on April 17, 2017, Mr. LaBrecque appealed the Court's order and judgment to the First Circuit. Notice of Appeal (ECF No. 81). On April 19, 2017, the Navy objected to Mr. LaBrecque's motion for reconsideration and requested an expedited screening of the motion.[3] Def.'s Req. for Expedited Screening of Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. and Order Directing Pl. to File a Redacted Version of ECF 80 (ECF No. 86) (Def.'s Opp'n); Mot. for Order for Expedited Screening Pursuant to Rule 62.1 (ECF No. 87).

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. The Order Granting the Motion for Summary Judgment

         On February 16, 2017, the Court issued an order granting the Navy's motion for summary judgment. Order at 1-72. The Court concluded that Mr. LaBrecque failed to demonstrate any disputes of material fact that would allow a reasonable factfinder to conclude that any of the adverse actions taken against him were causally connected to his EEO age discrimination complaints. Id. The Court also concluded that Mr. LaBrecque failed to produce sufficient facts from which a reasonable factfinder could conclude there was severe, pervasive harassment on the basis of age giving rise to a hostile work environment. Id.

         B. John G. LaBrecque's Motion to Reconsider[4]

         Mr. LaBrecque filed a pro se letter asking the Court to reconsider the summary judgment order and judgment against him. Pl.'s Mot. at 1. Mr. LaBrecque attached several documents to the motion, id. at 3-25, and explained his reasons for requesting reconsideration. Id. at 2. Mr. LaBrecque expressed considerable frustration and dissatisfaction with his prior counsel and emphasized certain points of strenuous disagreement with some of the evidence in the summary judgment record. Id. Specifically, Mr. LaBrecque disagreed with his prior counsel's decision not to depose and use the testimony of certain witnesses. Id. He was also upset about his prior counsel's failure to present certain evidence regarding an allegedly forged signature on his April 21, 2011 performance appraisal. Id. Mr. LaBrecque also included evidence to support his allegation that the Shipyard shredded his doctors' notes and expressed privacy concerns over this act. Id. Finally, Mr. LaBrecque expressed dissatisfaction with his prior counsel's failure to press for a trial by jury and to communicate with him throughout the case. Id.

         C. The Navy's Motion for Expedited Screening and Opposition

         Given that Mr. LaBrecque asked this Court to reconsider the summary judgment order and judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b), and then appealed the order and judgment to the First Circuit shortly thereafter, the Navy requests that the Court expeditiously review Mr. LaBrecque's motion pursuant to Rule 62.1(a)(2). Def.'s Opp'n at 4.

         The Navy also requests that the Court deny the motion. Id. It explains that relief under Rule 60(b) is “extraordinary in nature” and that “motions invoking that rule should be granted sparingly.” Id. It contends that Mr. LaBrecque falls short of meeting this standard, arguing that his perceived inadequacies of his former attorneys and their tactical decisions do not warrant relief under the Rule. Id. at 4- 5.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion for Expedited Screening

         Five days after Mr. LaBrecque filed his motion for reconsideration of the summary judgment order and judgment, he appealed the order and judgment to the First Circuit. See Notice of Appeal (ECF No. 81). As the Navy points out, ordinarily the filing of a notice of appeal divests the district court of jurisdiction “to proceed with respect to any matter touching upon, or involved in, the appeal.” United States v. George, 841 F.3d 55, 71 (1st Cir. 2016) (citations omitted). However, there is an exception to this principle for Rule 60(b) motions. The First Circuit has held that district courts may consider and deny Rule 60(b) motions without seeking leave of the appellate court to do so; a district court need only seek leave if it is inclined to grant the motion. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. SS Zoe Colocotroni, 601 F.2d 39, 41 (1st Cir. 1979). The First Circuit laid out the procedural rule for these situations:

[W]hen an appeal is pending from a final judgment, parties may file Rule 60(b) motions directly in the district court without seeking prior leave from us. The district court is directed to review any such motions expeditiously, within a few days of their filing, and quickly deny those which appear to be without merit, bearing in mind that any delay in ruling could delay the pending appeal. If the district court is inclined to grant the motion, it should issue a brief memorandum so indicating. Armed with this, movant may then request this court to remand the action so that the district court can vacate judgment and proceed with the action accordingly.

Id. at 42.

         This procedure is found in Rule 62.1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. According to Rule 62.1: “If a timely motion is made for relief that the court lacks authority to grant because of an appeal that has been docketed and is pending, the court may: (1) defer considering the motion; (2) deny the motion; or (3) state either that it would grant the motion if the court of appeals remands for that purpose or that the motion raises a substantial issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 62.1(a).

         Given the current procedural posture of the case, the Court GRANTS the Navy's Motion for Order for Expedited ...


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