CADE RONEY v. INDIANAPOLIS POWER AND LIGHT COMPANY et al
ORDER - denying 40 Motion for Relief of Judgment; Plaintiff Roney has failed to demonstrate any entitlement to relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Accordingly, her motion to set aside our September 21, 2015, judgment and request to amend her complaint are DENIED. Signed by Judge Sarah Evans Barker on 9/22/2016. (CKM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
BEVERLY A. CADE RONEY,
INDIANAPOLIS POWER AND LIGHT
LOCAL UNION 1395 OF THE
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT
This cause is before the Court on Plaintiff Beverly Cade Roney’s Motion for Relief
Judgment and Order and Request to Amend Complaint [Docket No. 40] pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 60(b), filed on September 25, 2015. For the reasons set forth below, the
motion is DENIED.
Factual and Procedural Background
Roney worked for Defendant Indianapolis Power and Light Company (“IPL”) until
October 12, 2012, when her employment was terminated. She concedes that her termination was
classified as a retirement, but she has alleged that IPL forced her to retire due to favoritism and
racial discrimination. During the relevant period of Roney’s employment, there was a collective
bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between IPL and co-defendant, Local Union 1395 of the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (“the Union”) that required IPL to have “just
cause” to discipline or discharge an employee, and allowed employees to file grievances
challenging disciplinary actions or discharge decisions within fourteen days of the date on which
such action was taken. At the time Roney’s employment was terminated, there were grievances
pending against her related to discipline that she had received while employed. Immediately
following her termination, Roney met with a Union representative to report that her retirement
was involuntary and discriminatory. She also complained of IPL’s failure to hear and resolve her
prior disciplinary grievances. Around the same time, she met with an attorney and asked in
writing to the Union that any grievance filed on her behalf be fully processed. In February 2013,
the Union responded to her by letter indicating that Roney’s only two pending grievances against
IPL dealt with discipline she had received prior to her termination and that both grievances had
been processed completely pursuant to the contract provisions. No grievance, however, was ever
filed relating to Roney’s October 2012 termination, and she was not in contact with the Union
regarding the disciplinary grievances after February 2013.
Twenty months thereafter, on October 8, 2014, Roney brought an action in this Court
against IPL and the Union pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act
“(LMRA”), alleging that IPL breached the CBA by unlawfully terminating her and was liable for
breach of contract, wrongful discharge, and constructive discharge [Docket No. 1 (Complaint)].
In her complaint, she also alleged that the Union breached its duty of fair representation in the
manner in which it had handled her grievances [id.].
On December 4, 2014, the Union filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim
under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6) [Docket No. 16]. IPL filed a separate Motion to Dismiss under
Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(c) on December 31, 2014, seeking judgment on the pleadings based on the
allegations and the referenced documents in the Complaint central to Roney’s claims [Docket
Roney’s response to the Union’s and to IPL’s separate motions to dismiss were due on
December 22, 2014, and January 2, 2015, respectively. She did not file a response on the earlier
date and, on December 31, 2015, requested an extension of time until March 1, 2015, to respond
to Defendants’ motions. As of March 1, 2015, the Court had not yet ruled on Roney’s motion but
she did not file a response by that date. On March 4, 2015, IPL filed a Motion for Summary
Ruling, citing the fact that Roney did not responded to its request for dismissal [Docket No. 26].
That same day, Roney sought another extension of time until April 15, 2015, to respond, stating
that her counsel did not file a response because the extension motion had not been adjudicated.
But Roney, through counsel, again did not respond by April 15, 2015. Finally, on August 31,
2015, we ordered Roney to file a response “forthwith” (this word was chosen in lieu of setting a
specific date, given the history of the litigation). Following her counsel’s request for another,
short extension to respond to Defendants’ motions to dismiss, on September 3, 2015, we ordered
Roney to file a response immediately. The next day, Roney filed only a partial response—
characterized as such because three days later, she filed a declaration in support of her response
which, apparently, was intended to complete her response. This prompted Defendants to file a
joint motion to strike Roney’s response as non-compliant with the Court’s September 3rd order
[Docket No. 35].
On September 21, 2015 [Docket No. 38], we issued a ruling on the pending motions.
Noting that “we certainly [did] not condone Plaintiff’s counsel’s dilatoriness and lack of
diligence in representing this client,” we nonetheless considered Roney’s response in ruling on
Defendants’ motions [Docket No. 38, fn 1]. We denied Defendant IPL’s Motion for Summary
Ruling [Docket No. 26] and Defendants’ Joint Motion to Strike Roney’s Declaration and
Response [Docket No. 35], but granted Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss Roney’s Complaint
[Docket Nos. 16 and 19] with prejudice. In so ruling, we held that Roney’s claims relating to her
discharge were filed long after the applicable six-month statute of limitations had expired
[Docket No. 38 at pp. 7-8]. Further, her claims relating to the Union’s failure to pursue her two
disciplinary grievances had also passed and were thus clearly time-barred [Docket No. 38 at pp.
Alternatively, we held that, even assuming that Roney had filed her Complaint within the
six-month statute of limitations period applicable to hybrid § 301 claims, she failed to address
the IPL’s and the Union’s arguments regarding her breach of the fair duty of representation;
accordingly, this claim—and her hybrid section 301 in its entirely—necessarily failed [Docket
No. 38 at pp. 10-11]. More specifically, Roney did not address Defendants’ arguments that her
Complaint failed to properly allege that the Union’s actions in handling her grievances were
“arbitrary, discriminatory, or taken in bad faith,” Truhlar v. U.S. Postal Serv.,600 F.3d 888, 892
(7th Cir. 2010), an element necessary to state a claim for breach of the duty of fair representation
[Docket No. 38 at pp. 10-11] (citing, inter alia, Goodpaster v. City of Indianapolis, 736 F.3d
1060, 1075 (7th Cir. 2013)).
At the outset, we addressed on procedural grounds the documents that Roney submitted for the
first time of our ruling in conjunction with her response in opposition to Defendants’ motions, to
wit: a November 24, 2014 letter from the Union informing Roney that IPL had denied her predischarge grievances at the third step of the grievance process; a December 3, 2014 letter from
the Union stating that the Union would not pursue her pre-discharge grievances to arbitration;
and a September 7, 2015 declaration by Roney addressing the November and December 2014
correspondence [Docket No. 38 at pp. 6-7]. Because Roney never sought to amend her complaint
during the nine months after she received these communications from the Union and because all
of these filings post-date her October 8, 2014 complaint (and are therefore neither discussed in
nor attached to her complaint), we ruled that they could not properly be considered in connection
with her motion to dismiss [Docket No. 38 at p. 7 (citing Albany Bank & Trust Co. v. Exxon
Mobil Corp., 310 F.3d 969, 971 (7th Cir. 2002))].
Similarly, and finally, we held that, by failing to respond in any fashion to IPL’s
argument that Roney’s state law claims, including breach of contract, wrongful discharge, and
constructive discharge, must be dismissed because they are all preempted by federal law, she had
waived these state law claims [Docket No. 38 at p. 12] (citing, e.g., Goodpaster, 736 F.3d at
1075). Accordingly, final judgment issued, from which Roney apparently elected to appeal.
Instead, as discussed below, Roney seeks post-judgment relief through this litigation.
Roney’s Request for Post-Judgment Relief
On September 25, 2015, four days following the issuance of the final judgment in this
case, Roney, through counsel, filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment and Order and Request to
Amend Complaint [Docket No. 40], which is the subject of this order. 2 The motion invokes Fed.
Rule of Civil. Procedure 60(b), but it does not identify any particular subsection of the Rule [id.
at p. 1, p. 2 paras. 6-10]. In her motion, Roney states that our September 21, 2015, order “asserts
Counsel’s dilatoriness or lack of diligence in representing his client,” while at the same time
“concedes it did not provide Plaintiff with a date certain to respond until on or about September
3, 2015 when the Court ordered an immediate response” [id. at para. 4] (emphasis in original).
She argued that her declaration “clearly places at issue her request for a grievance filed at the
time of her termination” and that her complaint “noticed adequately for Defendant[s] this
allegation” [id. at paras. 5-6]. According to Roney, “[a]rguably no competent or experienced
business agent would not have filed a grievance relative to the Plaintiff’s discharge and failure to
do so under the facts of this case constituted arguable breach of duty of fair representation on the
part of Local 1395, in and of itself” [id. at para. 7]. She further argues that her complaint “alleges
bad faith and hostility on the part of the union in failing to process all of her grievances past and
None of the parties regard this motion as having been made pursuant to Rule 59(e).
as regards this termination,” and again that her affidavit and complaint “adequately noticed
timely requests for a grievance relative to the discharge.” [id. at paras. 8, 10]. Finally, she asserts
that “any alleged lack of diligence on the part of Counsel is attributable to inadvertence or
excusable neglect as your Movant has had five (5) surgeries in calendar year 2015 with four (4)
hospitalizations and subsequent rehabilitations to 2 of the surgical procedures.” [id. at para. 9].
She then requests that the Court set aside the September 21, 2015 order, reinstate her case, and
allowed her to amend the complaint [id. at pp. 2-3].
The Union opposes this request [Docket No. 43]. Requesting to join in the Union’s
response, IPL has filed its own opposition, adopting the arguments set forth in the Union’s
response [Docket No. 44].
Legal Framework and Standard of Review
Rule 60(b) provides, in pertinent part:
that “the court may relieve a party . . . from a final judgment,
order, or proceeding for the following reasons: (1) mistake,
inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered
evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in
time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether heretofore
denominated intrinsic, or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or other misconduct
of an adverse party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied,
released, or discharged, or a prior judgment upon which it is based
has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the
judgment should have prospective application; or (6) any other
reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.
Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b). Relief under Rule 60(b) “is an extraordinary remedy.” Harrington v. City
of Chi., 433 F.3d 542, 546 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal citation omitted). Motions under Rule 60(b)
must be based on at least one of the grounds for relief set forth in the Rule’s subsections. See
United States v. Deutsch, 981 F.2d 299, 301 (7th Cir. 1992). No such reference to any specific
grounds has been provided by Plaintiff Roney.
In addition to a particular ground for relief under Rule 60(b), a movant must demonstrate
a meritorious claim or defense. See Breuer Electric Mfg. Co. Toronado Systems of America, Inc.,
687 F.2d 182, 185 (7th Cir. 1982). This is so because Courts considering motions for relief from
judgment must be cognizant of the necessity of balancing the judicial system’s interest in
reaching substantively correct results against its interest in upholding the validity and finality of
judgments. See Dickman v. Kramer, 980 F.2d 733 (7th Cir. 1992).
“The decision to grant relief under Rule 60(b) is left to the sound discretion of the trial
court ….” C.K.S. Engineers, Inc. v. White Mountain Gypsum Co., 726 F.2d 1202, 1204-1205
(7th Cir. 1984); Talano v. Northwestern Med. Faculty Found., Inc, 273 F.3d 757, 762 (7th Cir.
2001). A decision “constitutes an abuse of discretion when it is not just clearly incorrect but
downright unreasonable.” Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Flanders Elec. Motion Serv., Inc., 131 F.3d 625,
630 (7th Cir. 1997).
As Defendants observe, Roney does not clearly situate her claim for relief under any of the
available grounds [Docket No. 43 at pp. 2-7 and Docket No. 44 at pp. 2-8]. We need not go to
great lengths in an attempt to glean an intended ground for relief; as the Seventh Circuit points
out, the district court should not “agoniz[e] over whether a motion asserts grounds for relief
included in Rule 60(b); it is the movant’s task to make its contentions clear.” Deutsch, 981 F.2d
at 302. Accordingly, Roney’s rule 60(b) motion clearly fails on this basis alone. See Talano, 273
F.3d at 762 (holding that the district court does not abuse its discretion by denying a Rule 60(b)
motion that is not based on one of the specified grounds for relief).
Despite the absence of any specified ground for relief, Roney’s motion appears to advance
two arguments: first, counsel suggests that his failure to file a response to Defendant IPL’s
Motion for Summary Ruling [Docket No. 26] and Defendants’ Joint Motion to Strike Roney’s
Declaration and Response [Docket No. 35] was the result of his excusable neglect; and second,
the motion appears to suggest that the Court committed errors of law in dismissing Roney’s
hybrid action under Section 301 of the LMRA. These assertions, even if properly before the
Court, also fail to establish Roney’s entitlement to post-judgment relief.
To the extent Roney’s request for relief is based on her counsel’s claims that in 2015 his
medical problems prevented him from filing certain responses in a timely manner, and that this
issue impacted the ultimate resolution of Roney’s case, this assertion is factually incorrect. 3
While we did not—and do not—condone counsel’s repeated failures to diligently represent his
client by responding in a timely fashion to Defendants’ filings, we actually did consider Roney’s
significantly belated response to Defendants’ motions to dismiss in our September 21, 2015,
order [Docket No. 38, p. 2 fn 1]. We also denied IPL’s Motion for Summary Ruling, which was
based on Roney’s failure to timely respond to the pending motions to dismiss, and Defendants’
Joint Motion to Strike the response Roney ultimately filed, which Defendants premised on the
basis that Roney’s untimely response did not comply with our earlier order to submit a response
“immediately” [Docket No. 32 and No. 38, p. 2 fn1]. In the end, however, we granted
Defendants’ motions to dismiss Roney’s complaint on the merits because her action under the
LMRA, which concerned her October 2012 termination and which she filed in this court in
And, in any event “[a] lawyer who inexcusably neglects his client’s obligations does not present
exceptional circumstances.” Choice Hotels Intern., Inc. v. Grover, 792 F.3d 753, 754 (7th Cir.
October 2014, was barred by the applicable statute of limitations [Docket No. 38, pp. 10]. Thus,
Roney’s untimely responses filed in 2015—allegedly due to counsel’s 2015 surgeries and
hospitalizations—did not affect our underlying decision. It was not the basis for our granting
Defendants’ motions to dismiss in our September 2015 judgment. 4
To the extent Roney is relying on other arguments, such as the one asserted as a possibility
by the Union— that counsel’s 2015 illness prevented the amendment of Roney’s complaint to
include the allegations later made in her declaration [see Docket No. 43 at p. 4]—nowhere is this
clearly articulated or otherwise asserted in her request for post-judgment relief. Thus, we discuss
no further this aspect of Roney’s motion.
Defendants observe that Roney’s post-judgment request does not appear to invoke
subsections (2) through (5) of Rule 60(b), which address newly discovered evidence, misconduct
of an opposing party, or void, satisfied, or released judgments [Docket No. 43 at p. 5; Docket
No. 44 at pp. 2-6]. We agree and therefore will limit our analysis to Roney’s potential remaining
arguments under the “catch-all” provision of Rule 60(b)(6).
“To balance the availability of post-judgment relief with finality interests, the availability of
Rule 60(b) relief is limited in several ways.” Mendez v. Republic Bank, 725 F.3d 651, 657-660
(7th Cir. 2013). Thus, a Rule 60(b) motion may be used to correct any error that might also be
corrected on direct appeal only where a party is not attempting to use a post-judgment relief
motion to circumvent the time limit for filing a direct appeal of an underlying judgment. Id. at
657-660 (affirming the district court’s grant of a 60(b) motion where the judge realized her
judgment was erroneous and invited the losing party to seek post-judgment relief; that party had
As set forth supra at p. 4, fn 1, we note that we did not consider documents filed outside the
pleadings, including Roney’s belatedly filed declaration, because such documents are not
properly to be considered on a motion to dismiss.
already sought appeal). Here, Roney filed her Rule 60(b) motion four days after the judgment
had issued but ultimately forfeited her opportunity to appeal. 5 Even assuming the arguments
Roney advances in her request for post-judgment relief are properly presented in a Rule 60(b)
motion, there was no error of fact or law affecting the decisions in this case. Roney’s declaration
post-dates her complaint and was not discussed in or attached to it, so the declaration could not
properly be considered in adjudicating Defendants’ motions to dismiss. Docket No. 38 at 6-7.
Roney’s claims related to the Union’s failure to pursue her two disciplinary grievances are are
clearly time-barred. See id. at 8-10. As Defendants point out, Roney’s assertions amount to an
improper attempt to rehash arguments we previously rejected [Docket No. 43 at 5-7; Docket No.
44 at 2-8]. Further, Roney does not identify any “extraordinary circumstances” that a party
invoking Rule 60(b)(6) must present. See, e.g., Banks, 750 F.3d at 668 (citing Gonzalez v.
Crosby, 545 U.S. 524 535 (2005) (“extraordinary circumstances” are required to justify
reopening of a judgment under Rule 60(b)(6)). In sum, because Roney failed to articulate in her
motion any viable ground for relief under Rule 60(b), her post-judgment motion must and will be
As a final matter, Roney’s request to amend her complaint at this juncture is either too late
or too early, but in any case untimely. Absent certain limitations, a plaintiff may amend her
complaint once as a matter of right, or with leave of the court. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 15(a). Defendant
IPL points out that after a final judgment is issued in a case, as it was here, the plaintiff loses the
right to amend an original complaint, and the plaintiff must appeal the dismissal or request that
the case be reopened to seek the ability to amend the complaint. See Camp v. Gregory, 67 F.3d
A post-judgment motion under Rule 59(e), but not a motion made under 60(b), tolls the time for
filing a Notice of Appeal from an underlying judgment
1286, 1289 (7th Cir. 1995). Because Roney’s arguments are inadequate to set aside our
September 21, 2015, judgment, the request to amend the complaint also must be denied.
Plaintiff Roney has failed to demonstrate any entitlement to relief under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 60(b). Accordingly, her motion to set aside our September 21, 2015, judgment
and request to amend her complaint are DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Loren Jay Comstock
David J. Pryzbylski
BARNES & THORNBURG LLP (Indianapolis)
Kenneth J. Yerkes
BARNES & THORNBURG LLP (Indianapolis)
David T. Vlink
FILLENWARTH DENNERLINE GROTH & TOWE LLP
Fred O. Towe
FILLENWARTH DENNERLINE GROTH & TOWE LLP
Geoffrey S. Lohman
FILLENWARTH DENNERLINE GROTH & TOWE LLP
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