ALLISON v. NEW JERSEY TRANSIT CORPORATION et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge William J. Martini on 4/23/15. (gh, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civ. No. 2:12-02493 (WJM)
NEW JERSEY TRANSIT CORPORATION,
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.:
New Jersey Transit (“NJ Transit”) employee Curtis Allison filed a complaint against
NJ Transit and related individuals alleging, inter alia, discrimination on the basis of race
and religion. The parties engaged in discovery and Defendants moved for summary
judgment. The Court then issued an opinion and order granting Defendants’ motion.
Allison has now filed what he describes as a “motion to alter or grant relief from a judgment
per FRCP 59(e) or 60.” The Court writes primarily for the parties and will assume
familiarity with the facts. 1
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will DENY
Allison has filed his motion as one to amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59(e), or in the alternative, as one for a relief from judgment under Rule 60.
After reviewing the brief in support of the motion, it is evident that Allison is only seeking
relief under Rule 59(e). While Rule 59(e) and Rule 60(b) “serve similar functions,” “each
[Rule] has a particular purpose.” United States v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d 282, 287 (3d Cir.
2003). Rule 60(b) is used to seek relief from judgment, whereas Rule 59(e) is a “device to
relitigate the original issue…and used to allege legal error.” Id. Allison’s brief in support
of his motion contends that the Court “misapprehended the essence of [his] complaint” and
overlooked certain factors when rendering its decision. Allison does not reference any of
the grounds for relief from a final judgment enumerated in Rule 60(b) and instead plainly
seeks to relitigate the merits of the summary judgment motion. Moreover, the fact that
For a thorough discussion of the facts and evidence, see Allison v. N.J. Transit Corp., et al., No.
2:12-02493, 2014 WL 6474088 (D.N.J. Nov. 19, 2014).
Allison references Rule 60(b) in his caption is irrelevant because “the function of the
motion, and not the caption, dictates which Rule is applicable.” Fiorelli, 337 F.3d at 28788. The Court therefore construes Allison’s motion as one made solely under Rule 59(e).
In support of his Rule 59(e) motion, Allison filed a reply brief. Local rules require that a
party obtain leave of court before submitting a reply brief in support of a motion for
reconsideration. L.Civ.R. 7.1(d)(3). Because Allison did not obtain leave of court before
submitting his reply brief, the Court will not consider it. See Booker v. U.S., No. 09-779,
2010 WL 4288366, *2, n. 1 (D.N.J. Oct. 25, 2010).
A court may grant a motion for reconsideration under Rule 59(e) only if (1) there
has been an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) new evidence has become
available since the court granted the subject motion; or (3) it is necessary to correct a clear
error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice. Max’s Seafood Café by Lou–Ann, Inc.
v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA
Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)). Manifest injustice pertains to
situations where a court overlooks some dispositive factual or legal matter that was
presented to it. See In re Rose, No. 06–1818, 2007 WL 2533894, at *3 (D.N.J. Aug.30,
Allison’s motion for reconsideration appears to make the following three
arguments: (1) some Defendants were aware of Allison’s participation in a separate lawsuit
against NJ Transit, which supports Allison’s theory that NJ Transit retaliated against him;
(2) NJ Transit selectively punished Allison, thereby casting doubt on NJ Transit’s proffered
nondiscriminatory reasons for discipline; and (3) the Court overlooked procedural
irregularities that took place during one of Allison’s disciplinary hearings. The Court
rejects these arguments.
Before addressing Allison’s specific arguments, there is the threshold issue of the
Court’s decision to accept Defendants’ statements of material facts as uncontroverted so
long as they were properly supported by the record. In support of their motion for summary
judgment, Defendants filed a statement of material facts not in dispute pursuant to Local
Rule 56.1(a). Under that Rule, Allison was required to “furnish, with [his] opposition
papers, a responsive statement of material facts, addressing each paragraph of the movant’s
statement, indicating agreement or disagreement and, if not agreed, stating each material
fact in dispute…” Moreover, “any material fact not disputed shall be deemed undisputed
for purposes of the summary judgment motion.” L.Civ.R. 56.1(a). Allison failed to submit
a responsive statement of material facts in accordance with Local Rule 56.1(a). Therefore,
the Court deemed Defendants’ statement of facts as uncontroverted so long as they were
properly supported. See, e.g., Malik v. Hannah, 799 F. Supp. 3d 355, 356 (D.N.J. 2011).
Allison argues that under “Local R. (1),” the Court should “excuse the lack of strict
compliance” with Local Rule 56.1(a). Neither Defendants nor the Court are aware of any
Local Rule that excuses compliance with Local Rule 56.1(a). Moreover, Allison is not
proceeding pro se 2 and has been represented by counsel throughout the course of this
litigation. Regrettably, the Court must remark that Plaintiff’s counsel in this matter has
flouted other Court rules aside from Rule 56.1(a) by filing supplemental pleadings where
the filing deadline has already expired and submitting a reply brief on a motion for
reconsideration without obtaining leave of court. The Court therefore cannot construe
counsel’s failure to comply with Local Rule 56.1(a) as a good faith mistake; rather, the
omission is representative of counsel’s disregard for this Court’s rules and procedures. Cf.
Ramziddin v. Speziale, No. 07-5303, 2009 WL 48227492, *2 (D.N.J. Dec. 11, 2009)
(district court may excuse failure to comply with Local Rule 56.1(a) where noncompliance
is premised on a good faith mistake).
Moving to the substance of his arguments, Allison first contends that the evidence
shows that NJ Transit “management” was aware of Allison’s participation in a separate
lawsuit against NJ Transit, which supports his claims of unlawful retaliation. However,
key NJ Transit employees who were responsible for disciplining Allison have submitted
certifications indicating that they were unaware of Allison’s participation in another
lawsuit against NJ Transit. Allison has submitted no documents or testimony to rebut such
evidence; instead he vaguely asserts that “management” knew. Vague allegations of this
nature are insufficient to overcome summary judgment. See, e.g., Port Auth. of N.Y. and
N.J. v. Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 311 F.3d 226, 233 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Quiroga v.
Hasbro, Inc., 934 F.2d 497, 500 (3d Cir. 1991)).
Next, Allison contends that NJ Transit’s selective enforcement of its policies casts
doubt on its proffered non-discriminatory reason for disciplining him. However,
Defendants have submitted properly supported statements of material fact showing that NJ
Transit possessed a non-discriminatory reason for disciplining Allison and not disciplining
others. For example, Allison’s own statement to NJ Transit shows that Allison made
aggressive remarks to another NJ Transit employee as the employee was leaving the room.
(Defendants’ Statement of Material Facts at ¶9). Other evidence indicates that Allison had
a prior history of using demeaning language in the presence of another NJ Transit
employee. (Id. at ¶24). Therefore, NJ Transit had reason to discipline only Allison.
Indeed, it is not enough for Allison to show that NJ Transit’s disciplinary action was
“unfair, wrong, or mistaken.” Instead, Allison “must point to evidence suggestive of
discrimination.” Maslanka v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc., 305 Fed.Appx. 848, 853 (3d Cir.
2008). Here, the evidence submitted by Defendants supports the conclusion that NJ Transit
possessed a non-discriminatory reason for disciplining Allison. Therefore, his motion for
reconsideration must be denied.
Finally, Allison contends that the Court erred in granting summary judgment
because there were procedural irregularities at his second disciplinary hearing.
Specifically, Allison asserts that NJ Transit excluded certain witness statements from the
Even pro se litigants must comply with the requirements of Local Rule 56.1(a). See, e,g.,
Glazewski v. Corzine, No. 06-4107, 2009 WL 5220168, *1 (D.N.J. Dec. 31, 2009)
disciplinary hearing record. While conceding that the omitted statements substantively had
no bearing as to whether he violated NJ Transit rules, Allison nonetheless contends that
the omission goes to the insidious motivation of NJ Transit. “Evidence of procedural
irregularities…may raise an inference of discriminatory intent. However, there must be
some evidence that the irregularities were related to plaintiffs’ race.” Blunt v. Lower
Merion School Dist., 826 F.Supp.2d 749, 760 (E.D.Pa. 2011) (citing E.E.O.C. v.
Muhlenberg Coll., 131 Fed.Appx. 807, 812 (3d Cir. 2005)). Even assuming these
procedural irregularities to be true, Allison has failed to tie them to his race. Consequently,
the Court will deny his motion for reconsideration.
For the foregoing reasons, Allison’s motion for reconsideration is DENIED.
/s/ William J. Martini
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
Date: April 23, 2015
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