Lawson v. Lew
ORDER DENYING 16 Motion for Reconsideration. Signed by Judge Sam Sparks. (jf)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
LAWSON P. ROBERTS,
Case No. A-16-CA-1272-SS
STEVEN MNUCHIN, Secretary of Treasury,
BE IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and
specifically Defendant Steven Mnuchin (Defendant)'s Motion for Reconsideration, or, in the
alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment [#16], Plaintiff Lawson P. Roberts (Plaintiff)'s Response
[#17] in opposition, and Defendant's Reply [#18] in support. Having reviewed the documents, the
governing law, and the file as a whole, the Court now enters the following opinion and order
DENYING the motion for reconsideration.
In his motion for reconsideration, Defendant asks this Court to reconsider its order denying
Defendant's amended motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, or, in the alternative,
motion for summary judgment. Mot. Recons. [#16] at
Plaintiff, an employee of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and thus an employee of the
Department of the Treasury (the Treasury), filed this suit on December 5, 2016. Compi. [#1].
Plaintiff contends the Treasury, through the actions of the IRS, unlawfully retaliated against him for
filing complaints and participating in Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) conflict resolution
processes in violation of Title Vii's anti-retaliation provision, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). Id. ¶J 8-10.
As part of that alleged retaliation, Plaintiff claims the Treasury's efforts to settle his complaints, via
the Settlement Agreement, were conducted in bad faith. Id. ¶ 10.
On September 26, 2017, the Court entered an order denying Defendant's motion to dismiss
because "Plaintiff carried his burden to establish this Court's subject matter jurisdiction . . . ." Order
of Sept. 26, 2017 [#10] at 7. Now, Defendant asks the Court to reconsider that order.
The Court construes Defendant's motion for reconsideration as a Rule 54(b) motion because
it asks the Court to reconsider its refusal to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. See FED. R. Civ. P.54(b) (giving a district court discretion to "revise at anytime before
the entry of a judgment" "any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer
than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties"). 'While a district court's
discretion to reconsider its orders is broad, "it is exercised rarely to avoid the perpetual
reexamination of orders and the resulting burdens and delays." Iturralde
Shaw Grp., Inc., No.
CIIV.A. 05-330, 2012 WL 1565356, at *3 (M.D. La. May 1, 2012) (citations omitted), aff'd, 512 F.
App'x 430 (5th Cir. 2013).
"Although the precise standard for evaluating a motion to reconsider under Rule 54(b) is
unclear, whether to grant such a motion rests within the discretion ofthe court... [a]nd the standard
would appear to be less exacting than that imposed by Rules 59 and 60." Cantwell Family Tr. (1998)
& Cantwell Holdings, Ltd. v. Hyten, No. A-i 5-CA-414-SS, 2016 WL 1610610 at *2 (W.D. Tex. Apr.
20,2016) (citingDosSantos v. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. Dist., 651 F. Supp. 2d 550, 553 (N.D.
Tex. 2009)). In examining a Rule 54(b) motion to reconsider, however, "considerations similar to
those under Rules 59 and 60 inform the Court's analysis." Id. In particular, a Court considers
"whether the movant is attempting to rehash its previously made arguments or is attempting to raise
an argument for the first time without justification
." Dos Santos, 651 F. Supp. 2d at 553
For a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss made under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(l), the party seeking access to the federal forum must establish federal subject matter
jurisdiction exists. Howery
Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing Kokkonen
Guardian Life Ins. Co. ofAm., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). Where sovereign immunity applies,
claims asserted against the immune party "can be dismissed only under Rule 12(b)(1) and not with
prejudice." Warnockv. Pecos Cty., 88 F.3d 341, 343 (5th Cir. 1996).
In its September26, 2017 Order, this Court determined it had subject matter jurisdiction over
Plaintiff's claims. Notably, the Court found Plaintiff brought only claims for unlawful retaliation in
violation of 42 U.S.C.
2000e-3(a) and did not allege breach of contract. Order of Sept. 26, 2017
[#13] at 5-7. The Court also concluded Plaintiff had properly exhausted his claims before filing this
lawsuit. Id at 6-7.
Nothing in Defendant's motion for reconsideration suggests the Court erred in denying
Defendant's motion to dismiss via the September 26, 2017 Order. The majority of Defendant's
motion for reconsideration attempts to rehash arguments the Court already considered. Specifically,
Defendant repeats his argument Plaintiff's retaliation claims are, in effect, a single breach of contract
claim and thus barred by sovereign immunity. Id. at 1-4.
Defendant's argument is just as unpersuasive the second time as it was the first. For example,
Defendant makes much of the fact Plaintiff asks that two of his EEO complaints be reinstated and
the Settlement Agreement be set aside in the section of his complaint titled "Prayer." Mot. Recons.
[#16] at (citing Compi. [#1] ¶ 13). Defendant argues Plaintiff's complaint "requests onlythe breach
of contract remedy of recision.. . ." Id. However, Defendant ignores how Plaintiff's complaint also
requests damages and attorney fees. See Compl. [#1]
Perhaps in an effort to convince the Court of the strength of his argument, Defendant quotes
nearly three pages of Charles
McHugh, 613 F. App'x 300 (5th Cir. 2015) to illustrate where a
court rejected allegedly "similar efforts of an employment discrimination plaintiff to sue for
rescission of a settlement agreement." Mot. Recons. [#16] at 3-4. Yet, in portions of Charles
Defendant declines to quote, it becomes apparent this case and Charles are distinguishable. In
Charles, the Fifth Circuit explicitly noted, the plaintiff "does not allege that she was discriminated
against on one of the bases articulated in [Title VII]" 613 F. App'x at 333. Thus, the Fifth Circuit
concluded, "Because [Plaintiff] does not actually bring employment discrimination claims in this
case, it falls outside of the plain terms of [Title VII]." Id. (emphasis in original). By contrast, the
Plaintiff here does allege impermissible retaliation in violation of Title VII, which includes the IRS's
bad faith in drafting and executing the Settlement Agreement. As a result, Plaintiff's claims, for the
moment, support this Court's subject matter jurisdiction.2
1To limit Plaintiff to the requested relief m the "Prayer" section where other relief is specifically sought would
impose overly formulaic pleading requirements.
If at a later point, however, it becomes apparent Plaintiffis only bringing a claim for breach of contract rather
than claims under Title VII, sovereign immunity will bar the Court from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over this
In sum, Defendant's motion for reconsideration presents no argument or evidence warranting
reconsideration ofthe Court's order denying Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Consequently, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion for reconsideration.
IT IS ORDERED that Defendant Steven Mnuchin's Motion for Reconsideration, or,
in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment [#16] is DENIED.
SIGNED this the
'day of November 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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