Tuesday, November 07, 2006

First Circuit Finds that Plaintiff Is Not Entitled to Reconsideration Nor Leave to Amend Dismissed Complaint

Per Palmer v. Champion Mortg., 465 F.3d 24 (1st Cir. Sep 29, 2006):

We need not linger long over the plaintiff's objection to the denial of her motion for reconsideration. The granting of a motion for reconsideration is "an extraordinary remedy which should be used sparingly." 11 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 2810.1 (2d ed.1995). Unless the court has misapprehended some material fact or point of law, such a motion is normally not a promising vehicle for revisiting a party's case and rearguing theories previously advanced and rejected. See In re Sun Pipe Line Co., 831 F.2d 22, 24-25 (1st Cir.1987). To obtain relief, the movant must demonstrate either that newly discovered evidence (not previously available) has come to light or that the rendering court committed a manifest error of law. See Marie v. Allied Home Mortg. Corp., 402 F.3d 1, 7 n. 2 (1st Cir.2005). . . .

Here, the plaintiff's motion for reconsideration did no more than reiterate the arguments she earlier had advanced, claiming somewhat counterintuitively that the district court had "overlooked" her allegation that the Notice [as required by the Truth in Lending Act] was confusing. Since the court had not overlooked that allegation but, rather, had found it wanting, the motion was denied. We discern no hint of error.

In this instance, there is a temporal wrinkle: the plaintiff requested further leave to amend only after the district court dismissed her first amended complaint. If made subsequent to the entry of judgment, such requests, whatever their merit, cannot be allowed unless and until the judgment is vacated under, say, Fed.R.Civ.P. 60. See 6 Federal Practice and Procedure, supra, § 1489 (2d ed.1990). Here, no such vacation occurred.

We need not probe this point too deeply. The record below is tenebrous as to timing . . . and it is arguable that the plaintiff's request to amend antedated the formal entry of judgment. But even if we assume for argument's sake that the vacation-of-judgment barrier does not pertain, that assumption would not salvage the plaintiff's cause. In that event, the district court would have had to evaluate the plaintiff's request under the liberal standard of Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Even so, we nevertheless would uphold the district court's rejection of the request to amend.

. . . Amendments may be permitted pre-judgment, even after a dismissal for failure to state a claim, and leave to amend is "freely given when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). That is not to say, however, that a district court lacks authority to deny a request to amend. In appropriate circumstances--undue delay, bad faith, futility, and the absence of due diligence on the movant's part are paradigmatic examples--leave to amend may be denied. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S.Ct. 227, 9 L.Ed.2d 222 (1962). In short, a request to amend--especially a belated request--requires the court to examine the totality of the circumstances and to exercise its informed discretion in constructing a balance of pertinent considerations. See Quaker State Oil Ref. Corp. v. Garrity Oil Co., 884 F.2d 1510, 1517 (1st Cir.1989).

On this occasion, the plaintiff made her request for leave to amend more than fifteen months after commencing her action and more than nine months after initially amending her complaint. Her proposed second amendment sought to assert a new theory based on the timing of Champion's disbursement of the loan proceeds. This is not an instance in which newly discovered evidence, not previously available, suddenly came to light; the plaintiff was aware of the factual predicate on which her new theory rested before she brought suit. Considering the totality of the circumstances, we conclude that the district court had sufficient reason to reject the plaintiff's belated attempt to amend her complaint yet again. Consequently, we find no abuse of the district court's wide discretion.


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