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United States ex rel Haskins v. Omega Institute

November 18, 1998

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, EX REL. DIANE HASKINS, AND BEVERLEE RALPH, AND DIANE HASKINS AND BEVERLEE RALPH, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED,
PLAINTIFFS,
V.
OMEGA INSTITUTE, INC.; LEE E. COBLEIGH; FRANKLIN BURKE; DR. CLARITA EUSEBIO- KELLY; RAYMOND PAPIN; ADELE WINTER:: JOSEPH MARRA; AND SHARON E. GREMMELS,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Stanley S. Brotman United States District Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION ON MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

OPINION ON MOTION FOR CLARIFICATION

OPINION ON MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES

BROTMAN, DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter comes before the Court on plaintiffs' motions for reconsideration and clarification of this Court's July 7, 1998 opinion and order limiting the scope of the alleged fraud plaintiffs may prosecute under the False Claims Act.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

Omega Institute, Inc. ("Omega") is a private, post-secondary school providing a variety of programs, including a paralegal/legal support training program. As prior students at Omega, plaintiffs Diane Haskins ("Haskins") and Beverlee Ralph ("Ralph") (collectively "plaintiffs" or "relators") *fn1 have brought a qui tam action on behalf of themselves and other former and current Omega paralegal students against Omega, Franklin Burke, Lee E. Cobleigh, Raymond Papin, Dr. Clarita Eusebio- Kelly, Sharon E. Gremmels, Adele Winter, and Joseph Marra (collectively "defendants") alleging violations of the False Claims Act ("FCA"), 31 U.S.C.A. § 1329 et seq.

Plaintiffs filed a two-count qui tam action against the defendants on January 5, 1995, which they amended approximately two years later on January 14, 1997. In their amended complaint, plaintiffs made various claims against defendants including violations of the FCA, federal RICO, New Jersey RICO, and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, as well as several state law violations. On December 16, 1997, defendants filed a number of motions. In its July 7, 1998 opinion and order regarding these motions, this Court accepted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(a)(2) plaintiffs' voluntary dismissal without prejudice of all claims except the FCA claims against defendants. See United States ex rel. Haskins v. Omega Institute, Inc., 11 F. Supp.2d 555, 570 (D.N.J. 1998). In its opinion, the Court acknowledged defendants' right to later file a motion for attorneys' fees and costs incurred in defending against the dismissed counts. See id. On July 31, 1998, defendants filed such a motion, requesting that the court order plaintiffs to pay defendants $20,057.75 for attorneys' fees incurred in defending against plaintiffs' federal RICO claims, Counts III and IV of plaintiff' amended complaint. Also in its July 7, 1998 opinion and order, the Court limited the scope of plaintiffs' amended complaint to those dates during which plaintiffs actually attended Omega. *fn2 See id. at 568. On July 17, 1998, plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion for clarification of the Court's opinion and order limiting the scope of plaintiffs' amended complaint.

II. DISCUSSION

A. MOTIONS FOR RECONSIDERATION AND CLARIFICATION

1. Standard for Reconsideration

Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(g) governs motions for reconsideration. *fn3 A court will grant a motion for reconsideration where "dispositive factual matters or controlling decisions of law" were presented to the court but not considered. Pelham v. United States, 661 F. Supp. 1063, 1065 (D.N.J. 1987). A court will deny a motion for reconsideration where a party simply asks the court to analyze the same facts and cases it has already considered in reaching its original decision. See Carteret Savings Bank, F.A. v. Shushan, 721 F. Supp. 705, 709 (D.N.J. 1989). A court's approach is less predictable where a party files a motion for reconsideration to request that the court look to evidence and cases which were readily available at the time the original matter was decided but which were not presented to the court. See Florham Park Chevron, Inc. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 680 F. Supp. 159, 162 (D.N.J. 1988). The decision whether to grant or deny a motion for reconsideration in such a situation is within the court's discretion. See id. On the one hand, motions for reconsideration are thought to be "an inappropriate avenue for relitigating matters which could have been adequately presented the first time." NL Indus., Inc. v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 935 F. Supp. 513, 516 (D.N.J. 1996). On the ...


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