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Archbrook Laguna LLC v. New Age Electronics

December 21, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Katharine S. Hayden, U.S.D.J.



I. Introduction

ArchBrook Laguna, LLC (―ArchBrook‖) moves for reconsideration of the portion of the Court's May 4, 2010, order [D.E. 318] dismissing with prejudice all claims against defendants Steven G. Hall (―Hall‖) and Robert G. Brazier (―Brazier‖) [D.E. 325]. In the alternative, ArchBrook moves for certification of the dismissal as a final judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b), so that it may immediately appeal the Court's decision. (Id.) A full recitation of the facts of the case is unnecessary for the purposes of these motions.

Briefly reviewing the procedural history of this case, ArchBrook filed the amended complaint that underlies the Court's May 4 order on April 29, 2009. [D.E. 185.] The amended complaint alleged that New Age Electronics, Inc. (―New Age‖)-ArchBrook's primary competitor in the electronics distribution industry-and certain of ArchBrook's former employees and their attorneys formed a conspiracy to, in effect, destroy ArchBrook. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) The individual defendants relevant to the current motion are the attorneys, Hall and Brazier; they represent Charles Marsh (―Marsh‖), who served as the President of ArchBrook's predecessor, BDI Laguna, Inc. (―BDI‖). (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 56, 68.) ArchBrook's amended complaint alleged that Hall and Brazier, in an effort to settle an employment lawsuit between Marsh and BDI, conspired to threaten and harm BDI. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 139--144.) It also alleged that Hall and Brazier ―encouraged, aided, and/or advised‖ Marsh to make false disparaging statements about BDI to others. (Am. Compl. ¶ 159.) On that basis, ArchBrook brought, inter alia, claims of civil conspiracy, commercial disparagement, computer fraud, and New Jersey RICO violations against Hall and Brazier.

Each of the defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint. [D.E. 245, 245, 275, 276.] Hall and Brazier moved for dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); at the same time, they appealed an order of Magistrate Judge Michael A. Shipp barring them from asserting the litigation privilege in their motion to dismiss. [D.E. 276, 277.] The Court heard oral argument on the motions on April 8, 2010 and read an oral opinion into the record the following day. The Court prematurely entered an order memorializing its oral opinion on April 16 [D.E. 307]-prior to receiving ArchBrook's written objections to the form of order-and then erroneously filed a corrective order on April 27 in the belief that ArchBrook's objections were unopposed. [D.E. 311.] After considering the objections of ArchBrook, New Age, Hall and Brazier, the Court filed the order that is the subject of this motion on May 4. [D.E. 318.] The order, in pertinent part, dismissed the claims against Hall and Brazier with prejudice; the Court declined to afford ArchBrook an opportunity to amend its complaint a second time, finding that to do so would ―be futile, create undue delay, and prejudice other defendants.‖ (Id. (citing Cal. Pub. Emp. Ret. Sys. v. Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 165--66 (3d Cir. 2004))). The Court rejected ArchBrook's contention that the dismissal should be without prejudice because ArchBrook ―should not be forever foreclosed from bringing [its] claims‖ against Hall and Brazier. [D.E. 308.]

After the order was entered, ArchBrook timely filed a motion for reconsideration of that portion of the order that dismissed the claims against Hall and Brazier with prejudice. [D.E. 325.] ArchBrook also moved for certification of the order as a final judgment, in the event the Court rules against it on the reconsideration motion. (Id.)

II. ArchBrook's Motion for Reconsideration

Archbrook's moves for reconsideration on the grounds that by dismissing the claims against Hall and Brazier with prejudice, the Court committed a clear error of law, foreclosing ArchBrook from ever bringing its claims against the attorneys even though it could present more plausible factual allegations against them if it can unearth additional evidence.

Reconsideration is a remedy to be used ―very sparingly.‖ Interfaith Cmty. Org. v. Honeywell Intern., Inc., 215 F.Supp.2d 482, 507 (D.N.J. 2002). Local Civil Rule 7.1(i) requires that the party moving for reconsideration set forth ―the matter or controlling decisions which the party believes the Judge . . . has overlooked.‖ Accordingly, there are three grounds for relief on a motion for reconsideration: ―(1) [A]n intervening change in the controlling law has occurred, (2) evidence not previously available has become available, or (3) it is necessary to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.‖ Database Am., Inc. v. Bellsouth Adver. & Pub'g Corp., 825 F.Supp. 1216, 1220 (D.N.J. 1993) (alteration in original). A motion for reconsideration is not a platform for voicing mere disagreement with the court's initial decision. Bermingham v. Sony Corp. of Am., Inc., 820 F. Supp. 834, 859 n.8 (D.N.J. 1992), aff'd, 37 F.3d 1485 (3d Cir. 1994). That is what the appellate process is for. Florham Park Chevron, Inc. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 680 F. Supp. 159, 163 (D.N.J. 1988).

ArchBrook challenges the Court's decision to dismiss the claims against Hall and Brazier with prejudice, arguing that it should have been provided an opportunity to amend its complaint. ArchBrook correctly points out that ―[d]ismissal without leave to amend is justified only on the grounds of bad faith, undue delay, prejudice, or futility,‖ Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 236 (3d Cir. 2004), and argues that in this case, amending the complaint will not be futile. But ArchBrook made that same argument when it objected to the form of the original order entered on the motions to dismiss. [D.E. 308.] After weighing ArchBrook's and Hall and Brazier's objections, the Court amended the order, deciding to dismiss the claims against Hall and Brazier with prejudice. [D.E. 318.] Indeed, the Court stated, ―[a]s the Court noted in its oral opinion, plaintiff's claims of fraud against these lawyers, who have for several years represented defendant Marsh (whose motion to dismiss is denied), were made ‗on information and belief' based on facts in and of themselves neutral, or information appearing in billing records, or statements made in the course of advocating for Marsh. As such, the Court finds that amendment would be futile, create undue delay, and prejudice other defendants.

See California Public Employees' Retirement System v. Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 165--66 (3d Cir. 2004).‖ (Id.) ArchBrook does not contend that since the Court made that statement, there has been an intervening change in law, nor does it contend that evidence not previously available is now available. Rather, it argues that reconsideration is necessary to correct a clear error of law, but fails to cite to any authority that the Court has overlooked. Accordingly, Archbrook's motion for reconsideration cannot succeed.

As an additional note, ArchBrook's substantive arguments that Brazier and Hall are not immune from liability cannot be the basis of a motion to reconsider the dismissal with prejudice.

Archbrook extensively briefed [D.E. 279, 281] and argued (Tr. of Hr'g on Mot. to Dismiss passim)its belief that Brazier and Hall could be held liable for conspiring with their clients, and the Court extensively addressed and rejected this argument in its oral opinion (Oral Op. 12:1-- 32:8). Archbrook's disagreement is more appropriately directed to an appellate court. Before this Court, ...

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