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Reynaldo Ramirez v. United Parcel Service

July 27, 2011

REYNALDO RAMIREZ,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Garrett E. Brown, Jr.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BROWN, Chief Judge:

Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion (Doc. No. 128) for reconsideration of the Court's May 17, 2010 decision on Defendant's in limine motions and the Court's January 31, 2011 opinion ("January 31 opinion"), as well as Plaintiff's motion for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. Previous decisions of this Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims, and a jury trial has resolved Defendant's counterclaims. Also before the Court is Defendant's unopposed motion for sanctions (Doc. No. 133). For the following reasons, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion, and order Plaintiff to show cause why sanctions should not be awarded.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed a seven-count Complaint on January 17, 2006, which alleged inter alia claims of race-based employment discrimination and hostile work environment against his former employer, Defendant United Parcel Service (UPS). Counts I and II of Plaintiff's Complaint alleged hostile work environment claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). Count III of Plaintiff's Complaint alleged negligence against Defendant for permitting a hostile work environment. Count IV of Plaintiff's Complaint alleged loss of consortium, on behalf of Plaintiff's wife. Count V alleged that Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff with appropriate pay raises. In Count VI, Plaintiff claimed Defendant failed to promote him on the basis of race. In Count VII, Plaintiff alleged a violation of NJLAD on the grounds that Defendant's employees made discriminatory comments about the Plaintiff's physical characteristics. Defendant counterclaimed for conversion and unjust enrichment based on salaray overpayments made to the Plaintiff during his employment.

The Honorable Joseph A. Greenaway, Jr., then United States District Judge and now United States Circuit Judge, granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment in part on December 31, 2008 (Doc. Nos. 39--40), dismissing all of the Plaintiff's claims except for the hostile work environment (Counts I and II) and failure to promote (Count VI) claims. See generally Ramirez v. United Parcel Serv., Inc. ("Ramirez I"), No. 06-1042, 2008 WL 5451022 (D.N.J. Dec. 31, 2008). Because of the statute of limitations, Judge Greenaway limited the non-promotion claim to an alleged failed promotion that occurred in 2004. Id. at *5--6. After the summary judgment opinion, this matter was reassigned to the undersigned by Order of March 8, 2010. By Opinion and Order of May 17, 2010, this Courtgranted Defendant's in limine motions in part, and precluded Plaintiff from presenting evidence of the following: (1) Plaintiff's previously dismissed claims for discriminatory pay raises, disability-based harassment, and the wrongful denial of a promotion in 2001, and (2) harassment creating a hostile work environment prior to 2004. The Court reasoned that evidence related previously dismissed claims was not relevant to the remaining claims, and that the doctrine of laches barred Plaintiff's stale allegations of racial harassment. Ramirez v. United Parcel Serv., Inc. ("Ramirez II"), No. 06-1042, 2010 WL 1994800, at *2, 7--8 (D.N.J. May 17, 2010).

The Court conducted a week-long jury trial in September 2010 to resolve Plaintiff's remaining hostile work environment and 2004 non-promotion claims, and Defendant's counterclaims. After the close of evidence, the Court granted Defendant's motion for directed verdict on Plaintiff's hostile work environment claim, but the Court submitted the non-promotion claim and Defendant's counterclaims to the jury. (9/24/10 Tr. at 143--44). The jury returned a partial verdict for Defendant, awarding UPS $13,431.73 in damages on the counterclaims, but could not reach a unanimous verdict on Plaintiff's failure to promote claim. UPS moved for judgment as a matter of law on the remaining non-promotion claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil procedure 50. By Opinion and Order of January 31, 2011, the Court granted Defendant's Rule 50 motion and entered judgment against Plaintiff on Plaintiff's failure to promote claim. See generally Ramirez v. United Parcel Serv., Inc. ("Ramirez III"), No. 06-1042, 2011 WL 380657 (D.N.J. Jan. 31, 2011).

While represented by counsel, Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration and/or a new trial on February 25, 2011. After Defendant submitted a draft motion for sanctions to alert Plaintiff's counsel of their intent to seek sanctions, Plaintiff's counsel withdrew the motion on April 14, 2011. Plaintiff's counsel thereafter terminated his representation of Plaintiff. On May 4, 2011, Plaintiff, appearing pro se, submitted to Chambers anew motion for reconsideration and/or a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59.*fn1 The pro se motion is substantively similar to the original motion for reconsideration.*fn2 After Plaintiff filed the pro se motion for reconsideration, Defendant notified Plaintiff that it would move for sanctions if he did not withdraw the motion, and included a draft of their cross-motion for sanctions. (Gonzales Certif. Exs. 25--26.) When Plaintiff did not withdraw the second motion for reconsideration, UPS cross-moved for sanctions on June 6, 2011. To date, this Court has not received opposition to UPS's cross-motion.

II. ANALYSIS

Because Plaintiff appears to present arguments for both reconsideration and for a new trial, the Court will consider each under the applicable standard. In doing so, the Court is mindful of Plaintiff's pro se status, and therefore construes Plaintiff's pleadings with greater latitude. See, e.g., Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also Wade v. Yeager, 377 F.2d 841, 846 (3d Cir. 1967) (recognizing that a petition made without the benefit of counsel must be read with a measure of tolerance); United States ex. rel Montgomery v. Brierley, 414 F.2d 552 (3d Cir. 1969) (stating that pro se petitions should be liberally construed).

Plaintiff appears to seek reconsideration of the Court's evidentiary rulings that: (1) barred evidence of a hostile work environment prior to 2004 and (2) excluded evidence of previously dismissed claims, as well as (3) Judge Greenaway's dismissal of Plaintiff's discriminatory pay raise claim. Plaintiff also appears to challenge the Court's January 31, 2011 decision granting judgment as a matter of law against Plaintiff's non-promotion claim. Asserting that these legal determinations were in error, and for other reasons, Plaintiff moves for a new trial on his claimsof (1) a hostile work environment, (2) failure to promote, and (3) discriminatory pay raises. Furthermore, Plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint to include claims for back-pay compensatory damages and wrongful termination.

A. Timeliness of Motion for Reconsideration and Motion for a New Trial Under the New Jersey Local Civil Rules, a motion for reconsideration must be filed and served within 14 business days of the entry of the original order or judgment. L. Civ. R. 7.1(i). Judge Greenaway granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's discriminatory pay raise claim on December 30, 2008. This Court's ruling on UPS's in limine motion was issued May 17, 2010, and the Court's ruling on Defendant's Rule 50 motion was issued on January 31, 2011. Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of these decisions is untimely, because the first iteration of Plaintiff's motion was filed by counsel on February 25, 2011, which is well outside the 14-day period for reconsideration as established by Local Civil Rule 7.1(i). To the extent that Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of Judge Greenaway's rulings, the Court's in limine evidentiary rulings, or the Court's January 31, 2011 post-trial decision, Plaintiff's motion is untimely and must be denied. See, e.g., Oriakhi v. Bureau of Prisons, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55379 (D.N.J. June 29, 2009) ("An untimely filed motion for reconsideration 'may be denied for that reason alone'"). The Court further notes that Plaintiff previously sought reconsideration of the Court's in limine evidentiary rulings before trial, which this Court denied from the bench on September 7, 2010. (See Order of Sept. 7, 2010, Doc. No. 78.) To the extent that Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of these rulings a second time, Plaintiff's motion is improper. With regard to Plaintiff's motion for a new trial, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 permits a Plaintiff to file the motion within 28 days of the entry of judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(b). The Court, after previously dismissing Plaintiff's other claims at various intervals throughout the litigation, granted Defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's remaining non-promotion claim by Opinion and Order of January 31, 2011. Plaintiff, through counsel, first filed a motion for a new trial on February 25, 2011. (Doc. No. 119). The Court struck the motion brief for failure to comply with the length restrictions of Local Civil Rule 7.2(d), and Plaintiff refiled a brief that complied with the Local Civil Rule by March 9, 2011. (Letter Order of Mar. 2, 2011, Doc. No. 121.) Plaintiff's motion was withdrawn by counsel by letter of April 13, 2011. (Doc. No. 125; see also Doc. No. 126.) Plaintiff, now appearing pro se, re-filed essentially the same motion for a new trial on May 5, 2011. Like its predecessor, this motion was also overlength, and it was accompanied by a lengthy "certification" that contained numerous improper arguments. UPS argues that the re-filed motion is time barred, as it was filed 93 days after the entry of judgment.

The Court recognizes Plaintiff's initial motion for a new trial was timely, but was withdrawn by counsel after the 28-day period established by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 had already passed. Because Plaintiff's pro se motion for a new trial is essentially identical to the timely motion for a new trial, out of an abundance of caution, the Court will treat the second motion as ...


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