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Block v. Meharry Medical College

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

April 14, 2017

ROBERT M. BLOCK, Plaintiff,



         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Robert Block's (“Dr. Block”) Motion to Alter or Amend. (Docket No. 137). Dr. Block requests this Court to reverse the Court's Order granting summary judgment to Defendant Meharry Medical College (“Meharry”). Meharry filed a Response in Opposition, (Docket No. 143), and Dr. Block replied, (Docket No. 145). For the following reasons, the Court will deny Dr. Block's Motion to Alter or Amend.


         To prevail on a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend a judgment, a party must show “‘(1) a clear error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an intervening change in controlling law; or (4) a need to prevent manifest injustice.'” Betts v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 558 F.3d 461, 474 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Henderson v. Walled Lake Cons. Sch., 469 F.3d 479, 496 (6th Cir. 2006)).

         The Rule 59(e) vehicle does not exist to provide the movant with a second opportunity to make its previous argument, that is, a Rule 59(e) motion “is not an opportunity to re-argue a case.” Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Engler, 146 F.3d 367, 374 (6th Cir. 1998). Moreover, the movant should not use a Rule 59(e) motion to raise or make arguments “which could, and should, have been made before judgment issued.” Id.; see also FDIC v. World University, Inc., 978 F.2d 10, 16 (1st Cir. 1992) (“Rule 59(e) motions are aimed at reconsideration, not initial consideration.”) (emphasis in original) (internal quotations omitted).

         In light of the “narrow purposes” of the motion, the judicial system's interest in the finality of judgments, and the conservation of judicial resources, Rule 59(e) motions “typically are denied.” Miller v. Bell, 655 F.Supp.2d 838, 844 (E.D. Tenn. 2009) (internal quotations omitted). In his Rule 59(e) Motion, Dr. Block does not discuss, or tie his argument to, the Rule 59(e) standard of review, but it appears that Dr. Block believes the Court needs to prevent manifest injustice or that the Court made a clear error of law or fact.

Regarding the meaning of the term “manifest injustice, ” it has been noted that
There is no judicial consensus . . . but several courts have applied the Black's Law Dictionary definition, which states that “manifest injustice” is an error in the trial court that is direct, obvious, and observable . . . A party may only be granted reconsideration based on manifest injustice if the error is apparent to the point of being indisputable. In order for a court to reconsider a decision due to “manifest injustice, ” the record presented must be so patently unfair and tainted that the error is manifestly clear to all who view it.

In re Roemmele, 466 B.R. 706, 712 (Bankr. E.D. Pa. Mar. 14, 2012) (internal quotations omitted). “A similar application of the dictionary definition to a clear error of law or fact requires an error that is ‘plain and indisputable, and that amounts to a complete disregard of the controlling law or the credible evidence in the record.'” In re Titus, 479 B.R. 362, 368 (Bankr. W.D. Pa. 2012) (quoting In re Oak Park Calabasas Condominium Ass'n, 302 B.R. 682, 683 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2003)).


         I. Dr. Block's Time Barred Claims

         The Court found Dr. Block's claims in regards to his demotion from Professor to Associate Professor time barred, because the demotion occurred more than 300 days preceding Dr. Block's EEOC charge complaining of this demotion. More specifically, the EEOC charge was filed on November 20, 2013, and therefore any events occurring before January 24, 2013 (300 days prior) are time barred. The Court found that Dr. Block was demoted in February 2012, based on Dr. Block's own admission in his Complaint. (Docket No. 1 at 4). Moreover, Dr. Block admitted he was notified of his demotion in February 2012 in Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts. (Docket No. 96 at 5).

         Dr. Block argues that the Court was incorrect in finding this claim time barred for two main reasons. First, he claims certain aspects of the factual background create a genuine issue of material fact. For example, Dr. Block argues that his 2012-2013 employment contract appointing him a full Professor shows that his demotion didn't occur until the contract expired in June 2013. Dr. Block also argues that he did not experience a change in salary when he was demoted in February 2012, and therefore Dr. Block didn't know that he had been demoted until much later (when his 2012-2013 contract expired). (Docket No. 141 at 2-3). He argues that because June 2013 is within the 300 days immediately preceding his EEOC charge, the demotion claim is therefore not time barred.

         These factual arguments, however, do not change the fact that Dr. Block admitted that he knew about his demotion in February 2012 when he received a letter from Dean Janet Southerland “advising him that he had been appointed as an Associate Professor instead of Professor.” (Docket No. 1 at 4). Nor do they change the fact that Dr. Block used the title “Associate Professor” in his signature block in three separate documents in January 2012. (Docket No. 100-3 at 2-4). Finally, they do not change the fact that Dr. Block applied for a promotion from Associate Professor to Professor in the fall of 2012 and that Dr. Block admits he was notified that his application for promotion had been ...

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