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Radeker v. Elbert County Board Of Commissioners

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 19, 2016

CHERIE RADEKER, Plaintiff,
v.
ELBERT COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, KURT SCHLEGEL, in his official and individual capacities, ROBERT ROWLAND, in his official and individual capacities, and LARRY ROSS, in his official and individual capacities, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION (DOC. # 108)

CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Currently before the Court is the Motion for Reconsideration of the Court’s Summary Judgment Order on Qualified Immunity filed by Defendants Kurt Schlegel, Robert Rowland, and Larry Ross. (Doc. # 108.) Plaintiff Cherie Radeker opposes Defendants’ motion. (Doc. # 116.) For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants’ motion for reconsideration.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a former employee of Elbert County, Colorado claims that her employment was improperly terminated while she was on authorized medical leave. In her Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), filed on May 19, 2015, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated her constitutionally-protected right to due process (claim one), the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act (claim two), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) (claim three). (Doc. # 45.) Plaintiff also alleges breach of contract (claim four) and promissory estoppel (claim five). (Doc. # 45.)

On July 31, 2015, Defendants moved for summary judgment. (Doc. # 73.) One of the arguments advanced by Defendants Schlegel, Rowland, and Ross was that they are entitled to qualified immunity with regard to Plaintiff’s due process and FMLA claims. (Doc. # 73 at 35-39.) Plaintiff opposed Defendants’ motion. (Doc. # 85.)

On December 3, 2015, the Court entered an order denying Defendants’ summary judgment motion because the Court found that “genuine issues of material fact preclude[d] the Court from granting the summary judgment motion.” (Doc. # 107.) The Court’s order did not explicitly address Defendants’ qualified immunity argument. On December 24, 2015, Defendants moved for reconsideration, arguing that “the Court should set forth its determination” as to whether or not Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s due process and FMLA claims. (Doc. # 108 at 2.)

II. DISCUSSION

A. Defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration

Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not formally recognize motions for reconsideration, a party may file a motion seeking relief from an order or judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) or Rule 60. See, e.g., Van Skiver v. United States, 952 F.2d 1241, 1243 (10th Cir. 1991). Rule 60(a) provides that “[t]he court may correct . . . a mistake arising from oversight or omission whenever one is found in a[n] . . . order.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(a). The permissible grounds for such relief include “mistake, ” “inadvertence, ” or “any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1), (6). “The district court has substantial discretion in connection with a Rule 60(b) motion.” Pelican Prod. Corp. v. Marino, 893 F.2d 1143, 1146 (10th Cir. 1990).

Defendants argue that whether they are entitled to qualified immunity is a legal determination and that the Court should provide a specific finding with regard to this question. (Doc. # 108 at 4.) In opposition, Plaintiff argues that Defendants’ motion is “improper because it relies on contested factual arguments that the [C]ourt already rejected in denying summary judgment.” (Doc. # 116 at 1.)

In Cox v. Glanz, 800 F.3d 1231, 1240 (10th Cir. 2015), the Tenth Circuit reviewed a district court order denying the defendant’s motion for summary judgment because genuine disputes as to material facts rendered summary judgment inappropriate. The defendant had asserted that he was entitled to qualified immunity, but the district court did not expressly address this argument in its order denying the defendant’s motion. Id. at 1241. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit found that “[t]he [district] court’s analysis was not consonant with our settled mode of qualified-immunity decisionmaking.” Id. at 1243 (emphasis in original). The Tenth Circuit made clear that, when faced with a qualified immunity defense at the summary judgment phase, the district court’s “‘principal purpose is to determine whether plaintiff’s factual allegations are sufficiently grounded in the record such that they may permissibly comprise the universe of facts that will serve as the foundation for answering the legal question before the court.’” Id. (emphasis in original) (quoting Thomson v. Salt Lake City, 584 F.3d 1304, 1326 (10th Cir. 2009)). This is distinct from the more familiar analytic framework of whether a plaintiff survives summary judgment because the plaintiff’s evidence raises material issues that warrant resolution by a jury. Id. In light of Cox, the Court finds that it must reconsider its prior order and provide a more in-depth analysis of Defendants’ qualified immunity argument.

B. Qualified Immunity

The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials “from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). “Qualified immunity balances two important interests-the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009).

When a defendant raises qualified immunity as a defense, “a plaintiff must properly allege a deprivation of a constitutional right and must further show that the constitutional right was clearly established at the time of the violation.” Kaufman v. Higgs, 697 F.3d 1297, 1300 (10th Cir. 2012). The Court is not required to address these inquiries in any specific order, Pearson, 555 U.S. at 236-37, and if a plaintiff fails to carry either part of his or ...


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