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Fraternal Order of Police Metro Transit Police Labor Committee, Inc. v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

March 27, 2014

FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE METRO TRANSIT POLICE LABOR COMMITTEE, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY (WMATA), Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

LEONIE M. BRINKEMA, District Judge.

Before the Court is defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's ("WMATA") Motion for Reconsideration of the June 20, 2013 Memorandum Opinion and Order [Dkt. No. 46] ("Motion for Reconsideration"), which asks the Court to reverse its decision granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiff, denying summary judgment in favor of WMATA, and ordering WMATA to reinstate two police officers. For the reasons that follow, WMATA's motion will be denied.

I.

Plaintiff Fraternal Order of Police Metro Transit Police Labor Committee, Inc. ("FOP") brought this civil action against WMATA seeking reinstatement of two Metro Transit Police officers, Sherman Benton ("Benton") and Mark Spencer ("Spencer"), whose terminations were overturned after Benton and Spencer appealed to an Arbitration Board ("Board") under a collective bargaining agreement.

The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment [Dkt. Nos. 15, 27], and following a hearing and supplemental briefing, the Court denied WMATA's motion for summary judgment, granted the FOP's motion for summary judgment, and ordered that WMATA immediately comply with the Board's decisions by reinstating Benton and Spencer as Metro Transit Police officers [Dkt. Nos. 41, 42].

On July 8, 2013, the Court granted WMATA's consent motion to stay the decision pending resolution of WMATA's Motion for Reconsideration and any ensuing appeal [Dkt. Nos. 44, 45]. In the consent motion, WMATA agreed to reinstate Benton and Spencer "to pay status in job duties to be defined by the Transit Police, at the same salaries they were receiving at the time of their terminations, " and assign Benton and Spencer "to duties of an administrative-type nature, without the full police powers of [] regular Transit Police officer[s]."

II.

Given more exhaustive treatment of the facts in the June 20, 2013, Memorandum Opinion, only a brief recounting of the relevant facts is necessary here. WMATA is an interstate compact agency and instrumentality of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia that operates the Metrorail and Metrobus systems in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and is authorized under its Compact to operate a police force, the Metro Transit Police Department ("MTPD"). MTPD officers are charged with enforcing the laws of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The FOP is the bargaining agent for all police officers. WMATA and the FOP are parties to a collective bargaining agreement that permits discipline of the FOP's members only "for just cause." Labor disputes between WMATA and the FOP, including those arising out of WMATA's disciplinary decisions, are subject to binding arbitration.

WMATA discharged Benton and Spencer for cause in March and April 2011, and the FOP pursued grievances on their behalf through arbitration. The Board overturned both officers' discharges and ordered that they be reinstated. In response to the Board's decision, WMATA placed Benton and Spencer on "paid administrative leave" status.

Consistent with WMATA's practice of requiring its officers to be licensed by all three jurisdictions in which WMATA operates, and because Benton and Spencer had been discharged, they had to be recertified by the Maryland Police Training Commission ("Maryland Commission") before they could resume police activities in Maryland. Virginia and the District of Columbia did not require reinstated officers to go through recertification.

The recertification process required that the MTPD send the Maryland Commission materials, including copies of the derogatory information that led to the officers' terminations, as well as an application for certification verifying that Benton and Spencer met the Maryland Commission's selection standards for positions as police officers.

Michael A. Taborn, MTPD's Chief of Police at the time, wrote letters to the Maryland Commission explaining the respective officers' terminations and reinstatements. In those letters, Chief Taborn clearly indicated that the MTPD did not favor recertification for either Benton or Spencer. The Maryland Commission denied Benton and Spencer's recertification in July and August of 2012 and neither officer sought review of the Commission's decisions in Maryland state court. Because they were not certified to act as law enforcement officers in Maryland, Benton and Spencer were terminated by WMATA for a second time.

III.

WMATA moves for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), which provides that relief may be granted "(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins. Co. , 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). Whether to grant or deny a motion under Rule 59(e) is left to the Court's discretion, and "[i]n general reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy ...


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