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United States v. Cruz

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

May 23, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Dr. Fanny Dela Cruz, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION [18]

          HON. GERSHWIN A. DRAIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant, Fanny Dela Cruz's Motion for Reconsideration [18] of the Court's order denying her objection to garnishment, filed May 13, 2017. The Court does not conduct hearings on motions for reconsideration, E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(1), and accordingly the motion will be resolved solely on the briefing. For the reasons discussed herein, Court DENIES Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration [18].

         II. Legal Standard

         United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(h)(3) provides:

Generally, and without restricting the Court's discretion, the Court will not grant motions for rehearing or reconsideration that merely present the same issues ruled upon by the Court, either expressly or by reasonable implication. The movant must not only demonstrate a palpable defect by which the Court and the parties and other persons entitled to be heard on the motion have been misled but also show that correcting the defect will result in a different disposition of the case.

         E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(h)(3). “A ‘palpable defect' is ‘a defect that is obvious, clear, unmistakable, manifest, or plain.' ” United States v. Lockett, 328 F.Supp.2d 682, 684 (E.D. Mich. 2004) (citing United States v. Cican, 156 F.Supp.2d 661, 668 (E.D. Mich. 2001)). “[A] motion for reconsideration is not properly used as a vehicle to re-hash old arguments or to advance positions that could have been argued earlier but were not.” Smith ex rel. Smith v. Mount Pleasant Pub. Sch., 298 F.Supp.2d 636, 637 (E.D. Mich. 2003) (citing Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Engler, 146 F.3d 367, 374 (6th Cir. 1998)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Defendant's Counsel Mischaracterized Local Rule 7.1(e)(2)(c)

         Defendant's primary argument is that the Court should have waited to receive her tardy reply brief before ruling on the motion. Dkt. No. 18. This argument is based on counsel's misunderstanding of Local Rule 7.1's reply brief deadline.

         Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(e)(2)(c) provides: “If filed, a reply brief supporting a nondispositive motion must be filed within 7 days after service of the response, but not less than 3 days before oral argument.” Defendant's counsel believed that this rule allowed him to respond more than seven weeks after service of the response brief, so long as the reply brief was filed at least three days before oral argument. Dkt. No. 18, p. 2-3 (Pg. ID 121-22).

         The Court has reviewed the plain meaning of the rule-i.e., what a reasonable or ordinary person would understand it to mean-in light of the context in which it appears. See Nat'l Air Traffic Controllers Ass'n v. Sec'y of Dep't of Transp., 654 F.3d 654, 657 (6th Cir. 2011) (“Our statutory-interpretation analysis begins by examining ‘the language of the statute itself to determine if its meaning is plain.' ”). The rule unambiguously states that a reply brief must be filed within seven days of service of a response. E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(e)(2)(c). Reply briefs are also due no less than three days before a hearing. Id. The only way to give effect to both the seven-day deadline and the three-day hearing deadline is to construe the hearing as being within the seven-day deadline period. See Nat'l Air Traffic Controllers, 654 F.3d at 657 (“In doing so, we must ‘giv[e] effect to each word and mak[e] every effort not to interpret a provision in a manner that renders other provisions of the same statute inconsistent, meaningless or superfluous.' ”).

         Further, the rule uses the conjunction “but” to introduce an idea contrasting with the main point, rather than the conjunction “or, ” which would link alternative options of equal weight. Based on the rule's plain meaning, the portion that states “but not less than 3 days before oral argument” provides an exception to the seven-day deadline when a hearing is to occur before the seven days have lapsed. Accordingly, seven days is the maximum period of time in which a nondispositive motion reply may be filed, absent a request for an extension, and some reply briefs are due earlier when a hearing is scheduled within those seven days.

         Defense counsel's proposed interpretation would lead to absurd consequences that would thwart the purpose of the briefing deadlines. See Psychas v. Trans-Canada Highway Exp., Ltd., 146 F.Supp. 11, 13 (E.D. Mich. 1956) (“Another cardinal rule of statutory interpretation is that the statute should be construed so as to give effect to its purpose and obviate absurd consequences.”). To read the rule as creating two, alternative reply brief deadlines would effectively eviscerate the seven-day deadline every time a hearing was scheduled. While the non-moving party would be limited to 14 days to file a 25-page response on a nondispositive motion, the moving party could potentially wait months to file a seven-page reply brief. Moreover, the Court would have no ability to adequately prepare for hearings in advance if ...


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