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Stevens v. Jiffy Lube International, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 11, 2017

RANDY STEVENS, et al., Petitioners,
v.
JIFFY LUBE INTERNATIONAL, INC., Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING PETITIONERS' MOTION FOR NEW JUDGMENT OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, TO ALTER OR AMEND THE JUDGMENT DOCKET NOS. 25, 29

          EDWARD M. CHEN United States District Judge

         Previously, Petitioners Randy and Elissa Stevens moved for vacatur of an arbitration award in favor of Respondent Jiffy Lube International, Inc. (“JLI”). Petitioners argued that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the law or her decision was completely irrational for concluding that one of their claims was time barred. On February 8, 2017, the Court denied the motion and entered a final judgment in favor of JLI. On March 8, 2017, Petitioners filed the currently pending motion for a new judgment or, in the alternative, to alter or amend the judgment. Having considered the parties' briefs and accompanying submissions, the Court deems this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument. The Court thus VACATES the hearing on Petitioners' motion. Petitioners' motion for relief is hereby DENIED.

         I. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Petitioners seek relief pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b).[1]

         Under Rule 59(e), a party may move to alter or amend a judgment “no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). A Rule 59(e) motion may be based on a claim of newly discovered evidence.

While it is true that newly discovered evidence is one basis for granting a Rule 59(e) motion, not just any evidence will do. To prevail on a Rule 59(e) motion because of newly discovered evidence, the movant must show the evidence (1) existed at the time of the trial or proceeding at which the ruling now protested was entered; (2) could not have been discovered through due diligence; and (3) was of such magnitude that production of it earlier would have been likely to change the disposition of the case.

Duarte v. Bardales, 526 F.3d 563, 573 (9th Cir. 2008), abrogated on other grounds by Lozano v. Montoya Alvarez, 134 S.Ct. 1224 (2014).

         Rule 60(b) is similar. Under Rule 60(b), a court may relieve a party from a final judgment based on “newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(2).

         B. Newly Discovered Evidence

         Petitioners argue that they have newly discovered evidence that provides an independent basis for vacating the arbitration award in favor of JLI. Under the FAA, a court may vacate an arbitration award “where there was evident partiality or corruption in the arbitrators.” 9 U.S.C. § 10. According to Petitioners, they have newly discovered evidence showing that there was “evident partiality” in the arbitrator, Gilda R. Turitz. Petitioners note that (1) Ms. Turitz and her employer law firm, Sideman & Bancroft (“S&B”) and (2) Shell Oil, which is the parent of JLI, see Mot. at 1, both have a relationship with (3) a third-party organization known as the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF).

         Petitioners have submitted evidence indicating the following[2]:

• NAMWOLF “is a nonprofit trade association comprised of a select group of preeminent minority and women-owned law firms and other interested parties. NAMWOLF is focused on being the leading organization in the legal profession dedicated to diversity through developing lasting partnerships between minority and women-owned law firms and private/public entities.” R. Stevens Decl., Ex. A (NAMWOLF website page).
• S&B “is an active member” of NAMWOLF. R. Stevens Decl., Ex. L (S&B website page). For several years preceding the arbitration, some S&B lawyers participated in some NAMWOLF meetings and authored some articles in NAMWOLF's Newsletter. See, e.g., R. Stevens Decl., Exs. N-S (website pages, some from S&B). Ms. Turitz herself participated in or at least registered for some meetings (e.g., in 2013, 2015, and 2016) and authored some articles. See, e.g., R. Stevens Decl., Exs. D, R-S, Ex. V (website pages, some from NAMWOLF). Ms. Turitz was to attend the annual NAMWOLF meeting in 2016, which was which was held on September 14-16, 2016, see R. Stevens Decl., Ex. J (NAMWOLF ...

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