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Wilbur Slockish v. United States Federal Highway Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

October 10, 2018

HEREDITARY CHIEF WILBUR SLOCKISH, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          YOULEE YIM YOU UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiffs have filed a Motion for Entry of Partial Final Judgment under FRCP 54(b) (ECF #318) in which they seek partial final judgment with respect to their Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) claim and a stay of litigation with respect to their remaining claims. ECF #318. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is DENIED.[1]

         DISCUSSION I.Legal Standard

         FRCP 54(b) provides:

When an action presents more than one claim for relief-whether as a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party claim-or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise, any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.

         A determination whether to enter a final judgment pursuant to FRCP 54(b) is “exclusively within the discretion of the district court.” Dannenberg v. Software Toolworks, Inc., 16 F.3d 1073, 1078 (9th Cir. 1994) (quoting Ill. Tool Works, Inc. v. Brunsing, 378 F.2d 234, 236 (9th Cir. 1967)). “It is left to the sound judicial discretion of the district court to determine the ‘appropriate time' when each final decision in a multiple claims action is ready for appeal.” Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 8 (1980).

         Before entering judgment pursuant to FRCP 54(b), the court must have rendered a “final judgment” on the claim at issue. Wood v. GCC Bend, 422 F.3d 873, 878 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 7). “Final judgment” is defined as “an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action.” Id.

         Next, the court must determine whether there is any just reason to delay appeal on the already adjudicated claim. Wood, 422 F.3d at 878. In making this determination, the court considers both the interests of sound judicial administration and the equities involved in the case. Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 8. The principle of sound judicial administration requires court is to consider “whether the claims under review [are] separable” legally and factually, and whether granting the Rule 54(b) request might result in multiple appellate decisions or duplicate proceedings on the same issues. Id.

         Rule 54(b) certification is generally disfavored. It “must be reserved for the unusual case in which the costs and risks of multiplying the number of proceedings and of overcrowding the appellate docket are outbalanced by pressing needs of the litigants.” Morrison-Knudsen v. Archer, 655 F.2d 962, 965 (9th Cir. 1981). While “Rule 54(b) certification is proper if it will aid in ‘expeditious decision' of the case, ” Texaco, Inc. v. Ponsoldt, 939 F.2d 794, 797 (9th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted), granting a Rule 54(b) motion is “not routine” and “should not become so.” Wood, 422 F.3d at 879. “Therefore, the burden lies on the party moving for certification to show that their case's circumstances are unusual enough to merit departure from the court's general presumption against Rule 54(b).” Birkes v. Tillamook Cty., No. 3:09-CV-1084-AC, 2012 WL 2178964, at *3 (D. Or. June 13, 2012) (citing U.S. Fire Ins. Co. v. Williamsburg Nat'l Ins. Co., No. 1:07-CV-00718, 2009 WL 650578, *2 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 12, 2009)).

         I. Final Judgment

         The parties do not dispute that there has been final judgment on plaintiffs' RFRA claim.[2]

         II. Equities of Delay

         Plaintiffs contend that their motion should be granted because there is no just reason to delay appeal. In making this determination, courts consider both “juridical concerns, ” like avoiding “piecemeal appeals” in a case that “should be reviewed only as [a] single unit[], ” and “equitable factors such as prejudice and delay.” Noel v. Hall, 568 F.3d 743, 747 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 10) (internal quotations omitted). As noted previously, Rule 54(b) judgment should be avoided “unless the pressing needs of the litigants outweigh the potential for multiple, duplicate appeals.” Birkes, 2012 WL 2178964, at *3 (citing Morrison-Knudsen, 655 F.2d at 965).

         A. ...


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