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Israel v. Israel

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

March 5, 2019

Congregation Jeshuat Israel
v.
Congregation Shearith Israel

          ORDER

          Landya McCafferty United States District Judge.

         This case involves the parties' dispute about ownership rights in real and personal property associated with the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. The Rhode Island District Court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff. On appeal, the First Circuit reversed, ruled in favor of defendant, and remanded for entry of judgment consistent with its opinion. See Congregation Jeshuat Israel v. Congregation Shearith Israel, 866 F.3d 53, 62 (1st Cir. 2017). Before the court is defendant Congregation Shearith Israel's (“CSI”), motion for proper entry of judgment. Doc. no. 136. Plaintiff, Congregation Jeshuat Israel (“CJI”) objects. For the following reasons, the court grants CSI's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         CJI and CSI are both Jewish congregations. A dispute arose between the two congregations about the ownership of the Touro Synagogue and a pair of rimonin used for worship at the Synagogue.[1] In 2012, CJI filed suit against CSI seeking a declaratory judgment that CJI is the lawful owner of the rimonim. Congregation Jeshuat Israel, 866 F.3d at 56. CSI counterclaimed, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had full legal and equitable rights to the rimonim and to the Touro Synagogue and its lands. Id. After a nine-day bench trial, the Rhode Island District Court ruled in favor of CJI and entered judgment in favor of CJI and against CSI on May 16, 2016. Doc. nos. 118, 119.

         On appeal, the First Circuit reversed the district court and ruled in favor of CSI. Congregation Jeshuat Israel, 866 F.3d at 61-62. The First Circuit found that “the only reasonable conclusions about property, title, ownership, and control that can be drawn from” the record are that:

(a) CSI is fee owner of the Touro Synagogue building, appurtenances, fixtures, and associated land as described in the 1903 lease;
(b) likewise CSI is owner of the rimonim in issue here;
(c) in each case CSI's ownership is free of any trust or other obligation to CJI except as lessor to CJI as holdover lessee; [and]
(d) CJI's interest in the Synagogue building and related real property mentioned above is solely that of holdover lessee.

Id. at 61-62 (footnote omitted). The First Circuit held: “We accordingly reverse the judgment of the district court and remand the case for entry of judgment consistent with the conclusions set out above.” Id. at 62 (emphasis omitted). It further noted that this judgment should be “without prejudice to CSI to bring claims raised by it but not resolved here in a new action.” Id. And, that CSI's request for attorney's fees and costs should be resolved on remand by the district court. Id. CJI then filed a petition for rehearing and for rehearing en banc, both of which were denied. See Congregation Jeshuat Israel v. Congregation Shearith Israel, 892 F.3d 20 (1st Cir. 2018).

         On remand, the Rhode Island District Court clerk entered judgment on June 18, 2018 as follows: “Upon remand of this matter from the United State's [sic] Court of Appeals and pursuant to the Opinion entered on August 3, 2017, the judgment of this Court entered on May 16, 2016 is hereby reversed.” Doc. No. 128. The case was then transferred from the Rhode Island District Court to this court (doc. no. 130), and CSI filed the instant motion.

         DISCUSSION

         CSI takes issue with the text of the June 18, 2018 judgment entered by the Rhode Island District Court clerk after remand from the First Circuit. Specifically, CSI asks this court to enter a “proper judgment” in place of that June 18, 2018 judgment. It requests that the replacement judgment conform with the First Circuit's remand order by: (1) expressly entering judgment in favor of CSI and against CJI; (2) stating that the district court's prior order is vacated and reversed; (3) listing the four specific conclusions made by the First Circuit as to the parties' respective legal rights; and (4) noting that the judgment is without prejudice to CSI's ability to bring claims raised but not resolved by the appeal, and its request for attorney's fees and costs. See doc. no. 136-2 (proposed amended judgment).

         The court agrees that the June 2018 judgment should be clarified. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(a), this court “may correct a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission whenever one is found in a judgment, order, or other part of the record.” The court may do so by motion of the parties or “on its own, with or without notice.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(a). A motion under Rule 60(a) “is appropriate where the the judgment failed to reflect the court's intention.” Bowen Inv., Inc. v. Carneiro Donuts, Inc., 490 F.3d 27, 29 (1st Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). Said differently, Rule 60(a) “is properly employed where the intention to include a particular provision in the judgment was clear, but the judge neglected to include the provision.” Id. (quoting 11 Wright & Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc., ยง 2854 (2d ed. 1995)). This is precisely CSI's contention: it asserts that the First Circuit intended that the information identified by CSI be ...


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