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United States v. King Mountain Tobacco Co., Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

November 18, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
KING MOUNTAIN TOBACCO COMPANY, INC., Defendant.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT KING MOUNTAIN'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

ROSANNA MALOUF PETERSON, Chief District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant King Mountain Co.'s Motion for Reconsideration of Order Granting United States' Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 88. The motion was heard without oral argument on October 9, 2014. The Court has reviewed the motion, the United States' response, ECF No. 90, the reply memorandum, ECF No. 91, all relevant filings, and is fully informed.

BACKGROUND

The United States filed a complaint against Defendant King Mountain Co. (hereinafter "King Mountain") on July 6, 2012, alleging that King Mountain had failed to pay certain federal tobacco excise taxes from 2009 to 2011, totaling over $23 million, and seeking a judgment to that effect. ECF No. 1. King Mountain answered the complaint and asserted several affirmative defenses. ECF No. 6. Subsequently, the United States filed a Motion for Summary Judgment based on several issues. ECF No. 48. The Court granted the United States' Motion for Summary Judgment as to all of King Mountain's substantive defenses and determined that King Mountain is liable for federal tobacco taxes owed, ECF No. 62, but reserved ruling on the amount of assessments owed to enable King Mountain to obtain additional discovery. ECF No. 53.

In April 2014, the United States filed a renewed Motion for Summary Judgment as to the amount of unpaid federal tobacco excise taxes owed by King Mountain. ECF No. 70. In doing so, the United States incorporated by reference their argument presented in the original Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 48. In response, King Mountain both argued that a genuine issue of material fact remained as to the precise amounts owed, ECF No. 74 at 3-4, and raised several new defenses to payment, ECF No. 74 at 5-20.

As one newly-raised defense, King Mountain argued that it was exempt from paying excise taxes because the failure to pay such taxes could result in forfeiture of allotment land. ECF No. 74 at 15-20. King Mountain argued that 26 U.S.C. § 5763 applied to enable the United States to seize allotment land to satisfy the judgment. ECF No. 74 at 15-20. King Mountain's argument primarily focused on 26 U.S.C. § 5763(c), which provides for the forfeiture of the building where the tobacco products were manufactured "and the lot or tract of ground on which the building is located." ECF No. 74 at 16-17. However, King Mountain also argued that 26 U.S.C. § 5763(d) applied to mandate forfeiture of allotment land. ECF No. 74 at 17.

The Court heard oral argument on the motion, and issued an Order granting summary judgment. ECF No. 87. The Court held that 26 U.S.C. § 5763(c) only applies to "manufacturers or importers of tobacco products... who manufacture or import tobacco products without filing the necessary bond or obtaining the required permit." ECF No. 87 at 17. Because King Mountain had obtained the required permit and posted a surety bond, 26 U.S.C. § 5763(c) did not apply to their failure to pay the excess tax, and thus could not result in forfeiture of allotment land. ECF No. 87 at 17. The Court did not address specifically whether 26 U.S.C. § 5763(d) applied to forfeiture of allotment land.

King Mountain filed a motion to reconsider the Court's order granting summary judgment because the Court did not expressly address whether 26 U.S.C. § 5763(d) applied.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard for a Motion to Reconsider

The Court treats a motion for reconsideration that is filed within twenty-eight days of the issuance of a Court order as a motion to alter or amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). See Am. Ironworks & Erectors, Inc. v. N. Am. Const. Corp., 248 F.3d 892, 899 (9th Cir. 2001) (applying Rule 59(e)'s previous ten-day filing limit). The Court's Order Granting United States' Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 87, was filed on August 28, 2014. King Mountain filed their Motion for Reconsideration, ECF No. 88, on September 9, 2014, and therefore the motion is timely.

A court may have discretion to reconsider a prior ruling if the first decision was clearly erroneous, an intervening change in the law has occurred, the evidence on remand is substantially different, other changed circumstances exist, or a manifest injustice would otherwise result. Thomas v. Bible, 983 F.2d 152, 155 (9th Cir. 1993). The Court finds that if it does not substantively address King Mountain's argument whether 26 U.S.C. § 5763(d) applies to mandate forfeiture of allotment land, manifest injustice arguably may result. Therefore, the Court will reconsider its Order granting summary judgment on that basis.

B. Standard for Granting Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where the moving party establishes that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). If the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if sufficient evidence supports the claimed factual dispute, requiring "a jury or judge to ...


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