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Calvary Christian Center v. Fredericksburg, No. 12-1119

Decided: March 15, 2013

In this case, a daycare center located in the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia, filed a lawsuit against the city after the city council had denied the center’s application to extend its daycare program to disabled children.  The plaintiff asserted a number of claims arising under federal law, but the U.S. District Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint.  Following this dismissal, the plaintiff filed a “Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15.  The district court denied this motion without undertaking any Rule 15 analysis to determine whether to accept an amended complaint.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit held that the district court had properly denied the plaintiff’s motion to amend their complaint.  The court stated: “We have repeatedly held that a motion to amend filed after a judgment of dismissal has been entered cannot be considered until the judgment is vacated.”  Because the plaintiff had waited until after its complaint had been dismissed by a final judgment to file its motion, there was no longer an existing complaint able to be amended.  Thus, Rule 15’s liberal standard for allowing pleading amendment was inapplicable.  Instead, at this point, the plaintiff’s options were either to appeal the decision to dismiss or to move to open or vacate the judgment under Federal Rule of Procedure 60(b)—none of which had been done.

Full Opinion

-John C. Bruton, III