WEICK, Circuit Judge.
This is an appeal from an order of the District Court granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment. The plaintiffs are four bus drivers formerly employed by the defendants. The defendants are the members of the Warren County, Tennessee school board and the school system's transportation supervisor. The plaintiffs claim that their employment was terminated, or they were not rehired, in retaliation for their continued prosecution of a lawsuit in state court in an effort to obtain higher wages. The plaintiffs contend that the defendants' action violated their first amendment rights.
The principal issue in this appeal is whether the District Court erred in granting summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 where the plaintiffs offered no timely response to the defendants' motion. In addition, the defendants assert that the plaintiffs' notice of appeal was not timely filed and that this Court lacks jurisdiction over the appeal. Addressing the jurisdictional issue first, we are of the opinion that the plaintiffs' notice of appeal was timely filed. On the Rule 56 question, we are of the opinion that the District Court should have decided this case on its merits and ought not to have granted summary judgment.
The defendants claim that this Court's jurisdiction was not properly invoked because the plaintiffs' notice of appeal was not filed in a timely manner under Fed.R.App.P. 4(a). Lindsey v. Perini, 409 F.2d 1341 (6th Cir. 1969) (per curiam). Rule 4(a) requires a notice of appeal to be filed within 30 days of the entry of judgment. This time period ceases to run, however, if any one of several postjudgment motions is filed with the District Court. This list includes a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) seeking to alter or amend a judgment. If a Rule 59(e) motion is filed, a new 30 days filing period commences to run once the District Court enters an order granting or denying the motion. Fed.R.App.P. 4(a); see amended Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(4), 47 U.S. L.W. 4486 (May 1, 1979).
The pertinent docket entries in this case are as follows:
The Memorandum Opinion contained no order. It treated defendants' motion as one filed under Rule 59(e) and ended with the following statement: "Judgment will enter that plaintiffs take nothing from the defendants". The defendants concede that if the motion was one to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e), then the filing of the notice of appeal was timely because it was within 30 days of the filing of the District Court's order denying relief under Rule 59(e). The defendants argue that the plaintiffs' motion could not properly have been treated under Rule 59(e), however, because it was made prior to the entry of judgment, and thus could not have been a motion "to alter or amend a judgment." This argument in our opinion lacks merit.
First, we recognize that Rule 59(e) contemplates that motions will normally be made following the entry of judgment. The Rule provides:
It is not unusual, however, for a putative Rule 59(e) motion to predate the formal entry of judgment. This is due to the fact that Fed.R.Civ.P. 58 requires that judgments be entered in a document that is separate from the Court's memorandum opinion. Thus in Jetero Const. Co., Inc. v. South Memphis Lumber Co., 531 F.2d 1348, 1351 (6th Cir. 1976), we held that it was proper for the District Court to entertain a motion to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e) even though it was filed prior to the actual entry of judgment. Thus in this case the plaintiffs' motion cannot be read out of Rule 59(e) solely because it was prematurely filed.
Second, although denominated as a "motion to reconsider and vacate," we believe that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in treating the motion, inter alia, as one under Rule 59(e). The Court correctly observed that the Federal Rules do not contemplate motions to "reconsider and vacate." Other courts have held, however, and we agree, that a motion which asks a court to vacate and reconsider, or even to reverse its prior holding, may properly be treated under Rule 59(e) as a motion to alter or amend a judgment. See, e. g., Sonneblick-Goldman Corp. v. Nowalk, 420 F.2d 858 (3d Cir. 1970); Gainey v. Brotherhood of Ry. & Steamship Clerks, etc., 303 F.2d 716 (3d Cir. 1962); Steward v. Atlantic Refining Co., 235 F.2d 570, 572 (3d Cir. 1956). But see Erickson Tool Co. v. Balas
We are of the opinion that the better practice would have been for the District Court to have entered judgment with the filing of its opinion. See Jetero Const., supra, 531 F.2d at 1351. We in no way condone the sloppy practice of counsel for plaintiffs in this case.
The plaintiffs contend that the District Court erred in granting summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) because the discovery materials filed in the District Court show the existence of a genuine dispute concerning a material issue fact. In response, the defendants offer two arguments in support of the District Court's decision. First, they maintain that the District Court was not obligated to search the entire record in this case when, (1) the materials offered in support of the motion showed that no disputed factual issue was present, and when (2) the plaintiffs offered no timely response in opposition to the motion. Second, the defendants contend that even if one examines the entire record, there is no genuine dispute requiring a trial on the merits. We disagree with both of the defendants' arguments.
Rule 56(c) governs the disposition of motions for summary judgment. It provides:
Although summary judgment is a useful and often efficient device for deciding cases, it must be used only with extreme caution for it operates to deny a litigant his day in court. Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting, 368 U.S. 464, 467, 82 S.Ct. 486, 7 L.Ed.2d 458 (1962); Tee-Pak, Inc. v. St. Regis Paper Co., 491 F.2d 1193, 1196 (6th Cir. 1974). Thus on a motion for summary judgment the movant has the burden of showing conclusively that there exists no genuine issue as to a material fact and the evidence together with all inferences to be drawn therefrom must be read in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Adickes v. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 158-59, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970); United States v. Diebold, 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (per curiam); United States v. Articles of Device, etc., 527 F.2d 1008, 1011 (6th Cir. 1976); see Ott v. Midland Ross Corp., 600 F.2d 24, at ___-___ & n. 3 (6th Cir. 1979). Indeed, we have previously held that while the movant's papers are to be closely scrutinized, those of the opponent are to be viewed indulgently. Bohn Aluminum & Brass Corp. v. Storm King Corp., 303 F.2d 425, 427 (6th Cir. 1962); see 6 Moore's Federal Practice ¶ 56.15, at 56-472 (2d ed. 1976).
We believe that under 56(c) the District Court was obligated to consider not only the materials specifically offered in support of the motion, but also all "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions" properly on file and thus properly before this court. See Felix v. Young, 536 F.2d 1126, 1130 (6th Cir. 1976); Radobenko v. Automated Equip. Corp., 520 F.2d 540, 543 (9th Cir. 1975); Day v. UAW Local 36, 466 F.2d 83, 86 (6th Cir. 1972). But see Faulkner v. Baldwin Piano & Organ Co., 561 F.2d 677, 683 (7th Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 435 U.S. 905, 98 S.Ct. 1450, 55 L.Ed.2d 495 (1978). We do not think that this is an unreasonable burden to place on the District Court. Rule 56(c) simply requires the District Court to review the entire record before deciding whether to render a decision on the merits. This is no different than the obligation placed on the court following a full trial on the merits, and the litigants are entitled to no less.
In an effort to avoid the thrust of Rule 56(c), the defendants have argued that when the plaintiffs failed to offer a timely response, Rule 56(e) mandated the granting of summary judgment. Rule 56(e) provides:
First, it must be observed that the Supreme Court has expressly rejected the motion that Rule 56(e) in any way alters the basic standard stated in Rule 56(c) for granting summary judgment. Adickes v. Kress & Co., supra, 398 U.S. at 159, 90 S.Ct. 1598; see 6 Moore's Federal Practice, supra, ¶ 56.22 at 56-1335-38. A party is never required to respond to a motion for summary judgment in order to prevail since the burden of establishing the nonexistence of a material factual dispute always rests with the movant. Adickes v. Kress & Co., supra, 398 U.S. at 160, 90 S.Ct. 1598; McDonnell v. Michigan Chapter No. 10, 587 F.2d 7, at 9 (6th Cir. 1978); Fitzke v. Shappell, 468 F.2d 1072, 1077-78 (6th Cir. 1972); Advisory Comm. Note to 1963 Amendment to Rule 56(e). In the language of Rule 56(e), summary judgment is only "appropriate" when the standard outlined in Rule 56(c) is met. See Andersen v. Schulman, 337 F.Supp. 177, 181-82 (N.D.Ill.1971); 6 Moore's Federal Practice, supra, ¶ 56.22 at 56-1346.
The thrust of Rule 56(e) is that a party may not simply rest on the allegations in his pleadings in opposing a motion for summary
Thus even though the plaintiffs offered no timely response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, the District Court could not use that as a reason for granting summary judgment without first examining all the materials properly before it under Rule 56(c).
In this case, as noted above, the substance of the plaintiffs' claim on the merits is that the members of the school board and the school system's transportation supervisor acted to dismiss, or not rehire, the plaintiffs in retaliation for their refusal to drop a lawsuit in state court. This is alleged to have violated the plaintiffs' first amendment rights. See NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 429-31, 83 S.Ct. 328, 9 L.Ed.2d 405 (1963).
In its memorandum opinion, the District Court arrived at the following conclusion as regards transportation supervisor Hutchins:
The plaintiffs thereupon submitted their "motion to reconsider and vacate" which specifically pointed, inter alia, to pages of plaintiff Smith's deposition and his supplemental answer to Interrogatory number 9. These documents showed that Hutchins and Smith had met to discuss the situation of the bus drivers prior to Hutchins' recommendations to the school board on hirings, and in the discussions Hutchins made a statement that appears to be inconsistent with his affidavit. Smith's supplemental answer to Interrogatory number 9 is substantially to the same effect.
The District Court in denying the plaintiffs' motion to reconsider and vacate relied on Rule 56(e) and the fact that the plaintiffs had offered no affidavits in response
Viewing the discovery materials in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, we believe that the admission attributed to Hutchins raises a genuine issue concerning whether Hutchins and the various board members acted with improper motive. It has often been stated that cases involving questions of motive or intent are normally not suited to disposition on summary judgment. E. g., First National Bank, supra, 391 U.S. at 284-85, 88 S.Ct. 1575; White Motor v. United States, 372 U.S. 253, 259, 83 S.Ct. 696, 9 L.Ed.2d 738 (1963); Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting, supra, 368 U.S. at 473, 82 S.Ct. 486; see Sartor v. Arkansas Gas Corp., 321 U.S. 620, 627-29, 64 S.Ct. 724, 88 L.Ed. 967 (1944). We believe that this is such a case. We do not think that the denials of Hutchins and of the various board members, or even the members' voting records, showed conclusively that there was no issue of fact present regarding the motive for their collective action in not offering the plaintiffs continued employment.
The judgment of the District Court is reversed and the case is remanded for trial.