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Prewitt v. Hamline University

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

June 27, 2018

GARY G. PREWITT, Plaintiff,
v.
HAMLINE UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLYD. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Gary Prewitt filed the Complaint against Hamline University after it locked Prewitt out of Hamline's online student computer system prior to Prewitt completing the coursework required to graduate. (Doc. No. 1.) He alleges that Hamline discriminated against him on the basis of race, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq., and sex, in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a).[1] (Id.) Before the Court is Hamline's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 82.) Also before the Court is Prewitt's Motion to Review the Magistrate Judge's May 23, 2018 Order finding that good cause existed for Prewitt's late summary judgment motion (Doc. No. 104.) For the following reasons, Prewitt's Motion to Review is granted, the Magistrate Judge's May 23, 2018 Order is affirmed, and Hamline's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

         I. Procedural History

         This case's progress has been rocked with turbulence from the beginning. After multiple failed attempts to serve Hamline and a motion to dismiss that remained pending for fourteen months, a scheduling order was not entered until April 20, 2017, almost two years after the filing of the Complaint. (Doc. No. 46.) The Magistrate Judge set a discovery deadline of September 15, 2017, a dispositive motions deadline of February 1, 2018, and ordered that “[d]iscovery is not stayed during dispositive or other motions, unless ordered by the Court.” (Id. at 2.)

         Shortly before the discovery deadline, Prewitt filed his first Discovery Dispute Statement. (Doc. No. 55.) A week later, he filed a second Discovery Dispute Statement. (Doc. No. 57.) On September 14, 2017, the Magistrate Judge extended certain deadlines in response to the Discovery Dispute Statements. (Doc. No. 58.) Relevant to the instant motions, the Magistrate Judge ordered supplemental discovery responses and that Hamline designate its Rule 30(b)(6) representative on or before September 20, 2017. (Id. at 1.) Prewitt was also required to confirm to Hamline the manner in which he sought to take Hamline's Rule 30(b)(6) designee's deposition by September 20. (Id. at 1-2.) If the deposition was to take place in person, it was required to take place in Minnesota. (Id. at 2.)

         In October, each party filed a Motion to Compel. (Doc. Nos. 62-63.) The Magistrate Judge resolved those in January (Doc. No. 71), and Prewitt sought review of the Magistrate Judge's Order. (Doc. No. 72.) Hamline then sought sanctions against Prewitt, as well as a continuance of the February 1 dispositive motions deadline and the trial date. (Doc. No. 74.) The Court affirmed the Magistrate Judge in February, and stated: “At this stage of the litigation, the trial date will not be continued absent extraordinary cause.” (Doc. No. 79.) Hamline's Motion for Sanctions (Doc. No. 74) remains pending.

         Later in February, Prewitt moved to amend the Amended Case Management Order to permit him to depose Hamline's Rule 30(b)(6) designee and resolve supplemental discovery issues. (Doc. No. 80.) On March 12, 2018, Hamline, without a ruling on its motion to extend deadlines, belatedly filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 82.) The Magistrate Judge set a briefing schedule (Doc. No. 90), in compliance with Local Rule 16.01(f), and issued an Order requiring Hamline to show cause why its summary judgment motion was filed late without leave of the Court (Doc. No. 92). Prewitt sought review of the Magistrate Judge's scheduling Order (Doc. No. 91), and the Court affirmed. (Doc. No. 97). The Court made clear that the “briefing on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is not stayed pending the resolution of the Order to Show Cause or Plaintiff's second Motion to Review.” (Id. at 1-2.)

         On March 13, 2018, the Magistrate Judge denied Prewitt's Motion to Amend the Case Management Order. (Doc. No. 89.) The Magistrate Judge found that Hamline had complied with all discovery requests and Prewitt had not identified why Hamline's supplemental discovery responses were inadequate. (Id. at 3.) The Magistrate Judge further found that while Hamline never designated its Rule 30(b)(6) representative, Prewitt had not timely noticed the deposition nor informed Hamline whether the deposition would be telephonic or in person. (Id. at 4.) She therefore found that good cause did not exist to extend any of the expired deadlines. (Id. at 5.) Prewitt sought review of the Magistrate Judge's Order (Doc. No. 95), which the Court affirmed (Doc. No. 101).

         II. Motion to Review

         On May 23, 2018, the Magistrate Judge found that good cause existed for the Court to accept Hamline's untimely Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 103.) In short, the Magistrate Judge found that Hamline “diligently tried to set Prewitt's deposition and to obtain discovery responses before taking it and moved to extend the dispositive motion deadline when it became apparent that the delays in obtaining that discovery would make its motion untimely.” (Id. (citing Doc. No. 74)). Therefore, the Magistrate Judge found that Hamline established the necessary good cause to amend the scheduling order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4), and considered the pending Motion for Summary Judgment timely filed. (Id.) Prewitt filed a Motion for Review of that Order. (Doc. No. 104.)

         Prewitt's Motion primarily argues that Rule 16(b)(4) mandates that a scheduling order can be modified “only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” (Id. at 2.) Because Hamline did not obtain the Court's consent to extend the dispositive motions deadline prior to filing its motion, Prewitt argues that the Magistrate Judge's subsequent finding of good cause is contrary to law. (Id. at 3.) The remainder of Prewitt's Motion takes issue with the Magistrate Judge's finding of good cause. (Id. at 4-5.) The Court will address each of Prewitt's arguments in turn.

         As explained in the Court's previous Orders resolving Prewitt's Motions to Review, Local Rule 72.02 allows a party to object to decisions of Magistrate Judges on nondispositive matters by filing a Motion for Review. The Court must consider timely objections and “modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Local Rule 72.02(b)(1) also allows the Court to modify or set aside the Magistrate Judge's Order if it is “in the interests of justice.”

         The standard for allowing late filings is set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b). Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v. Bruswick Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 113 S.Ct. 1489, 1496 (1993). If a request for an extension of time is made prior to the expiration of the original time, the extension of time must be “for good cause.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(1)(A). If the motion is made after the time has expired, then there is an additional requirement that the tardiness of the motion be “because of excusable neglect.” Id. at 6(b)(1)(B). Here, because Hamline filed its motion to extend the deadline prior to the expiration of the deadline, it only needs to show good cause ...


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