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Riley v. El Dorado School Board

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

March 20, 2015



BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court are Defendants' Motion for Sanctions. ECF Nos. 27, 30. Plaintiff has responded to these Motions. ECF No. 43. The Court held a hearing to address these Motions on March 18, 2015. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2009), the Honorable Susan O. Hickey referred these Motions to the Court for the purpose of making a report and recommendation. In accordance with that referral, the Court recommends these Motions be GRANTED, and Plaintiff should either be sanctioned and her claims dismissed or alternatively ordered to pay costs and fees.

1. Background:

On March 18, 2014, Plaintiff filed her pro se Complaint in this action. ECF No. 1. In her Complaint, Plaintiff requests "declaratory and injunctive relief for race discrimination, retaliation, disproportionate punishment, and conspiracy to discharge pursuant to Section 407, 703, and 704 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." Id. at 1. Plaintiff is an African-American female teacher who was employed by the El Dorado Public School District from 2008 until 2013. Id. at 4. On March 12, 2013, Plaintiff was terminated from that position. Id. Plaintiff claims the termination was unlawful. Id.

The timeline of this case is relevant for purposes of these Motions. As noted above, Plaintiff filed her Complaint on March 18, 2014. ECF No. 1. Defendants answered in May of 2014. ECF Nos. 10-11. The Parties then began discovery. Approximately seven months later, Plaintiff moved to reset all of the deadlines in this action. ECF No. 19. Plaintiff requested an extension of ninety (90) days for all deadlines. Id.

The Court granted Plaintiff's request in part and extended the discovery deadline from February 8, 2015 until March 6, 2015. ECF No. 21. Plaintiff was also given until January 9, 2015 to provide initial disclosures and to respond to Defendants' discovery requests. Importantly, in that order, the Court also stated: "Plaintiff is advised that failure to comply with the foregoing discovery deadlines may result in dismissal of this case for failure to follow the Orders of the court." ECF No. 21 (emphasis in the original Order).

Thereafter, nothing was filed in this Court for over two months as the Parties continued attempts at discovery. On March 4, 2015, Defendants filed the Motion for Sanctions currently before the Court; and on March 9, 2015, Defendant Kevin Holt joined in this Motion. ECF Nos. 27, 30. With these Motions, Defendants request Plaintiff be sanctioned for her failure to prosecute this action, failure to respond to discovery requests, failure to provide initial disclosures, and failure to appear at her own deposition. Id.

On March 18, 2015, Plaintiff responded to this Motion. ECF No. 43. In her response, Plaintiff claims she has complied with the Court's order and has "provided the Defendants with Initial Disclosures, answers to Interrogatories and Requests, objections, reasons for objection, and supplemented where appropriate thereafter." Id . ¶¶ 4-5. Plaintiff also argues her failure to attend her own deposition was justified. Id . ¶ 6.

2. Applicable Law:

The Court may order sanctions if a party fails, after being served with proper notice, to appear for that party's deposition. FED. R. CIV. P. 37(d)(1)(A)(i). Sanctions may include, among other things, striking pleadings in whole or in part, staying further proceedings until the order is obeyed, dismissing the action or proceeding in whole or in part, rendering a default judgment against the disobedient party. FED. R. CIV. P. 37(b)(2)(A). Furthermore, "the court must require the party failing to act... to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees caused by the failure, unless the failure was substantially justified or other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust." FED. R. CIV. P. 37(d)(3).

"Under Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the district court [has] the power to terminate... litigation for flagrant abuse of the discovery process." Lindstedt v. City of Granby, 238 F.3d 933, 936 (8th Cir. 2000). See also 7 Moore's Federal Practice (3d. ed.) § 37.90 ("Rule 37(d) makes it abundantly clear that a party properly served has an absolute duty to respond in some fashion and that the court in which the action is pending may enforce this obligation by imposing potentially severe sanctions. In short, the purpose of Rule 37(d) is to authorize courts to directly punish the most blatant forms of discovery noncompliance, and to deter such conduct in the future").

3. Discussion:

Plaintiff has repeatedly failed to cooperate with Defendants throughout the discovery process. The Court will consider: (A) Plaintiff's failure to attend her own deposition; (B) Plaintiff's failure to respond to written ...

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