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Jones v. Anderson Community School Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 28, 2017

CHARLES F. JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDERSON COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORPORATION, JOSEPH CRONK, Individually and in His Official Capacity as Director of Operations for the Anderson Community School Corporation, NANCY FARLEY, Individually and in Her Former Official Capacity as Director of Transportation for the Anderson Community School Corporation, MARY ANN HEINEMAN, Individually and in Her Official Capacity as Assistant Director of Transportation for the Anderson Community School Corporation, BOARD OF SCHOOL TRUSTEES OF THE ANDERSON COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORPORATION, Individually and in Their Official Capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE BELATED RESPONSE (DKT. 36)

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff Charles F. Jones (“Plaintiff”) brought this employment discrimination action under 42 U.S.C § 1983 against the Anderson Community School Corporation (“the School”), its Board of Trustees (“the Board”), and three of its employees (“the Employees”), all in their individual and official capacities (“Defendants”).[1] Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a belated response, Dkt. 36, in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Dkt. 23.[2] For the reasons stated below, the motion is denied.

         Background

         Plaintiff filed an initial complaint on August 11, 2016, as an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), and under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, naming the School as the sole defendant. Dkt. 1. Defendants answered on September 30, 2016, Dkt. 8, and moved for partial judgment on the pleadings on November 22, 2016. Dkt. 12.

         In that motion, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's Section 1981 action cannot be maintained against the School because Section 1981 “does not create a private right of action against state actors.” Defs.' Br. Supp. (Dkt. 13), p. 2 (quoting Campbell v. Forest Pres. Dist., 752 F.3d 665, 671 (7th Cir. 2014)). Defendants might have added that Plaintiff's Title VII claim could not be maintained against the School either because Plaintiff alleges that he was previously an “independent, contract school bus driver” for the School, Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 10, and “independent contractors are not protected by Title VII.” Knight v. United Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 950 F.2d 377, 380 (7th Cir. 1991).

         Rather than oppose Defendants' motion, Plaintiff filed his amended complaint on November 28, 2016. Dkt. 14. The amended complaint names the Board and the Employees in their individual and official capacities in addition to the School. Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 4-8. Gone are all references to Title VII or Section 1981; in their place Plaintiff pleads “unlawful[] . . . discriminat[ion] . . . on the bases of race and sex” under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. ¶ 2.

         After Plaintiff filed his amended complaint, the magistrate judge set a telephonic status conference for December 8, 2016, to discuss the status of Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. Dkt. 15. Plaintiff's counsel failed to appear at that conference. Dkt. 17. On December 13, 2016, the magistrate judge denied Defendants' motion as moot, made so by the amended complaint, and ordered Plaintiff's counsel to show cause why he should not be sanctioned for his failure to appear. Id.

         On December 17, 2016, Plaintiff's counsel explained that his legal assistant had neglected to calendar the status conference. Pl.'s Resp. (Dkt. 20) ¶ 8. On January 6, 2017, the magistrate judge entered an order finding a “calendaring mishap” to be an “unacceptable” explanation. Dkt. 25. The magistrate judge ordered Plaintiff's counsel to review counsel's professional obligations as set out by the magistrate judge in an order in another case. See Id. Plaintiff's counsel complied, Dkt. 26, thereby discharging the show-cause order. Dkt. 31.

         As Plaintiff's counsel sought to avoid sanctions for the missed conference, on January 3, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. 23. Defendants' filed a brief in support of their motion the same day. Dkt. 24. Plaintiff's counsel did not respond within the fourteen-day period allotted under our local rule. S.D. Ind. L.R. 7-1(c)(2)(A). Twenty days later, on January 23, 2017, six days after the deadline to respond to their motion had passed, Defendants filed a reply brief in support of their motion to dismiss, Dkt. 30, noting Plaintiff's failure to respond, urging a finding of waiver, and restating their arguments for dismissal.

         More than a month later, and nearly two months after Defendants' motion to dismiss was filed, on February 26, 2017, Plaintiff's counsel filed the instant motion for leave to file a belated response. Dkt. 36. Counsel again blames a calendaring mishap. See id., Pl.'s Mot. Leave to File ¶¶ 7-9. Defendants oppose the motion as without good cause, without excusable neglect, and, in any event, futile to rescue the amended complaint from dismissal. Defs.' Br. Opp. (Dkt. 37), p. 2.

         Analysis

         “When an act . . . must be done within a specified time, the court may, for good cause, extend the time . . . on motion made after the time has expired if the party failed to act because of excusable neglect.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(1)(B) (emphasis added). This rule “clearly gives courts both the authority to establish deadlines and the discretion to enforce them.” Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 605 (7th Cir. 2006). A district court is not merely entitled, but required, to enforce its deadlines in the interests of speed, efficiency, and justice. Reales v. Consol. Rail Corp., 84 F.3d 993, 996 (7th Cir. 1996). “We live in a world of deadlines. . . . The practice of law is no exception.” Spears v. City of Indianapolis, 74 F.3d 153, 157 (7th Cir. 1996).

Excusable neglect-
is at bottom an equitable [notion], taking account of all relevant circumstances surrounding the party's omission. These include . . . the danger of prejudice to [the nonmovant], the length of the delay and its potential impact on judicial proceedings, the reasons for the delay, including whether it was within ...

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