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Moore v. Upchurch

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

September 30, 2019



          James Patrick Hanlon United States District Judge.

         In this prisoner civil rights action, the Court liberally construed Mr. Moore’s complaint to allege that the defendants discriminated against him on the basis of race when they refused to change his work assignment after he passed a test to become a materials handler and when they ignored his request to move to a more desirable work schedule, yet allowed another inmate to change his work schedule. His complaint further alleged that the defendants retaliated against him by firing him from his job for exercising his First Amendment right to file grievances regarding his work issues.

         On February 22, 2019, defendant Amanda Adams moved for summary judgment on both claims against her. Dkt. 93.[1] Mr. Moore responded, and Ms. Adams replied. Dkt. 98, dkt. 105.

         I. Surreply Motions

         Mr. Moore filed a motion for extension of time to file a belated surreply and a motion for leave to file a belated surreply to defendant Adams’ reply. Dkt. 109, dkt. 112.

         Local Rule 56-1(d) states:

A party opposing a summary judgment motion may file a surreply brief only if the movant cites new evidence in the reply or objects to the admissibility of the evidence cited in the response. The surreply must be filed within 7 days after the movant serves the reply and must be limited to the new evidence and objections.

         Here, Mr. Moore seeks to file a belated surreply to address two issues in Ms. Adams’ reply brief. First, Ms. Adams stated that Mr. Moore had not filed an affidavit when in fact he had. Second, Mr. Moore states that during his deposition he was confused as to how to keep his discrimination and retaliation claims separate and that he did not intend to abandon either claim.

         Ms. Adams argues that his motions fail to comply with Local Rule 6-1(a)(5), which requires that any request for extension of time must be filed at least three business days prior to the due date, and Local Rule 56-1(d), which requires that surreplies be filed within seven days of the reply. Whether the Court holds pro se litigants to the consequences of violating the Court’s Local Rules is a matter of discretion, Gray v. Hardy, 826 F.3d 1000, 1004-05 (7th Cir. 2016) (holding that district courts are not required to hold pro se litigants to the potential consequences of their failure to comply with the Local Rules and can instead take “a more flexible approach, ” including by ignoring the deficiencies in their filings and considering the evidence they submit).

         Moreover, Mr. Moore states that he did not receive Ms. Adams’ response until April 2, 2019, the day his motion for extension of time would have been due. As an inmate, Mr. Moore does not have unfettered access to legal materials to prepare his court filings. Instead, he can only attend the law library for limited periods of time when prison officials schedule him to do so. Under these circumstances, the Court will not preclude Mr. Moore from filing a surreply because it was not filed within the deadlines established in the local rules.

         Ms. Adams also asserts that Mr. Moore’s surreply does not comply with the local rule because her response did not contain new or objectionable evidence. But Mr. Moore’s proposed surreply corrects Ms. Adams’ incorrect assertion that he did not submit an affidavit. It also attempts to explain Mr. Moore’s confusion at his deposition regarding his discrimination claim. Again, it is within the Court’s discretion whether to enforce the local rules against a pro se litigant. Under the circumstances presented here, the Court will consider the information provided in Mr. Moore’s surreply. Therefore, Mr. Moore’s motion for extension to file belated surreply, dkt. [109], and motion for leave to file belated surreply, dkt. [112], are granted. The Court will consider Mr. Moore’s surreply when deciding Ms. Adams’ motion for summary judgment.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to specific portions of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited by an adverse party do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant’s factual assertion can result in the movant’s fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 941-42 (7th Cir. 2016). “A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.’” Daugherty v. Page,906 F.3d 606, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor. Skiba v. Illinois Cent. R.R. Co., 884 F.3d 708, 717 (7th Cir. 2018). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment ...

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