United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Albany Division
W. LOUIS SANDS, District Judge.
Before the Court are Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 12), Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (Doc. 16), and Plaintiff's Motion for Fees under 28 U.S.C. Section 1927 (Doc. 13). The Court now considers these Motions.
PROCEDURAL POSTURE AND FACTUAL FINDINGS
This case began on December 23, 2013 when Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Doc. 1). The Complaint bears the electronic signature of Marie A. Mattox and the names of Marie A. Mattox and James Garrity as counsel for Plaintiff. Ms. Mattox is not a member of the State Bar of Georgia. Ms. Mattox was not admitted to practice pro hac vice in this case until April 17, 2014. On April 10, 2014 Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the Complaint was a nullity because it was signed by Marie A. Mattox who is not a member of the Georgia State Bar and was not, at the time of filing, admitted to practice in this Court pro hac vice. (Doc. 12.)
On April 17, 2014, Marie Mattox was admitted as Plaintiff's counsel pro hac vice in this case. ( See ) Docket. On May 2, 2014, Plaintiff filed both a Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment together with a Motion for Fees under 28 U.S.C. Section 1927 (Doc. 13). Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint, seeking to add Attorney James Garrity's signature to the signature line of the complaint. (Doc. 16). On May 19, 2014, Defendant filed a Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend, Reply in Support of Its Motion for Summary Judgment, and a Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Fees. (Doc. 19). On June 13, 2014, this Court ordered Ms. Mattox to show cause why she should not be sanctioned, monetarily or otherwise, for unauthorized practice of law in this case and other cases. (Doc. 20). On June 27, 2014, Ms. Mattox filed a Response to the Order to Show Cause (Doc. 21).
I. Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend
A. Legal Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) permits a party to amend its pleadings with the court's leave "when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15. "[U]nless there is a substantial reason to deny leave to amend, the discretion of the district court is not broad enough to permit denial." Burger King Corp. v. Weaver, 169 F.3d 1310, 1319 (11th Cir. 1999) (quoting Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Investment Corp., ) 660 F.2d 594, 598 (5th Cir. 1981). In other words, the Court must identify a substantial reason to justify denying the motion. Moore v. Baker, 989 F.2d 1129, 1131 (11th Cir. 1993). Substantial reasons include undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive, among others. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
Plaintiff has motioned for leave to amend the complaint in order to add Attorney James Garrity's signature to the complaint. (Doc. 16). The Court finds that Plaintiff has not acted with undue delay or dilatory motive. The Court notes that there is not yet a discovery order in place in this case setting a deadline for amending pleadings. The Court also notes that Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Amend contemporaneously with his timely response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Marie Mattox sought and received permission to appear pro hac vice in this case one week after Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment was filed. ( See ) Docket. The Court finds that Plaintiff has not acted with undue delay or a dilatory motive and seeks leave to amend the Complaint not in bad faith but as a further precautionary measure. Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend (Doc. 16) is therefore GRANTED.
II. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
A. Legal Standard
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). An issue is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Hoffman v. Allied Corp., 912 F.2d 1379, 1383 (11th Cir. 1990). A fact is "material" if it is a legal element of the claim under the applicable substantive law and it might affect the outcome of the nonmoving party's case. Allen v. Tyson Foods, 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, ) 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A judgment is appropriate "as a matter of law" ...