United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Albany Division
MARSHA M. AARON, Plaintiff,
BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF GEORGIA, Defendant
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MARSHA M AARON, Plaintiff, Pro se, ALBANY, GA.
For UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF GEORGIA BOARD OF REGENTS, Defendant: Annette M. Cowart, LEAD ATTORNEY, Dept of Law, State of Georgia, Office of Georgia Attorney General, Atlanta, GA; Kimberly Blue Lewis, Dept. of Law, State of Georgia, Atlanta, GA.
W. LOUIS SANDS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Presently before the Court is Defendant Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia's Motion to Strike (Doc. 53) and Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 35.) For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Strike is DENIED and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
Plaintiff Marsha M. Aaron filed her initial complaint in the above-captioned matter on October 8, 2010, asserting claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., (hereinafter " Title VII" ) for retaliation, race discrimination, sex discrimination, and hostile work environment. (Doc. 1.) On December 17, 2011, the Court entered an Order dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for lack of jurisdiction since the claims asserted in its view, were identical to those alleged in Aaron v. Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, et al., No. 1:08-cv-067-WLS (M.D. Ga. Aug. 30, 2010) (hereinafter " Aaron I" ), which was dismissed by the Court with prejudice pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(1)(A)(ii). (Doc. 2.) On March 1, 2011, Plaintiff moved the Court to reconsider her complaint, contending the claims raised in her present complaint were not excluded in the parties' settlement agreement concluding Aaron I. (Doc. 6.) On April 27, 2011, the Court noted " it appears that Plaintiff's instant case is barred by the doctrine of res judicata" but in an abundance of caution, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, it would reconsider her claims and allow Plaintiff to amend her complaint. (Doc. 7.) The Court also noted that granting reconsideration of Plaintiff's amended complaint " is in no way indicative of any future findings, and shall carry no precedential value." (Doc. 7, at 4.)
On March 29, 2012, Plaintiff filed her amended complaint in the above-captioned matter again asserting the same claims under Title VII against Defendant as principal for Albany State University (" ASU" ): retaliation, race discrimination, sex discrimination, and hostile work environment. (Doc. 12.) On December 10, 2012, Defendant answered Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. 18.) On December 20, 2012, Defendant brought the present Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. 35.) According to Defendant, Plaintiff's discrimination claim fails for the following reasons: (1) Plaintiff's claims are time-barred; (2) Plaintiff fails to establish a prima facie case for retaliation, race discrimination, sex discrimination, and hostile work environment; and (3) Plaintiff's hostile work environment claim is barred by collateral estoppel. (Doc. 35-1, at 5.)
On January 2, 2014, in accordance with the Court's procedures governing notice to pro se plaintiffs, the Court issued an order directing Plaintiff to file a response by January 23, 2014, in opposition to Defendant's Motion. (Doc. 37.) Plaintiff was noticed, pursuant to the procedures and policies of the Court, that motions
were normally decided on briefs. ( Id. 37, at 1.) Additionally, Plaintiff was notified of the requirement to respond in opposition to Defendant's Motion with " affidavits, depositions, documents" and rely with specificity upon evidence that is part of the Record. ( Id., at 2.) Plaintiff was also reminded, " [i]f a party fails or refuses to file any materials in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, a FINAL judgment may be rendered against that party if otherwise appropriate under the law. In that event, there would be no trial or any further proceedings." ( Id.) (emphasis added.) Plaintiff's first response was not filed until January 23, 2014, five days past the Court's established deadline. (Doc. 38.) On February 10, 2014, Plaintiff then requested leave to file a later response to the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 42.) On February 12, 2014, as a result of Plaintiff receiving an unauthorized extension, Plaintiff was allowed to file a response no later than February 17, 2014. (Doc. 43.) The Court also made abundantly clear " no further extensions will be granted except to prevent manifest injustice, and, in that regard, only upon timely written motion to the Court." ( Id., at 2.) On Friday 18, 2014, a day later than ordered, the Court received Plaintiff's response. On March 3, 2014, along with filing its Reply, (Doc. 52.), Defendant also filed a Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Response. (Doc. 53.) Plaintiff replied to Defendant's Motion to Strike on March 13, 2014. (Doc. 55.)
I. Defendant's Motion to Strike
As a preliminary matter, Defendant moved to strike Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 45.) Defendant moves to strike Plaintiff's Response since it was filed on February 18, 2014, a day later than ordered by the Court. Plaintiff, in her response to Defendant's Motion to Strike, suggests her failure to timely file was due to technical difficulties. (Doc. 55.) Per Plaintiff, technical difficulties with filing her response remained unresolved on February 17, 2014 since it was a federal holiday and there was no assistance available from the Court as a result of the Clerk's Office closure. (Doc. 55.)
Plaintiff's continual failure to abide by the Court's ordered deadlines is troubling. Parties are responsible for following the Court's orders, or alternatively, making the Court aware of its inability to meet the requisite deadline. Nevertheless, the Court is given broad discretion in deciding how to best manage cases before it. Chudasama v. Mazda Motor Corp., 123 F.3d 1353, 1366 (11th Cir. 1997). In interest of best evaluating Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on the merits, and as result of Plaintiff's plausible yet questionable explanation for filing her response a day late and following an official holiday, the Court will consider Plaintiff's Response. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion to Strike is DENIED. (Doc. 53.)
II. Defendant's Summary Judgment Motion
A. Summary Judgment Standard
a. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56
" Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Chow v. Chak Yam Chau, 555 F.App'x 842, 2014 WL 92094, *3 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Maddox v. Stephens, 727 F.3d 1109, 1118 (11th Cir. 2013)). " A genuine issue of material fact does not exist unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor." Grimes v. Miami Dade Cnty., 552 F.App'x 902, 904 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Chapman v. AI Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000)). " An issue of fact is 'material' if it is a legal element of the claim under the applicable substantive law which might affect the outcome of the case." Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). " It is 'genuine' if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998 (11th Cir. 1992) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)).
The movant bears the initial burden of showing, by reference to the record, that there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Barreto v. Davie Marketplace, LLC, 331 F.App'x 672, 673 (11th Cir. 2009). The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence showing there is no genuine dispute of material fact, or by demonstrating to the district court that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-24. Once the movant has met its burden, the nonmoving party is required " to go beyond the pleadings" and identify " specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324. To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party " must do more than summarily deny the allegations or 'show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.' " Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (citations omitted). Instead, the nonmovant must point to record evidence that would be admissible at trial. See Jones v. UPS Ground Freight, 683 F.3d 1283, 1294 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Macuba v. Deboer, 193 F.3d 1316, 1322 (11th Cir. 1999)) (noting that hearsay may be considered on a motion for summary judgment only if it " could be reduced to admissible evidence at trial or reduced to admissible form" ). Such evidence may include affidavits or declarations that are based on personal knowledge of the affiant or declarant. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).
On a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view all evidence and factual inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether that evidence could reasonably sustain a jury verdict in its favor. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23; Allen, 121 F.3d at 646. However, the Court must grant summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
b. Local Rule 56
Local Rule 56 requires the ...