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Billingslea v. Graphic Packaging International, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

November 4, 2014

REGINALD BILLINGSLEA, Plaintiff,
v.
GRAPHIC PACKAGING INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant.

ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

C. ASHLEY ROYAL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Reginald Billingslea brings this employment discrimination action contending his former employer, Defendant Graphic Packaging International, Inc., discharged him based on his race in violation of 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981. Before the Court are Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. After fully considering the matter, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time to respond to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 34], and GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 27].

MOTION FOR EXTENSION OF TIME

In what has become routine practice in this case-indeed in this Court and throughout this district-Plaintiff's counsel seeks yet another extension of time to file a response to a motion filed by Defendant.[1] Counsel now requests a 21 day extension of time to respond to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment due to his involvement as lead counsel in a major criminal trial in the Superior Court of Brooks County, Georgia. However, in accordance with its prior warning, the Court will no longer tolerate counsel's delay tactics in this case.

Defendant timely filed its summary judgment Motion on July 30, 2014. Thus, Plaintiff's response was due on August 25, 2014. On Saturday, August 23rd, Plaintiff's counsel emailed this Court's Clerk's office a letter confirming a 14 day extension of time to file his response brief pursuant to Local Rule 6.2. Early Monday morning on August 25th at 9:00 am, the Clerk's office responded to counsel's email informing him that the "confirmation must be filed electronically using the Letter' event." Counsel, however, failed to correctly file his request. Instead, the next day, on August 26 at 10:11 am, Plaintiff's counsel again emailed the same letter confirming an extension of time to the Clerk's office. Two minutes later, at 10:13 am, the Clerk's office specifically instructed counsel that the letter "must be filed electronically in CM/ECF, " the Court's electronic filing system. Ignoring the Clerk's directive, Plaintiff's counsel again failed to electronically file the letter on CM/ECF. On September 4, 2014, ten days after the response was due, Plaintiff's counsel filed the current Motion seeking a 21 day extension of time to file his response.

This case has been replete with Plaintiff's counsel's failure to abide by the deadlines imposed by this Court. Defendant removed this case on January 14, 2013, and filed a motion to dismiss the next day. Plaintiff's counsel failed to timely respond to the motion. A week after the response was due, Plaintiff's counsel requested leave to file an out-of-time response, citing his secretary's inadvertent failure to enter the correct due date on his calendar. The Court granted Plaintiff's request and ordered Plaintiff to file his response by March 5, 2013. Plaintiff failed to abide by the Court's deadline and filed no response. Instead, 10 days after the response was due, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend the Complaint. The Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Title VII claim and at the same time granted Plaintiff's motion to amend the Complaint. Thereafter, Defendant filed a second motion to dismiss.

Again, Plaintiff's counsel failed to timely respond to Defendant's motion to dismiss. When Plaintiff's counsel filed his response two weeks late, he attached a letter purporting to memorialize a conversation between his secretary and a deputy clerk of this Court, wherein counsel stated that, in accordance with Local Rule 6.2, the clerk granted him a 14 day extension to respond to the motion. Although an extension was never entered on the record, the Court accepted counsel's explanation and considered his response in granting in part and denying in part Defendant's second motion to dismiss.[2] In its Order, the Court directed the parties to file their joint proposed scheduling and discovery order no later than September 26, 2013.

Yet again, Plaintiff's counsel failed to comply with the Court's deadline, filing a unilateral proposed order three days late, on September 30, 2013. As a result, the Court ordered the parties to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed for failing to abide by the Court's deadlines. In its Order, the Court expressed its impatience with Plaintiff's counsel's delay tactics and failures to abide by the Court's deadlines: "Until this point, the Court has tolerated Plaintiff's counsel's tardiness in responding to motions and abiding by the Court's deadlines. However, the Court's patience has run."[3] At the hearing, the Court addressed Plaintiff's counsel and admonished him for his tardiness but did not impose sanctions.

Thereafter, the Court entered a discovery order setting a deadline of May 1, 2014, for discovery to end. Plaintiff's counsel requested a 45 day extension to take three additional depositions which, over Defendant's objections, the Court granted. Discovery closed on June 15, 2014. Defendant filed its summary judgment Motion on July 30, 2014, and Plaintiff's response was due on August 25, 2014.

Before expiration of the response deadline, Plaintiff's counsel once again attempted to receive a 14 day extension from the Clerk pursuant to Local Rule 6.2. Yet, despite having previously failed to properly secure this same type of extension when responding to Defendant's motion to dismiss, and despite having received two emails from the Clerk's office informing counsel that he must file the extension on the docket in the Court's electronic filing system, counsel still failed to properly file the extension. Now, Plaintiff's counsel requests yet another extension of time to file a response to Defendant's motion.

This Court has been more than generous in allowing Plaintiff's counsel to file out of time responses. However, as it warned in its previous order, the Court will no longer tolerate counsel's tardiness in responding to motions and his failure to abide by the Court's deadlines. "In the courts, there is room for only so much lenity. The district court must consider the equities not only to plaintiff and his counsel, but also to the opposing parties and counsel, as well as to the public, including those persons affected by the court's increasingly crowded docket. Counsel must take responsibility for the obligations to which he committed and get the work done by the deadline."[4] The Court will not allow Plaintiff's counsel to continue delaying the resolution of this case. Thus, the request to file an out-of-time response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

LEGAL STANDARD

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment must be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[5] A genuine issue of material fact only exists when "there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party."[6] Thus, summary judgment must be granted if there is insufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party or, in other words, if reasonable minds could not differ as to the ...


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