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Brown v. Cobb County

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

April 1, 2015

JAMES BROWN and CRAIG OWENS, Plaintiffs,
v.
COBB COUNTY, GEORGIA, and JOHN R. HOUSER, in his individual capacity, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs James Brown ("Brown") and Craig Owens's ("Owens") (together, "Plaintiffs") Objections [77] to Magistrate Judge Walter E. Johnson's January 2, 2015, Order [74], striking the parties' statements of fact [59.2, 61.2, 72.2, 73.2], and directing them to file revised statements that comply with the Court's Local Rules.

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises from alleged discriminatory employment practices in Cobb County, Georgia. Plaintiffs, Lieutenants in the Cobb County Police Department, allege that Defendants Cobb County, Georgia, and John R. Houser, the former Chief of Police for the Cobb County Police Department (together, "Defendants"), discriminated against them on the basis of their race by failing to promote them to the rank of Captain. Plaintiffs assert claims for violation of the Equal Protection Clause (Count I), race discrimination (Count II) and retaliation (Count III). Owens also alleges that his military service was a substantial or motivating factor in Defendants' decision to deny him a promotion and he asserts claims for discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA"), 38 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq. (Counts IV-V).

On May 29, 2013, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint [1], which they amended [3] on June 19, 2013.

On October 17, 2014, Defendants moved for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' shared claims in Counts I-III ("First Motion") [59], and, in a separate motion, for summary judgment on Owens's USERRA claims in Counts IV-V ("Second Motion") [61] (together, the "Motions"). Defendants submitted separate Statements of Material Fact ("First SOMF" [59.2] and "Second SOMF" [61.2]), and Plaintiffs together, and Owens individually, filed corresponding Responses [72, 73] and Statements of Additional Fact ("First SOAF" [72.2] and "Second SOAF" [73.2]).

The length of these six (6) documents is staggering. The parties' submissions, not including their briefs or exhibits, total over 304 pages.[1] Defendants submit 81 pages, consisting of over 296 material facts[2] to which they contend there is no genuine issue to be tried. Plaintiffs and Owens submit 223 additional pages, consisting of their objections to the majority of Defendants' undisputed facts and asserting 347 additional facts which, they claim, are material and present a genuine issue for trial.

On January 2, 2015, Magistrate Judge Walter E. Johnson issued his Order [74], striking the parties' statements of fact and directing them to file revised statements of fact that comply with the Court's Local Rules. The Magistrate Judge found that the parties' statements of fact violated the Court's Local Rules, including because they were not concise and many of Defendants' numbered facts contain multiple sentences. The Magistrate Judge determined that "[c]ompiling a statement of facts from these submissions would impose an incredible drain on the Court's limited resources, as [the Court] would be forced to verify hundreds of record citations and resolve hundreds of objections, " "effectively thwart[ing] the purpose of Rule 56.1 and forc[ing] the Court to engage in a disorderly, inefficient, and uneconomical process of dispute resolution." (Jan. 2, 2015, Order at 2-3).

On January 16, 2015, Plaintiffs filed their Objections [77], seeking to have the Court vacate or set aside the Magistrate Judge's Order and direct him to consider Plaintiffs' submissions. In the alternative, Plaintiffs request that the Court "fully consider de novo all of the facts contained in Plaintiffs' [SOAFs]... upon any eventual Objections that Plaintiffs may file in the event that the Magistrate Judge recommends summary judgment be granted in favor of the Defendants on any of Plaintiffs' claims." (Obj. at 6).

Also on January 16, 2015, Defendants filed their revised SOMFs. Defendants do not object to the Magistrate Judge's January 2nd Order and they have not responded to Plaintiffs' Objections.

II. DISCUSSION

A magistrate judge has the authority to decide certain nondispositive pretrial matters, and "the court may reconsider any pretrial matter [within the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge] where it has been shown that the magistrate judge's order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a) (district judge "must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the [magistrate judge's] order [on a nondispositive pretrial matter] that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law").

In their Objections, Plaintiffs claim that the Magistrate Judge wrongly "assumed without deciding that the parties had asserted facts that were not material to the resolution of Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment, and that the parties' responses to each other's asserted facts were not concise." (Obj. at 5). Plaintiffs contend that the length of their submissions were necessary due to the complexity of this case, which involves thirteen (13) promotions over a seven-year period, and because the parties produced over 20, 000 pages of documents and conducted seven (7) depositions during discovery. The Court disagrees.

It is well-established that "local rules generally reflect the court's traditional authority to manage their own affairs so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases.'" Reese v. Herbert, 527 F.3d 1253, 1267-68 (11th Cir. 2008) (quoting Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. v. ...


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