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Wootten v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division

September 12, 2016




         This case is before the Court on a motion for partial summary judgment on damages by Defendants Richard Holcomb, Joseph Hill, and Jeannie Thorpe ("Defendants"). (Dkt. 166). Defendants assert that Plaintiff cannot receive compensatory damages because she cannot prove an actual injury resulting from a deprivation of procedural Due Process. (Id. at 5-8).

         On January 7th and 21th, 2016, the Court entered memorandum opinions and an order on several summary judgment motions, with the result that Plaintiffs First Amendment and Title VII retaliation claims were dismissed, but judgment was granted in her favor on the issue of liability for her procedural Due Process claim. (See generally dkt. 140, available at 154 F.Supp.3d 322 (W.D. Va. 2016); dkt. 146, available at 2016 WL 264959 (W.D. Va. Jan. 21, 2016); dkt. 147 (Order)). The Court subsequently denied as both procedurally and substantively lacking Defendants' motion to reconsider my decision on the Due Process issue, in part because the motion was "effectively a full-blown, renewed motion for summary judgment." (See generally dkt. 161, available at - F.Supp.3d. -, 2016 WL 922795 (W.D. Va. Mar. 10, 2016)).

         The Court will deny Defendants' present motion. The motion represents-either in name or substance-Defendants' sixth request for summary judgment. The Court will accordingly exercise its discretion to decline to hear successive summary judgment motions. Also, the motion is untimely.


         To understand the Court's decision, a limited recapitulation of the somewhat arduous history of this case is necessary. The Court focuses primarily on deadlines related to summary judgment and the various motions seeking it.

         A. The Summary Judgment Deadline Expires

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(b) instructs that the time to file a motion for summary judgment is up to 30 days after the close of discovery, unless ordered otherwise. The original pretrial order in this case-entered on July 15, 2014-changed that deadline to 75 days before trial. (Dkt. 19 at 1). Trial was scheduled for July 14, 2015 (dkt. 24), thus setting the original summary judgment deadline for April 30, 2015. Magistrate Judge Ballou subsequently amended the deadline to 60 days before trial (dkt. 44), making such motions due on May 14, 2015. Defendants met this deadline when they sought summary judgment against the Due Process and Title VII claims on May 13, 2015. (Dkt. 86).

         In June 2015, however, the Court allowed Plaintiff to amend her complaint to add a First Amendment claim in light of an intervening Fourth Circuit decision. (Dkt. 105). This necessitated supplemental discovery and a new trial date. (Id.; dkt. 106). On July 7, 2015, Plaintiff filed her amended complaint with the First Amendment claim. (Dkt. 109). Merely three days later, Defendants filed a "renewed" summary judgment motion in order to address the First Amendment count. (Dkts. 110 & 111). The Court found such timing to be "unusual" (dkt. 111 at 2), and denied, without prejudice, the motion as premature because discovery on the claim was needed. (Dkt. 124, 125).

         B. The Second Summary Judgment Deadline Expires

         Meanwhile, a superseding pretrial order was entered on July 21, 2015, with new case deadlines and a March 1, 2016 trial date. (Dkts. 113 & 114). This order established December 17, 2015 as the new summary judgment deadline. Like the prior summary judgment date, this deadline expired, with Defendants' timely filing on December 15, 2015 a "second renewed" motion for summary judgment. (Dkts. 130 & 131). This motion focused on the new First Amendment claim and cross-referenced Defendants' still-pending motion against the Due Process and Title VII claims. (Dkt. 141 at 14-15, 24-25).

         C. The Court Rules on the Summary Judgment Motions

         In January 2016, the Court fully adjudicated all pending summary judgment motions, dismissing the First Amendment and Title VII claims but granting Plaintiff judgment on liability for a violation of procedural Due Process. (Dkts. 140, 146, 147). The Court instructed the parties to prepare for the March 1st trial. (See dkt. 148).

         D. Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration and the Continuation of Trial

         On February 11, 2016, Defendants sought reconsideration of the Court's adverse ruling on the Due Process claim, including the denial of qualified immunity, which may have been immediately appealable. (See dkts. 152 & 153). After ...

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