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Dean v. Deptford Township

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 7, 2015

TAHARQU DEAN, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPTFORD TOWNSHIP, et al., Defendants.

David Andrew Berlin, Esquire, Matthew Benjamin Weisberg, Esquire, Weisberg Law, Morton, Pennsylvania, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Vanessa Elaine James, Esquire Barker Scott & Gelfand PC, Linwood, New Jersey, Attorneys for Defendants Deptford Township, Michael DiVito, and John Storms.

Patrick J. Madden, Esquire Timothy R. Bieg, Esquire Madden & Madden, PA, Haddonfield, New Jersey, Attorneys for Defendants Gloucester County, Gloucester County Department of Correctional Services, and Jesse Yamada.

Linda A. Galella, Esquire Richardson, Galella & Austermuhl, Woodbury, New Jersey. Attorneys for Defendants C. Finnegan and S. Borton.

OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court by way of Plaintiff's appeal [Doc. No. 118] of the April 16, 2015 Order issued by the Honorable Karen M. Williams, United States Magistrate Judge, denying Plaintiff's request to reopen discovery for the limited purpose of deposing Defendants Scott Borton and Charles Finnegan. The Court has considered the submissions of the parties and decides this matter pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's appeal is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

As the Court writes primarily for the parties who are familiar with the facts and procedural history of this case, the Court sets forth only those facts necessary to put Plaintiff's current appeal in context. Plaintiff filed the initial complaint on August 29, 2013. Defendants Borton and Finnegan were not named as defendants at that time, although the complaint named "John Doe" defendants. Plaintiff, pursuant to an Order dated April 29, 2014, was granted leave to file an amended complaint, and Plaintiff filed the amended complaint on May 8, 2014. In the amended complaint, Plaintiff added Defendants Borton and Finnegan as parties and asserted four causes of action against these individuals.

On September 4, 2014, Defendants Borton and Finnegan filed an answer to the amended complaint. On September 23, 2014, Defendants Borton and Finnegan file a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) on the ground that Plaintiff's claims against these defendants were time-barred and did not relate back to the filing of the original complaint. (Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss Compl. Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(c) as to Defs. Corrections Officer Charles Finnegan and Corrections Officer Scott Borton [Doc. No. 97-2], at 4-16.) Plaintiff filed opposition to the motion on November 4, 2014, arguing that a decision on the relation back issue requires a fact-sensitive inquiry. (Mem. of Law in Supp. of Pl.'s Response in Opp. to Defs., Borton, et al.'s Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 101], at 2.) In his opposition papers, Plaintiff requested leave to take discovery on the issues of whether there was a commonality of interest between the moving defendants and other defendants, and whether the moving defendants had notice of the filing of the original complaint. (Id. at 4.)

After Defendants Borton and Finnegan filed their motion for judgment on the pleadings, but before Plaintiff filed opposition to the motion, Defendants Borton and Finnegan were deposed by Plaintiff's counsel. (Decl. of Linda A. Galella [Doc. No. 119-2], Exs. A, B.) Defendant Finnegan was deposed on October 23, 2014, and Defendant Borton was deposed on November 3, 2014. (Id.) Thereafter, Magistrate Judge Williams granted several extensions of time for the completion of fact discovery. (See, e.g., Amended Scheduling Order [Doc. No. 104], Dec. 17, 2014; Amended Scheduling Order [Doc. No. 105], Jan. 28, 2015; Amended Scheduling Order [Doc. No. 107], Mar. 4, 2015.) On March 4, 2015, Magistrate Judge Williams entered a Scheduling Order which extended pretrial fact discovery to March 31, 2015. (Amended Scheduling Order [Doc. No. 107] ΒΆ 1.)

On March 30, 2015, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order (hereafter, "Opinion") on Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, which was entered on the docket on April 1, 2015. (Mem. Op. and Order [Doc. No. 109], Mar. 30, 2015.) In the Opinion, the Court noted that Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Borton and Finnegan were not filed within the statute of limitations, and that such claims would be timebarred unless they related back under New Jersey Court Rules 4:26-4 or 4:9-3 or under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(C). (Id. at 4, 9.) The Court, however, could not decide the relation back issue without considering evidence outside of the pleadings. (Id. at 9.) Accordingly, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d), the Court converted the motion to a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Id.) The parties were directed to agree on a briefing schedule for the submission of supplemental briefs and evidence. (Id.) Counsel for Defendants Borton and Finnegan advised the Court by letter dated April 6, 2015 that Plaintiff would submit a brief by April 24, 2015, and Defendants Borton and Finnegan would submit a responsive brief by May 1, 2015.[1] (Letter from Linda A. Galella, Esq. [Doc. No. 110], Apr. 6, 2015.)

Counsel for Plaintiff then sent a letter to Magistrate Judge Williams requesting entry of an Order compelling Defendants Borton and Finnegan to appear for a telephonic deposition on the issue of relation back. In the letter, Plaintiff's counsel noted that this Court's Opinion was entered after Defendants Borton and Finnegan were deposed, and discovery needed to be reopened to obtain evidence in connection with the issues addressed in the Opinion. (Letter from Matthew B. Weisberg, Esq. [Doc. No. 111], Apr. 9, 2015.) Plaintiff's counsel indicated that the depositions of Defendants Borton and Finnegan that were taken during the discovery period were not intended to obtain testimony in connection with the pending motion to dismiss. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff's counsel further argued that he could not have anticipated the issues of fact that were raised in this Court's Opinion, thus warranting discovery on the issues identified by the Court. (Id.)

Magistrate Judge Williams held a telephone conference to address Plaintiff's request for additional depositions. On April 16, 2015, Judge Williams entered an Order denying the request, stating as follows: "Plaintiff's request to re-open discovery, albeit for the limited purpose of redeposing defendants Borton and Finnegan, is denied. Simply stated, plaintiff has failed to establish good cause for either failing to meet the March 31, 2015 fact discovery end date, or for requesting an extension of the fact discovery deadline established in the March 4, 2015 Amended Scheduling Order." (Order [Doc. No. 116], Apr. 16, 2015.) Magistrate Judge Williams also reviewed this Court's Opinion and concluded that this Court did not invite or direct the parties to engage in additional discovery, but rather only ordered additional briefing on the relation back issue. (Id.)

Plaintiff now appeals Magistrate Judge Williams' April 16, 2015 Order, arguing that there was good cause to reopen discovery for the limited purpose of deposing Defendants Borton and Finnegan on the issues raised in the March 30, 2015 Opinion. Plaintiff argues that when this Court converted the motion for judgment on the pleadings to a motion for summary judgment, it implicitly ordered the reopening of discovery. (Pl.'s Appeal from and Objections to Order of the Magistrate Judge [Doc. No. 118], at 2.) Plaintiff also argues that there was good cause to reopen discovery because Defendants Borton and Finnegan were ...


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