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Alfone v. Town of Boonton

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 29, 2017

GREGORY ALFONE, Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF BOONTON et al, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES B. CLARK, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on motions filed by Plaintiff Gregory Alfone (“Plaintiff”) for leave to file an amended complaint and to compel the production of internal affairs documents. (ECF Nos. 26, 32). Defendants Town of Boonton, Town of Boonton Police Department (“Boonton PD”), Police Officer Christopher Petonak (“Officer Petonak”), Police Officer Stephen Jones (“Lieutenant Jones”), Police Officer Anthony Limandri (“Officer Limandri”), and Police Officer Andre Gibson (“Officer Gibson”) (collectively referred to as “Boonton Defendants”) oppose Plaintiff's motions. (ECF Nos. 29, 33). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint is DENIED, and Plaintiff's motion to compel the production of internal affairs documents is DENIED in part, and GRANTED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         By way of background, this action arises from an incident occurring on April 29, 2014, which involved Plaintiff and Boonton Defendants. (Compl., ECF No. 1). Plaintiff claims Boonton Defendants illegally entered his apartment, assaulted him, and falsely arrested him. Id. Based on these events, Plaintiff commenced this action on September 3, 2015 by the filing of his Complaint. Id. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges eight causes of action including assault and battery, false arrest, violations of the fourth and fifth amendments, civil conspiracy, and negligent hiring and/or training. Id. On December 15, 2015, the Court entered a Pretrial Scheduling Order directing the parties to file motions for leave to amend the pleadings and/or to add new parties no later than March 11, 2016. (ECF No. 14).

         On March 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his Complaint to add a cause of action for failure to supervise and to add two new Boonton Police Officers, Leroy Harris (“Officer Harris”) and Steven Kairys (“Officer Kairys”), as Defendants. (Pl.'s Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 29). In addition, Plaintiff seeks to withdraw his original negligent hiring and/or training claim, and to withdraw all claims against Officer Gibson. Id. According to Plaintiff, he has learned that Officer Gibson was not involved in the incident in question. Id.

         Boonton Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion to amend. (See Defs.' Br. in Opp'n, ECF No. 29). They argue that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate good cause and should not be permitted to add new parties and a new claim. Id. They further argue that Plaintiff failed to meet the standard for leave to file an amended complaint under Rule 15(a)(2) because there has been extensive delay and Boonton Defendants will be severely prejudiced. Id. On the other hand, Boonton Defendants do not oppose Plaintiff's proposed amendments to withdraw Officer Gibson and his original claim for negligent hiring and/or training. Id.

         Subsequently, On May 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel seeking production of the internal affairs files of the Boonton Defendants, Officer Leroy Harris and Officer Steven Kairys. Plaintiff claims that he filed the present motion to compel because the Boonton PD refused to provide the internal affairs files, and resolution of this issue could not be reached. (Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 32).

         Boonton Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion to compel. (See Defs.' Opp'n Letter, ECF No. 33). Boonton Defendants argue that they will be “greatly prejudiced” if the Court compels production of the internal affairs files because “they will be forced at the eleventh hour of discovery to address any new issues that arise out of the internal affairs files.” Id. at 4. Boonton Defendants further argue that should the Court grant Plaintiff's motion to compel, the Court should limit the production of internal affairs files to the following: (1) the files of the named Defendants only; (2) files from the past five years; (3) and files that deal with complaints of assault and battery, false arrest, conspiracy, illegal search and seizure, violations of the self-incrimination clause, and violations of the equal protection clause.” Id. at 4. Lastly, Boonton Defendants contend that any production of internal affairs files must be strictly governed and protected by the Confidentiality Order that this Court entered on January 9, 2016. Id. at 8.

         II. MOTION TO AMEND

         A. Legal Standard

         “The threshold issue in resolving a motion to amend is the determination of whether the motion is governed by Rule 15 or Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works, LLC, 2011 WL 5170445, at *2 (W.D.Pa. Oct. 31, 2011). Rule 15 states, in pertinent part, “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The Court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “Rule 16, on the other hand, requires a party to demonstrate ‘good cause' prior to the Court amending its scheduling order.” Karlo, 2011 WL 5170445, at *2 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4)). In situations such as the present, where a party seeks to amend “after the deadline for doing so set by the Court, the movant must satisfy the [good cause standard] of Rule 16 before the Court will turn to Rule 15.” Id. at *2; see also Dimensional Commc'n, Inc. v. OZ Optics, Ltd., 148 Fed.Appx. 82, 85 (3d Cir. 2005) (instructing that the Third Circuit has adopted a good cause standard when determining the propriety of a motion to amend after the deadline has elapsed).

         Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes courts to enter schedules of proceedings. The pretrial scheduling order allows a court to take “judicial control over a case and to schedule dates for completion by the parties of the principal pretrial steps.” Harrison Beverage Co. v. Dribeck Imps., Inc., 133 F.R.D. 463, 469 (D.N.J. Oct. 19, 1990) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 16 advisory committee's note (1983 Amendment)); see also Newton v. A.C. & S., Inc., 918 F.2d 1121, 1126 (3d Cir. 1990) (stating the purpose of Rule 16 is to provide for judicial control over cases, streamline proceedings, maximize efficiency of the court system, and actively manage the timetable of case preparation to expedite speedy and efficient disposition of cases).

         A scheduling order must, among other things, “limit the time to join other parties, amend the pleadings, complete discovery, and file motions.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(3)(A). The requirement of a deadline for amending pleadings in the pretrial scheduling order “assures that at some point . . . the pleadings will be fixed.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b) advisory committee's note (1983 Amendment); see also Harrison, 133 F.R.D. at 469 (“The careful scheme of reasonable framing and enforcement of scheduling orders for case management would thus be nullified if a party could inject amended pleadings upon a showing of less than good cause after scheduling deadlines have expired”). The burden is on the moving party to show “good cause” for its failure to comply with the applicable scheduling order, and accordingly, for the Court to allow its proposed amended pleading. Prince v. Aiellos, No. 09-5429, 2012 WL 1883812, at *6 (D.N.J. May 22, 2012) (quoting Graham, 271 F.R.D. at 118); see also Race Tires Am., Inc. v. Hoosier Racing Tire Corp., 614 F.3d 57, 84 (3d Cir. 2010) (affirming the trial court's holding that “Rule 16(b)(4) focuses on the moving party's burden to show due diligence”).

         Whether “good cause” exists under Rule 16 hinges to a large extent on the diligence, or lack thereof, of the moving party. GlobespanVirata, Inc. v. Texas Instruments, Inc., 2005 WL 1638136, at *3 (D.N.J. July 12, 2005) (quoting Rent-A-Ctr. v. Mamaroneck Ave. Corp., 215 F.R.D. 100, 104 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 9, 2003)). Put succinctly, “[a]bsent diligence, there is no ‘good cause.' ” Chancellor v. Pottsgrove Sch. Dist.,501 F.Supp.2d 695, 702 (E.D.Pa. Aug.8, 2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b), advisory committee's note (1983 Amendment) (“[T]he ...


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