Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

EVANS v. PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY

February 25, 2003

NEVILLE EVANS, PLAINTIFF,
V.
THE PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lewis A. Kaplan, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The plaintiff in this employment discrimination case, Neville Evans, is an engineer at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (the "Authority") who believes that he repeatedly has been passed over for promotion because he is African-American. The complaint asserted also that plaintiff was subjected to a hostile work environment and that defendants retaliated against him for complaining about alleged racial discrimination at the Authority. The hostile work environment claim, some of the failure-to-promote claims, and claims against a number of individual defendants were dismissed on summary judgment.*fn1 The case was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of the remaining defendants on all points.

On February 19, 2003, plaintiff submitted a motion for a new trial to the Clerk. It was not accompanied by proof of service or by a memorandum of law as required.*fn2 The motion therefore is denied. In the alternative, however, the Court denies the motion on the merits. Only three points warrant discussion*fn3 — plaintiff's contentions that (1) the Court's imposition and enforcement of time limits on the presentations of both sides was inappropriate and prejudicial,*fn4 (2) the Court questioned the veracity of plaintiff's counsel while accepting without questions representations made by opposing counsel,*fn5 and (3) the verdict was against the weight of the evidence.*fn6 Unfortunately, the nature of plaintiff's motion requires comments concerning his counsel that the Court would have preferred to leave unmade.

I The Time Limitation

Prior to trial, the Court imposed time limits on the parties' presentations. Despite expansion of those limits during the trial, the plaintiff ran out of time prior to the completion of defendants' case. While the Court gave its reasons when it enforced the time limit against the plaintiff,*fn7 further elaboration is appropriate in light of the motion now before the Court.

A. The Background of the Time Limitation — Problems With Plaintiff's Counsel Prior to Trial

As the record in this case amply reveals, plaintiff's counsel, Stephen T. Mitchell, Esq., failed from the outset to cooperate in discovery and pretrial proceedings.*fn8

The most egregious example was his failure to respond to the Authority's October 2000 interrogatories, which sought the identity of all persons with knowledge or information relevant to the subject matter of this action and the aspects of the matter concerning which each was knowledgeable. This episode is amply detailed in Evans v. Port Authority, 201 F.R.D. 96 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) ("Evans I"), as clarified by Order, Jan. 21, 2003, and will not be repeated here. But it was not the only instance of what can be described only as Mr. Mitchell's recalcitrance during pretrial proceedings.*fn9 The Court notes here only one additional example: Mr. Mitchell's behavior concerning the joint pretrial order.

The joint pretrial order initially was due in June 2001. On or about June 15, 2001, Mr. Mitchell submitted a document entitled "Plaintiff's Proposals for a Joint Pretrial Order" to which he signed the name of the Authority's attorney, followed by his own initials, thus suggesting that the document was submitted on behalf of plaintiff and the Authority defendants.*fn10 It later developed that counsel for the Authority defendants had authorized Mr. Mitchell to submit a joint pretrial order on her behalf provided certain changes were made in plaintiff's draft. The changes were not made. Mr. Mitchell signed her name to the document and submitted it anyway. He never told his adversary that he had done so.*fn11 But that was not the end of the story.

The Court did not approve the pretrial order submitted by Mr. Mitchell, as it did not bear signatures on behalf of all of the defendants. On April 5, 2002, the Court granted in part and denied in part the Authority defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint.*fn12 Bearing in mind both that the decision had narrowed the case and the absence of an approved joint pretrial order, the Court, on August 5, 2002, directed the submission of a joint pretrial order by September 3, 2002. But Mr. Mitchell, who as plaintiff's counsel was obliged to prepare and submit a draft to the defendants' counsel,*fn13 simply ignored the order.*fn14 In consequence, no joint pretrial order ever was prepared.*fn15

B. The Adoption of the Initial Time Limits

As the trial approached, the Court focused on the potential difficulties of managing the trial in the absence of a joint pretrial order, particularly given the problems concerning the identification of possible witnesses that are detailed in Evans I and the deficiencies in Mr. Mitchell's papers on the summary judgment motion.*fn16 Accordingly, on January 14, 2003, the Court issued an order to show cause why the presentations of each side should not be limited to 13.5 hours.*fn17 This reflected the Court's best estimate of the time required competently to present this case based, among other things, on the nature of the remaining issues, the June 2001 proposed pretrial order, and the number of witnesses each side likely would call.

On January 17, 2003, Mr. Mitchell responded with a letter vaguely claiming that he would need more time. He stated that he intended to call 23 witnesses, including several who had been precluded by the decision in Evans I. At oral argument, despite its earlier order to the contrary, the Court decided to allow plaintiff to call a number of the previously precluded witnesses.*fn18 While it adopted the 13.5 hour time limitation, it made clear that it remained flexible and would consider, as the trial progressed, any reasonable application to expand this limitation.*fn19 It cautioned, however, that it would take into account, in passing on any such requests, whether the time allotted had been used efficiently.*fn20

C. The Commencement of the Trial

By the time the case went to trial, all that remained were three alleged failure-to-promote claims and a narrow retaliation claim although, to be sure, plaintiff was entitled to, and the Court granted, latitude to adduce background evidence and to attempt to demonstrate an insensitivity or unresponsiveness by the Authority toward racial prejudice in the workplace.*fn21

Plaintiff began his case by calling Joseph Durando, who was involved in the selection process for one of the positions to which plaintiff aspired. Mr. Mitchell spent part of his direct examination questioning Mr. Durando about the qualifications the Authority had established for the position. At the end of the day, out of the presence of the jury, the Court commented to Mr. Mitchell as follows:

"[I]t may be helpful simply to say to Mr. Mitchell that you did not make much use of your time today. You could have offered in evidence the job bulletin. You would have had in front of the jury right away exactly what the qualifications were, and you would have saved a large amount of time that was spent essentially arguing with the witness about whether he remembered what the job posting said and various other things that the record will ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.