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Beckles v. City of New York

May 10, 2010

BECKLES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendants have objected pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a) to certain nondispositive pretrial orders made on December 28, 2009 and January 19, 2010 by Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV in this action (collectively, the "Orders"). Plaintiff has cross-moved for sanctions against defendants' counsel pursuant to Rule 11. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' objections [48] to the Orders are without merit and are hereby overruled. Plaintiff's cross-motion for sanctions is also denied.

BACKGROUND

This is an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest and excessive force stemming from plaintiff's arrest by New York City Police officers on July 3, 2007. Plaintiff has amended her complaint several times since the action was filed on April 17, 2008. Most recently, plaintiff submitted the Fourth Amended complaint on October 21, 2009, which added as defendants six officers not previously named who had been identified in discovery as having responded to the 911 call which led to plaintiff's arrest (the "responding officer defendants").*fn1 It does not appear that plaintiff obtained leave to file a Fourth Amended Complaint before filing it.

The action is currently in the midst of discovery. The discovery process has been contentious at times and has been supervised by Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV since mid-September 2009. Over the course of the discovery process, plaintiff has sought to obtain information sufficient to enable her to identify which particular officer(s) allegedly used excessive force against her. As it relevant here, plaintiff is now seeking to obtain, among other things, photos of the responding officer defendants to enable her to identify which officer(s) used excessive force against her.

On December 28, 2009, after the parties had exchanged letters regarding plaintiff's request for photos of the responding officer defendants and a number of other issues, Judge Francis held a conference and issued an Order (the "December 28, 2009 Order") which, inter alia, required defendants "[to] produce photos of the seven responding officer defendants for purposes of a photo identification" with "no 'filler' photos [to] be used" and which granted plaintiff's application to file the Fourth Amended Complaint nunc pro tunc.*fn2 (See Docket Entry No. 39.)

On January 15, 2010, defendants filed a motion for reconsideration of the portion of the December 28, 2009 Order which directed defendants to produce photos of the seven responding officer defendants without requiring those photos to be shown to plaintiff in a photo array with 'filler' photos. Defendants argued that the absence of fillers could lead to an unreliable identification procedure. On January 19, 2010, Judge Francis denied this motion by endorsing it with the statement, "Application denied as untimely" (the "January 19, 2010 Order"). (See Docket Entry No. 44.)

On January 29, 2010, defendants filed the present Rule 72(a) objections to the Orders. Defendants object to the portions of Judge Francis' December 28, 2009 Order which (1) directed "defendants [to] produce photos of the seven responding officer defendants for purposes of a photo identification" with "no 'filler' photos [to] be used;" and (2) granted plaintiff's application to file the Fourth Amended Complaint nunc pro tunc. Defendants also object to the January 19, 2009 Order denying defendants' January 15, 2010 motion for reconsideration. Plaintiff cross-moved for sanctions against defendants' counsel pursuant to Rule 11 on the ground that defendants' Rule 72(a) objections are baseless and were filed simply to delay the litigation and harass plaintiff.

DISCUSSION

1. Standard of Review

In evaluating an order by a Magistrate Judge with respect to a nondispositive pretrial matter where timely objections are made thereto, the district court shall, pursuant to Rule 72(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a). A decision is "clearly erroneous" when the Court, "upon review of the entire record, [is] left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. Snow, 462 F.3d 55, 72 (2d Cir. 2006). "[A] magistrate judge's resolution of a nondispositive matter should be afforded substantial deference and may be overturned only if found to have been an abuse of discretion." McAllan v. Von Essen, 517 F.Supp.2d 672, 678 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (citation omitted).

2. Judge Francis Did Not Err in Denying Defendants' Request for an Extension of Time to File a Motion for Reconsideration of the December 28, 2009 Order

Defendants object to Judge Francis' January 19, 2010 Order, which denied defendants motion for reconsideration of the December 28, 2009 Order as untimely, and implicitly denied defendants' request for an extension of time to file the motion for reconsideration. Defendants contend that Judge Francis abused his discretion by denying defendants' request for an extension of time because defendants' failure to file the motion by the deadline constituted "excusable neglect" within the meaning of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b)(1)(B). Defendants also argue that Judge Francis should have considered the merits of the motion even though he determined that it was untimely. The Court disagrees, and holds that Judge Francis' Orders were neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law.

By way of background, Local Civil Rule 6.3, which governs motions for reconsideration in this district, provides that, "[u]nless otherwise provided by statute or rule (such as Fed. R. Civ. P. 50, 52, or 59), a notice of motion for reconsideration or reargument of a court order determining a motion shall be served within fourteen (14) days after the entry of the court's determination of the original motion. . ." See Local Civil Rule 6.3. In computing time, the Local Civil Rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended effective December 1, 2009, do not exclude Saturdays, Sundays or legal holidays; however, "i[]f the last day of the period is a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, the period continues to run until the end of the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday." See Local Civil Rule 6.4. Because the December 28, 2009 Order was entered onto the docket on December 30, 2009, the deadline for filing a motion for reconsideration of the order was January 13, 2010, fourteen days after the date of entry. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a)(1), (6); Local Civil Rule 6.2, 6.3, 6.4.

Defendants' motion for reconsideration, filed on January 15, 2010, was, by defendants' admission, two days late. (See Frank Decl., Ex. F.) Defendants never submitted a request for an extension of the relevant deadline prior to expiry of the deadline. Defendants simply made a request for a two day extension of time in the penultimate paragraph of the untimely motion by stating that "[d]ue to the holiday season and a medical emergency that required the undersigned to take sick leave from January 6, 2010 through January 8, 2010, defendants were unable to move for reconsideration within the fourteen (14) days as required by Local Civil Rule 6.3. Accordingly, defendants respectfully request a brief two (2) day extension of time from January 13, 2010 to January 15, 2010 pursuant to Fed. R. ...


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