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Hernandez v. Hampton Bays Union Free School District

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 13, 2015

MICHAEL HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
HAMPTON BAYS UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT and ALYSON SABOE, Defendants.

Joseph C. Stroble, Esq., Sayville, NY, for Plaintiff.

Kelly Courtney Spina, Esq., Maurizio Savoiardo, Esq., Michael Anthony Miranda, Esq., Miranda Sambursky Slone Sklarin Verveniotis LLP, Mineola, NY, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

JOANNA SEYBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Hernandez ("Plaintiff") commenced this action against defendants Hampton Bays Union Free School District (the "District") and Alyson Saboe ("Saboe" and together with the District, "Defendants"), alleging, inter alia, that he was unlawfully discriminated against based on his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended ("Title VII"), 29 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"), N.Y. EXEC. LAW § 296 et seq.; and the United States Constitution.[1]

Defendants move for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. (Docket Entry 37.) Plaintiff has not opposed Defendants' motion.[2] For the following reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

The Court must first address the effect of Plaintiff's repeated noncompliance with both Local Civil Rule 56.1 and the Court's Orders in this case before discussing the factual record and the merits of Defendants' motion.

I. Procedural Defects

The Local Civil Rules regarding summary judgment should be well known to attorneys litigating in this Court. Under Local Civil Rule 56.1, a party moving for summary judgment must file "a separate, short and concise statement, in numbered paragraphs, of the material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue to be tried." LOCAL CIV. R. 56.1(a). "The purpose of Local Rule 56.1 is to streamline the consideration of summary judgment motions by freeing district courts from the need to hunt through voluminous records without guidance from the parties." Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 74 (2d Cir. 2001).

The party opposing summary judgment, in turn, must file "a correspondingly numbered paragraph responding to each numbered paragraph in the statement of the moving party, and if necessary, additional paragraphs containing a separate, short and concise statement of additional material facts as to which it is contended that there exists a genuine issue to be tried." LOCAL CIV. R. 56.1(b). If the party opposing summary judgment denies any of the facts in the movant's 56.1 statement, the opposing party must "support its position by citing to admissible evidence in the record." Baity v. Kralik, ___ F.Supp. 3d ___, 2014 WL 5010513, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see LOCAL CIV. R. 56.1(d) ("Each statement by the movant or opponent pursuant to Rule 56.1(a) and (b), including each statement controverting any statement of material fact, must be followed by citation to evidence which would be admissible, set forth as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)." (emphasis added)). Responses that "do not point to any evidence in the record that may create a genuine issue of material fact[ ] do not function as denials, and will be deemed admissions of the stated fact." Risco v. McHugh, 868 F.Supp.2d 75, 86 n.2 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see LOCAL CIV. R. 56.1(c).

Plaintiff's counsel has repeatedly failed to comply with Local Rule 56.1. Counsel first filed his 56.1 Counterstatement that lodged a general denial of the entirety of Defendants' 56.1 Counterstatement and rehashed the allegations of the Complaint in narrative form without any citations. (See Letter Rule 56.1 Counterstmt., Docket Entry 28.) Thus, at a pre-motion conference on April 11, 2014, the Court granted Plaintiff two weeks to file a revised counterstatement that conformed to Local Rule 56.1. (Minute Entry for Pre-Mot. Conf., Docket Entry 31.) On May 1, 2014, nearly a full week after the expiration of the Court's deadline, Plaintiff's counsel wrote the Court attaching a revised counterstatement that again lacked any citations to record evidence. (Pl.'s Ltr. of May 1, 2104.) By Electronic Order dated May 2, 2014, the Court indicated that it would not accept the revised counterstatement because it again did not comply with Local Rule 56.1. After an unsuccessful motion for yet another extension of time to file a proper counterstatement, Plaintiff again, without leave of Court, submitted a third counterstatement. (Pl.'s Second Revised 56.1 Stmt., Docket Entry 36.) Again, the third submission did not comply with the appropriate rules; it again contained no citations. See LOCAL CIV. R. 56.1(d).

In light of Plaintiff's counsel's repeated failure to comply with Local Civil Rule 56.1 and the Court's Orders, the Court is sorely tempted to accept Defendants' stated facts as admissions to the extent that they are supported by admissible evidence. See, e.g., Topalian v. Hartford Life Ins. Co., 945 F.Supp.2d 294, 301 n.2 (E.D.N.Y. 2013) ("To the extent that the parties have failed to cite to admissible evidence in support of factual assertions in their respective Rule 56.1 Statements and Responses, the court has disregarded such unsupported factual assertions."); Costello v. N.Y. State Nurses Ass'n, 783 F.Supp.2d 656, 661 n.5 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (disregarding responses in a litigant's 56.1 counterstatement that "fail[ed] to refer to any evidence in the record to support [the litigant's] contention that certain facts are disputed"). Nonetheless, because the Court prefers to resolve cases on the merits, and because the record in this case is relatively small, the Court overlooks counsel's noncompliance and conducts an independent review of the record. See Monahan v. N.Y. City Dep't of Corrs., 214 F.3d 275, 292 (2d Cir. 2000) (stating that the court may, in its discretion, "conduct an assiduous review of the record." (internal quotation marks and citations)); Lopez v. Echebia, 693 F.Supp.2d 381, 386 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (excusing the defendant's failure to file a Rule 56.1 statement because "its absence [did not] create[ ] difficulty for the court").

II. Factual Background

Plaintiff was hired by the District as a part-time custodian in January 2009. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt., Docket Entry 37-31, ¶ 16; Luce Aff., Docket Entry 37-32, ¶ 3.) Recently paroled from prison, Plaintiff had been accompanying his sister during her shifts as a custodian in the District. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 9-11.) After shadowing her on a few occasions, Plaintiff was offered a position with the District as a part-time substitute custodian. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 12-16.) Plaintiff worked the ...


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