United States District Court, W.D. New York
CHARLES E. CAMPANELLA, II, DEBORAH S. CAMPANELLA, Plaintiffs,
MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF PATRICK M. O'FLYNN, MONROE COUNTY UNDERSHERIFF GARY CAIOLA, CHIEF DEPUTY STEVEN SCOTT, LIEUTENANT LOU TOMASSETTI, and other known or unknown members of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, individually and in their official capacities, Defendants.
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. CHIEF JUDGE.
April 29, 2010, Charles (“Deputy Campanella”) and
Deborah Campanella (“Ms. Campanella”)
(collectively “Plaintiffs”) initiated this action
against Monroe County, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office
(“MCSO”), and MCSO employees Patrick M.
O'Flynn (“Sheriff O'Flynn”), Gary Caiola
(“Undersheriff Caiola”), Steven Scott
(“Deputy Scott”), and Lucio Tomassetti
(“Lieutenant Tomassetti”) (collectively
“Defendants”). ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs alleged that
Defendants took adverse employment actions against Deputy
Campanella in violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional
19, 2016, Defendants moved for summary judgment. ECF No. 60.
Under Local Rule 7(b)(2)(A), Plaintiffs had 28 days to file
and serve responding papers. See L.R. Civ. Pro.
7(b)(2)(A). That deadline passed without Plaintiffs filing
responding papers or requesting an extension. On February 6,
2016, this Court issued a Decision and Order granting
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 61.
Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion to set
aside that judgment. ECF No. 65. For the reasons stated
below, Plaintiffs' Motion to Set Aside Judgment is
April 29, 2010, Plaintiffs filed this action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. ECF No. 1. Initially, Plaintiffs' Complaint
alleged multiple First Amendment and Due Process violations
as well as libel, slander, defamation, and negligent failure
to train and supervise. Id. However, following
Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, ECF No.
11, all but two of Plaintiffs' claims were dismissed. ECF
No. 24. Plaintiffs' surviving claims alleged that, in
violation of the First Amendment, Defendants took seven
adverse employment actions against Deputy Campanella in
retaliation for Deputy Campanella's statement about the
investigation of a local construction firm and Ms.
Campanella's affiliation with a man who ran as the
Democratic candidate for Monroe County Sheriff in 2009.
Id. On January 15, 2013, the case was reassigned to
this Court. ECF No. 33.
19, 2016, Defendants filed and served their Motion for
Summary Judgment. ECF No. 60. Plaintiffs received service
through the Court's electronic filing system.
See ECF Nos. 60; 65-1 at ¶ 6. Following the
filing of that motion, the Court did not issue a scheduling
order. But pursuant to the Local Rules of Civil Procedure for
the Western District of New York, “[i]f the Court does
not set deadlines by order, ” the party opposing a
motion “shall have twenty-eight (28) days after service
of the motion to file and serve responding papers.”
See L.R. Civ. Pro. 7(b)(2)(A). Accordingly,
Plaintiffs' responding papers were due by August 16,
2016. Id. That deadline passed without responding
papers from the Plaintiffs, and on February 6, 2017, the
Court issued its Decision and Order granting Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 61.
after the Court's decision was docketed, Plaintiffs'
attorney wrote a letter to the Court requesting that the
decision be withdrawn. ECF No. 63. Plaintiffs' attorney
noted that the Court had not issued a scheduling order and
claimed that he was unaware that the deadline for filing
responding papers had passed. Id. Citing Local Rule
7(b)(2)(A), the Court denied Plaintiffs' request to
withdraw its decision. ECF No. 64.
March 3, 2017, Plaintiffs moved under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 60(b) to set aside the Court's Decision and
Order. ECF No. 65. In his supporting affidavit,
Plaintiffs' attorney suggested that in both “the
practice of this Court and the history of this case, ”
filing deadlines have been set by scheduling orders. ECF No.
65-1 at ¶ 6. He noted that he was “puzzled by the
absence of a scheduling order” in this instance. ECF
No. 65-1 at ¶ 6. Indeed, he was so puzzled that, after
about two months had passed, he contacted Defendants'
attorney and asked “whether or not the possibility
existed that such a scheduling order had escaped [his]
attention.” Id. Plaintiffs' attorney
explained that he “made the deliberate decision to wait
until the issuance of a scheduling order . . . before filing
any responsive papers, ” id. at ¶ 8,
because “over the course of [his] thirty-three (33)
years of practicing law, ” scheduling orders always
followed motions and, in this case, scheduling orders
followed each of the four contested motions that preceded the
Motion for Summary Judgment. Id. at ¶ 7. On
that basis, Plaintiffs ask the Court to set aside its
decision under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). ECF No.
65-1 at ¶ 1.
60(b) identifies grounds on which a court, in its discretion,
may relieve a party from a final judgment, order, or
proceeding. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). Properly applied, “Rule
60(b) strikes a balance between serving the ends of justice
and preserving the finality of judgments.” Nemaizer
v. Baker, 793 F.2d 58, 61 (2d Cir. 1986). Thus, while
final judgments should not be reopened lightly, Rule 60(b)
“should be broadly construed to do substantial
justice.” Id. (internal quotation marks
ground on which a court may relieve a party of a final
judgment, order, or proceeding is “excusable
neglect.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1). “Excusable
neglect” is a “somewhat elastic concept.”
Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs. Ltd.
P'ship, 507 U.S. 380, 393 (1993). It is not
strictly limited to “omissions caused by circumstances
beyond the control of the movant.” Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted). That is because
“neglect” encompasses “inadvertence,
carelessness, and mistake.” Id. at 388. That
being said, to be entitled to relief under Rule 60(b)(1), the
movant's neglect must also be “excusable.”
See Id. at 395; see also Canfield v. Van Atta
Buick/GMC Truck, Inc., 127 F.3d 248, 250 (2d Cir. 1997)
(“In light of its interpretation of ‘neglect'
as ‘negligence, ' . . . the ‘excusable'
portion of ‘excusable neglect' must provide the
limitations necessary to prevent abuse by the
parties.”) (citing Pioneer, 507 U.S. at 395).
whether a negligent omission is “excusable” is an
equitable, context-specific inquiry. 507 U.S. at 395
(“We conclude that the determination [of whether a
negligent omission is excusable] is at bottom an equitable
one, taking account of all relevant circumstances surrounding
the party's omission.”). Factors to be considered
include (1) “the danger of prejudice” to the
non-movant, (2) “the length of the delay and its
potential impact on judicial proceedings, ” (3)
“whether the movant acted in good faith, ” and
(4) the reason for the omission, “including whether it
was within the reasonable control of the movant.”
the first three of those factors usually favor the movant,
Second Circuit has focused on the last-the reason for the
omission. See Silivanch v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc.,
333 F.3d 355, 366 (2d Cir. 2003) (“[D]espite . . . the
existence of the four-factor test in which three of the
factors usually weigh in favor of the party seeking the
extension, we and other circuits have focused on . . . the
reason for the delay, including whether it was within the
reasonable control of the movant.”) (internal quotation
marks omitted); see also Williams v. KFC Nat. Management
Co., 391 F.3d 411, 418 (2d Cir. 2004) (noting that the
“reason for the delay” is “the most
important” factor of the Pioneer test). Where
the reason for an omission is the failure to follow
“the clear dictates of a court rule, ” the fourth