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Robinson v. Healthfirst of NY and N.J.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 31, 2017

SOPHIA ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
HEALTHFIRST OF NY AND NJ, and HF MANAGEMENT SERVICES, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          P. Kevin Castel, United States District Judge

         Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 41(b), Fed.R.Civ.P. on April 14, 2017, (ECF Doc. # 34), and orally renewed the motion on July 14, 2017, for failure to prosecute the action. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted and the complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Sophia Robinson, by and through her then attorneys Levine & Blit, commenced this action on September 4, 2015 by filing a complaint alleging discrimination and harassment based on race, color, disability, and retaliation in violation of federal, state, and city law. (ECF Doc. # 3.) The case was initially assigned to then Judge Scheindlin. Plaintiff did not serve her complaint on defendants until December 10, 2015. In lieu of an answer to the complaint, defendants submitted a pre-motion letter to Judge Scheindlin requesting permission to move to dismiss several counts of the complaint for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff's counsel subsequently advised the court that it needed to withdraw its representation of plaintiff and requested permission to file a formal motion to withdraw. By order dated February 19, 2016, Judge Scheindlin granted the motion and Levine & Blit was relieved as counsel for plaintiff. (ECF Doc. # 15.)

         By letter to Judge Sheindlin dated March 9, 2016, plaintiff, on her own behalf, requested that the court “please allow me to have some time to research, interview, and hire new counsel if that is indeed what I need to do to have representation which I cannot be without.” (ECF Doc. # 17.) Plaintiff represented to the court that she had a serious medical condition but should be able to find new counsel by April 15, 2016. Judge Sheindlin granted the plaintiff's request, rescheduling the initial conference for April 15, 2016 and directing that plaintiff “appear through (or with) counsel if she obtains new representation, or to appear pro se if she does not obtain counsel by this date. (Id.)

         On April 12, 2016, the case was reassigned to Judge Hellerstein following Judge Scheindlin's retirement. Judge Hellerstein scheduled an initial conference for May 6, 2016 which was subsequently rescheduled for June 24, 2016. (ECF Doc. # 19, 21.) By email dated June 22, 2016 (ECF Doc. # 22), plaintiff advised the court that although she had obtained new representation, that counsel “is no longer representing me in this matter.” Plaintiff requested another adjournment of the initial conference and Judge Hellerstein adjourned the conference until August 5, 2016. (Id.)

         Once again, on the eve of the initial conference, plaintiff emailed Judge Hellerstein, requesting yet another adjournment in order to find an attorney. The conference was again rescheduled for September 9, 2016. (ECF Doc. # 23.) However, on September 8, 2016, plaintiff faxed Judge Hellerstein seeking yet another adjournment in order to find an attorney. Judge Hellerstein granted “one last adjournment to Oct. 14, 2016.” (ECF Doc. # 24.) Plaintiff did appear before Judge Hellerstein on October 14, 2016, but only to request yet another extension to find an attorney. Once again, Judge Hellerstein granted an adjournment, this time until November 4, 2016. (ECF Docket Minute Entry, October 14, 2016.) On November 3, 2016, Plaintiff submitted another request for adjournment to Judge Hellerstein. Judge Hellerstein adjourned the conference to January 13, 2017, marking it as “Last adjournment.” (ECF Doc. # 25.)

         On January 20, 2017, this case was reassigned to the undersigned. That same day, defendants requested that they be allowed to proceed with their motion to dismiss and that plaintiff be given a final directive and deadline to appear by counsel or pro se. (ECF Doc. # 27.) The Court then issued an order setting a briefing schedule for the motion to dismiss. (ECF Doc. # 28.) Defendants filed their motion to dismiss and plaintiff did not respond. By letter dated April 14, 2017, defendants informed the court that plaintiff had not responded and requested that the complaint be dismissed in its entirety with prejudice. (ECF Doc. # 34.)

         By order dated June 6, 2017, plaintiff was advised as follows:

PLAINTIFF SOPHIA ROBINSON IS ADVISED TO CONSIDER RETAINING COUNSEL. HOWEVER, AS A NATURAL PERSON MS. ROBINSON IS ENTITLED TO PROCEED WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY. . . . ALL PARTIES MUST APPEAR FOR A PRETRIAL CONFERENCE ON JULY 5, 2017. . . . SOPHIA ROBINSON MUST APPEAR EITHER IN PERSON OR BY COUNSEL. IF SOPHIA ROBINSON FAILS TO APPEAR AT THE JULY 5, 2017 CONFERNCE, SHE WILL HAVE HER CASE DISMISSED.

(ECF Doc. # 36.) Defendants were instructed to serve the order on Ms. Robinson and file an affidavit, and defendants did so. (ECF Doc. # 36.)

         Defendants, as ordered, appeared at the July 5, 2017 conference. Plaintiff did not. Instead, on July 3 or 4, plaintiff sent an ex parte communication to the Court requesting yet another adjournment. By Order dated July 5, 2017, the Court adjourned the conference to July 14, 2017. Once again, the Court ordered that:

ALL PERSONS MUST APPEAR FOR A CONTINUATION OF TODAY'S PRETRIAL CONFRENCE ON JULY 14, 2017 AT 1:45 p.m. . . . SOPHIA ROBINSON MUST APPEAR EITHER IN PERSON OR BY COUNSEL. IF SOPHIA ROBINSON FAILS TO APPEAR AT THE JULY 14, 2017 CONFERNCE, SHE WILL HAVE HER CASE DISMISSED.

(ECF Doc. # 38.) Defendants were instructed to serve the order on Ms. Robinson and defendants complied ...


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