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Thomas v. New York City Department of Education

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 30, 2018

ANNA-MARIA THOMAS, Ed.D., Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION f/k/a BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK; and JOEL I. KLEIN. Individually and as Chancellor of the CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK; ROBERT FINLEY. Individually and in his official capacity as Principal of Brooklyn High School of the Arts JOHN REEDY. Individually and in his official capacity as Assistant Principal of Brooklyn High School of the Arts; and DANIEL PARADIS . Individually and in his official capacity as Teacher at Brooklyn High School of the Arts; MARGARET LACEY-BERMAN . Individually and in her official capacity as Principal of Brooklyn High School of the Arts, Defendants.

         NOT FOR PUBLICATIO

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Carol Bagley Amon, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Anna-Maria Thomas brings this employment discrimination case against her former employer and some of her former supervisors and colleagues (collectively, "Defendants"). This Memorandum & Order addresses (1) Thomas's motion for reconsideration of a March 29, 2013 decision dismissing certain claims and (2) Defendants' motion to dismiss the action on failure-to-prosecute grounds. For the reasons described below, the Court denies both motions.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Thomas brought this employment discrimination action on February 3, 2010, (D.E. #1), which was assigned to the late Honorable Sandra L. Townes, United States District Judge, (D.E. dated Feb. 5, 2010). On January 11, 2013, after briefing had completed on Defendants' motion to dismiss, Thomas sought a stay of this action so that she could fire her attorney and retain new counsel. (D.E. # 30.) Judge Townes granted in part Thomas's application to stay the case for 30 days to enable Thomas to seek new counsel, but stated that she planned to adjudicate Defendants' motion to dismiss in the interim. (D.E. # 31 at 2.)

         On March 29, 2013, Judge Townes granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) ("Motion to Dismiss Ruling"). (D.E. # 33 ("Mot. to Dismiss Ruling") at 43-44.) After Judge Townes issued that ruling, Thomas, proceeding pro se, sought and was granted two extensions of time to seek reconsideration. (D.E. # 36, 38.) Thomas sought another extension on May 17, 2013, (D.E. # 39), and, on June 28, 2013, wrote a letter requesting a court order related to Thomas's legal representation, (D.E. # 40). The case then went dormant for almost four years.

         On March 20, 2017, Judge Townes issued an Order to Show Cause why this case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. (D.E. #41.) Thomas, finally represented by counsel, eventually responded to the Order to Show Cause by stating,

Plaintiffs delay in prosecuting her case stemmed from a protracted acrimonious relationship with her prior counsel. In June 2013, Plaintiff terminated her relationship with her attorneys and Plaintiff attempted to pursue the matter pro se, but she found much difficulty in researching the law and truly grasping the complexity of her case to move forward. Additionally, Plaintiff was assaulted by a student during her tenure with the Department of Education. The injury from that assault caused her to suffer from many physical ailments. The injuries took a toll on her both physically and mentally. At some point in 2014, Plaintiff had no choice but to focus on her health as much as she could. Plaintiff attempted to retain counsel to handle her case but the task was extremely overwhelming in light of her health and the costs to hire counsel. It was not until May 2017 that Plaintiff was able to retain the services of The Charrington Firm, PC to represent her in this matter. In fact, Plaintiff has yet to receive her entire file from prior counsel and may need an Order from this Court to obtain it.

(D.E.#45at2-3.)

         A few days later, Judge Townes scheduled a status conference. (D.E. dated July 10, 2017; D.E. dated July 12, 2017.) At the July 27, 2017 status conference, Judge Townes granted Thomas leave to move for reconsideration of the Motion to Dismiss Ruling. Thereafter, on August 2, 2017, Judge Townes issued an Order clarifying her initial Motion to Dismiss Ruling. (D.E. # 48.)

         On August 14, 2017, Thomas moved for reconsideration.[1] (D.E. # 49-1 ("Reconsideration Mot.").) Defendants oppose the motion and seek dismissal for failure to prosecute under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). (D.E. # 50 ("Defs. Opp.").) In reply, Thomas filed an affidavit in her name and an affirmation signed by her attorney. (D.E. # 52.) On February 21, 2018, this case was reassigned to this Court.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Thomas's Motion for Reconsideration

         Thomas seeks reconsideration of the Motion to Dismiss Ruling on two grounds, both related to her claims of age discrimination. First, she challenges Judge Townes's ruling that she had inadequately pled a § 1983 claim for age discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. (Reconsideration Mot. at 8-10.) Second, she challenges Judge ...


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