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Burke v. State of New Mexico General Services Department

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

April 19, 2019

HEATHER BURKE, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW MEXICO GENERAL SERVICES DEPARTMENT, EDWYNN BURCKLE, JAY HONE, ANGELA DAWSON, BRENDA GUETHS, and KAREN BALTZLEY, Defendants.[1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL DISCOVERY UNDER RULE 56(D)

          STEPHAN M. VIDMAR UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. 149], filed on March 8, 2019. Defendants responded on March 22, 2019, by filing a Declaration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d). [Doc. 157]. Plaintiff replied on March 28, 2019. [Doc. 158]. The Court held oral argument on April 17, 2019. [Doc. 169] (Clerk's Minutes). The Court has considered the briefing, oral argument, the relevant portions of the record, and the relevant law. Being otherwise fully advised in the premises, the Court will GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Defendants' request for additional discovery and will set a briefing schedule on the Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         From 2013 to 2016, Defendant New Mexico General Services Department (“GSD”) employed Plaintiff as an IT Generalist 2. [Doc. 94] at 3 (Third Amended Complaint). GSD employed Defendant Angela Dawson as its Human Resources Bureau Chief. [Doc. 149-2] at 18. While Plaintiff was employed at GSD, she requested either intermittent or full-time[2] leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) at least five times. She claims that she needed FMLA leave after suffering from breast cancer and leg injuries after a ski accident. [Doc. 149] at 4-10. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants took myriad actions that interfered with her use of FMLA leave. Id. at 4-27. A detailed recounting of these actions is not necessary to dispose of the instant matter. Broadly speaking, Plaintiff alleges that, from 2014-2016, Defendants committed numerous violations of the FMLA's notice requirements, created significant administrative hurdles to approval of her leave requests, attempted to fire her because her illness prevented her from performing the essential functions of her job, and improperly denied her leave to which she was entitled. See id.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed suit in New Mexico state court on April 21, 2016. [Doc. 1-2] at 1. Defendants removed the case to this Court on May 23, 2016. [Doc. 1]. On July 11, 2018, Plaintiff filed her Third Amended Complaint. [Doc. 94]. She alleges in Count IV that Dawson, in her individual capacity, interfered with her use of FMLA leave. Id. at 34-36. Count IV does not pertain to any other Defendant.[3] See Id. Count IV also contains an FMLA-retaliation claim.[4] See id.

         Since Plaintiff filed her Third Amended Complaint, the parties have engaged in limited discovery, and the case has been plagued by various discovery disputes. Plaintiff served her First Request for Production on October 16, 2018. [Doc. 107]. Plaintiff and Defendants served their initial disclosures on October 30, 2018. [Docs. 109, 110]. The Honorable Kirtan Khalsa, United States Magistrate Judge, entered her Scheduling Order on November 15, 2018, ordering discovery to terminate on May 2, 2019. [Doc. 118] at 2. Defendants moved for a confidentiality order on November 29, 2018, [Doc. 124], and Plaintiff moved to compel production of certain documents and files on December 5, 2018, [Doc. 127]. Judge Khalsa denied Plaintiff's Motion to Compel on February 27, 2019. [Doc. 148]. On March 8, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. [Doc. 149]. Judge Khalsa entered a Confidentiality Order over Plaintiff's objection on March 13, 2019. [Doc. 152].

         The parties filed a Joint Motion to Extend Case Management Deadlines on March 15, 2019. [Doc. 153]. They agreed that, though they have exchanged some written discovery and they “are supplementing that discovery as required by Rule 26(e), ” the Court should extend the discovery deadline so that Plaintiff-presently a law student-could finish her final semester of law school and then prepare for and take the New Mexico Bar Exam. Id. at 2. The parties had not yet scheduled the depositions of Plaintiff, Defendant Karen Baltzley, and Dawson. Id. They also anticipated “that additional depositions may need to be set, but that such scheduling cannot occur until after Plaintiff completes the bar exam.” Id. Finally, the parties requested a stay from May 20, 2019, to August 5, 2019, so that Plaintiff could study for and take the New Mexico Bar Exam. Id. at 2-3.

         Judge Khalsa granted the Joint Motion on March 18, 2019. [Doc. 154]. Discovery now terminates on November 4, 2019, with discovery motions due by November 25, 2019. Id. at 1. The Court also granted the requested stay. Id. at 2.

         Defendants filed their Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) Declaration in response to Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on March 22, 2019. [Doc. 157]. According to Defendants, though the parties have exchanged their first sets of interrogatories and requests for production, they “have not yet conducted [any] depositions.” Id. at 2. Neither have Defendants served any contention interrogatories relating to Plaintiff's FMLA claims. Id.

         On April 2, 2019, Judge Khalsa ruled on various outstanding discovery disputes. [Doc. 163]. The parties disputed the production of certain documents and releases for Plaintiff's medical records. Judge Khalsa ordered Plaintiff to produce certain documents requested by Defendants and ordered defense counsel to send Plaintiff medical-records releases that she must execute. Id. at 1-2.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A court must deny summary judgment if a reasonable jury could find for the non-movants. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When applying this standard, the court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving parties. Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S. 650, 657 (2014).

         Pro se pleadings are interpreted liberally, see Swoboda v. Dubach, 992 F.2d 286, 289 (10th Cir. 1993), but must comply with the basic requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Yang v. Archuleta, 525 F.3d 925, 927 n.1 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Ogden v. San Juan Cty., 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 1994)).

         ANALYSIS

         Under Rule 56(d), “[i]f a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may, ” in its discretion, defer considering the motion, deny the motion, allow time to take discovery, or issue any other appropriate order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). “The general principal of Rule 56(d) is that ‘summary judgment [should] be refused where the nonmoving party has not had the opportunity to discover information that is essential to his opposition.'” Price ex rel. Price v. W. Res., Inc., 232 F.3d 779, 783 (10th Cir. 2000) (alteration in original) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 n.5). To properly invoke the Court's discretion, the movant must submit an affidavit “(1) identifying the probable facts that are unavailable, (2) stating why these facts cannot be presented without additional time, (3) identifying past steps to obtain evidence of these facts, and (4) stating how additional time would allow for rebuttal of the adversary's argument for summary judgment.” Cerveny v. Aventis, Inc., 855 F.3d 1091, 1110 (10th Cir. 2017). Additionally, the information sought cannot be irrelevant or cumulative, and the declarant cannot have acted dilatorily in obtaining the information. Jensen v. Redevelopment Agency of ...


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