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Riggs v. Baca

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

December 17, 2019

APRIL RIGGS, Plaintiff,
v.
RAY BACA, Deputy Director, New Mexico Livestock Board; P. ROBERT ALEXANDER, Executive Director, New Mexico Livestock Board; NEW MEXICO LIVESTOCK BOARD; and BERNADETTE TORR, State Personnel Office, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JERRY H. RITTER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Opposed Motion to File Third Amended Complaint [Doc. 54], filed July 30, 2019. The Court, having considered the parties' submissions and relevant law, will deny Plaintiff's Motion.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This case arises from events related to Plaintiff's employment with Defendant NMLB [Doc. 18]. Plaintiff filed her initial Complaint in this matter on May 24, 2018. [Doc. 1]. In her initial Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that after being promoted from Livestock Inspector II to Area Supervisor in July 2015, she was not compensated at a rate comparable to her male counterparts and that Defendant Baca (Plaintiff's immediate supervisor) and Defendant Alexander (Executive Director of the NMLB) otherwise discriminated against her on the basis of gender in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. [Doc. 18, ¶¶ 6-7, 19, 26-35, 45-133]. Plaintiff also alleged that Defendants Baca and Alexander retaliated against her for seeking redress of her grievances for the alleged disparate pay and treatment, and for raising concerns regarding statutory and regulatory violations she believed they were committing in violation of New Mexico's Whistleblower Protection Act, NMSA 1978, Sections 10-16c-1 to -6 (2010) (“WPA”). [Doc. 1, ¶¶ 134-156]. Plaintiff further alleged that Defendant NMLB was or should have been aware of the discrimination and retaliation to which she was subjected by Defendants Baca and Alexander and that it, through its officers and directors, adopted policies, practices, or decisions that subjected her to such discrimination and retaliation. [Doc. 1, ¶¶ 157-165]. Finally, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Torr violated New Mexico's Inspection of Public Records Act, NMSA 1978, Sections 14-2-1 to -12 (1947, as amended through 2011) (“IPRA”) by failing to provide copies of records or documents related to an investigation that resulted in a letter of reprimand and placement of Plaintiff on administrative leave. [Doc. 1, ¶¶ 166-186].

         On June 20, 2018, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint [Doc. 13], as a matter of course. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15 (providing that a party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within “21 days after serving it” or “if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.”). Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint included additional factual allegations not contained in Plaintiff's initial Complaint but did not add or subtract claims. [See generally Doc. 13].

         Plaintiff filed a Notice of Stipulation to File Second Amended Complaint on June 29, 2018. [Doc. 14]. The Court granted leave to amend and Plaintiff filed her Second Amended Complaint on July 11, 2018 [Doc. 17; Doc. 18]. The Second Amended Complaint included a new First Amendment claim based on the gender discrimination and retaliation previously alleged. [Doc. 18, ¶¶ 155-176].

         On July 25, 2018, Defendants Alexander, NMLB, and Torr filed separate motions to dismiss, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as a motion to stay the proceedings pending resolution of the dispositive motions. [Doc. 26; Doc. 28; Doc. 30; Doc. 33]. On September 18, 2018, the Court granted the motion to stay pending its decision on the dispositive motions. [Doc. 33]. After consideration of the parties submissions, the Court entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting the dispositive motions finding that: (1) Plaintiff's First and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Defendants Alexander and NMLB, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012), were not sufficiently pled; (2) Plaintiff's WPA claims against Defendant Alexander were not sufficiently pled; and (3) Plaintiff's WPA claims against Defendant Alexander and IPRA claim against Defendant Bernadette Torr were barred by the immunity provided under the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution. [Doc. 51, pp. 4-5, 9, 11, 13-14]. All claims against Defendants Alexander, NMLB, and Torr were dismissed. [Id., p. 17]. The stay was lifted on July 24, 2019. [Doc. 53].

         Plaintiff now seeks leave to file a Third Amended Complaint. The proposed amendment submitted with Plaintiff's Motion includes the following: (1) a § 1983 claim against Defendant Baca for alleged Fourteenth Amendment violations; (2) a § 1983 claim against Defendants[1" name="FN1" id="FN1">1] for alleged First Amendment violations; (3) § 1983 claims against Defendant Baca for alleged violations of the WPA; and a new civil rights conspiracy claim against Defendants Alexander, Baca, and NMLB, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) (2012). [Doc. 54].[2]

         In her Reply in support of the instant Motion, Plaintiff concedes that her § 1985 claims against Defendants Alexander (in his official capacity) and NMLB as well as her WPA claims against Defendants Alexander, Baca, and NMLB are barred by Eleventh Amendment Immunity. [Id., p. 1]. Accordingly, Plaintiff withdraws these claims from her proposed amendment. [Id., p. 2');">p. 2].[3]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party “may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within…21 days after serving the pleading.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15. Where “the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, ” it may be amended within “21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15. “In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Id. The grant of leave to amend the pleadings pursuant to Rule 15(a) is within the discretion of the district court. See Minter v. Prime Equip. Co., 1 F.3d 1196');">451 F.3d 1196, 1204 (10th Cir. 2006); Frank v. U.S. W., Inc., 1357');">3 F.3d 1357, 1365-66 (10th Cir. 1993).

         The purpose of Rule 15(a) “is to provide litigants the maximum opportunity for each claim to be decided on its merits rather than on procedural niceties.” Minter, 451 F.3d at 1204. Accordingly, leave to amend should be granted where the amendment will yield a meritorious claim. See Curley v. Perry, 246 F.3d 1278, 1284 (10th Cir. 2001). A court may deny leave to amend “upon a showing of undue delay, undue prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith or dilatory motive, failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment.” Frank v. U.S. W., Inc., 3 F.3d at 1365.

         In the present case, Defendants Alexander, Baca, and NMLB oppose Plaintiff's request for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint on the bases of undue delay and futility. [Doc. 57, Pp. 2');">p. 2-13; Doc. 58, pp. 2');">p. 2-4].

         III. ...


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