The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane
Before the Court are Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 77), Magistrate Judge Smyser's Report and Recommendation (Doc. No. 98), Plaintiff's objections to the Report and Recommendation (Doc. No. 101), and Defendants' response to Plaintiff's objections (Doc. No. 104). For the reasons that follow, the Court will overrule Plaintiff's objections, adopt Magistrate Judge Smyser's Report and Recommendation, and grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
The factual background of this case is set forth in Magistrate Judge Smyser's Report and Recommendation. Because the objections to Magistrate Judge Smyser's Report and Recommendation are primarily procedural in nature, the Court will set forth the procedural background in greater detail.
Barry Horn brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants Robert Kline and Cumberland County terminated his employment as a deputy sheriff in violation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights in May 2006.*fn1 After Barry Horn filed an amended complaint (Doc. No. 7) and the Court denied a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants (Doc. No. 29), Defendants filed an answer to Barry Horn's amended complaint (Doc. No. 30). On February 16, 2007, Magistrate Judge Smyser issued a scheduling order establishing a fact discovery deadline of July 2, 2007. (Doc. No. 42.)
On June 1, 2007, Horn filed a motion to compel discovery and for sanctions (Doc. No. 57) on the grounds that Defendants failed to comply with the mandatory discovery requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1)(A). On June 29, 2007, Horn filed a motion to extend the discovery deadline, which was due to expire in three days, on the grounds that "Plaintiff's counsel has attempted for months to schedule the depositions of the defendants and they have been uncooperative." (Doc. No. 65 ¶ 2.) Defendants did not concur in the motion.
On July 6, 2007, Magistrate Judge Smyser granted Horn's motion to compel and directed Defendants to comply with the rules, and ordered reasonable attorneys' fees incurred by Horn in preparing and briefing the motion (Doc. No. 68) but denied the motion for an extension of time on the grounds that Horn failed to comply with the requirements set forth in the case management order. Specifically, Magistrate Judge Smyser ruled that "counsel could have noticed the depositions of the defendants at any time after the case management conference of October 23, 2006. This June 29, 2007 motion to extend the July 2, 2007 discovery deadline is not timely, and extraordinary circumstances are not presented." (Doc. No. 67, at 2.) On July 19, 2007, Horn moved for reconsideration of the order. (Doc. No. 70.)
On July 30, 2007, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 77), a brief in support of the motion (Doc. No. 80), and statement of material facts in connection with the motion (Doc. No. 79). That same day, Horn filed a motion to stay the proceedings pending resolution of Horn's motion for reconsideration. (Doc. No. 81.) On August 1, 2007, Magistrate Judge Smyser denied Horn's motions for reconsideration and to stay the proceedings. (Doc. No. 84.) Thereafter, Horn appealed Magistrate Judge Smyser's decision to this Court, and the Court affirmed, holding that Horn failed to demonstrate that "the court's action made it impossible to obtain crucial evidence" (Doc. No. 105, at 6) (quoting In re Fine Paper Antitrust Litig., 685 F.2d at 818)), and that Magistrate Judge Smyser "addressed the discovery matters before him diligently, and his order makes clear that the parties' inattentiveness to clearly established deadlines caused any shortcomings in discovery," (Doc. No. 105, at 6.)
After the Court twice granted Horn an extension of time to file a brief in opposition to the motion for summary judgment, Horn filed an answer to the statement of material facts (Doc. No. 95) and brief in opposition (Doc. No. 96). Defendants filed a reply brief. (Doc. No. 97.) On October 5, 2007, Magistrate Judge Smyser issued a report and recommendation recommending that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted. (Doc. No. 98.) In the report he held that, based on the undisputed facts of record, Horn's constitutional claims failed as a matter of law. With respect to Horn's first amendment claims, Magistrate Judge Smyser stated hat:
The undisputed facts establish that [Barry] Horn was terminated because of his disobedience of defendant Kline's directive regarding playing fantasy football games at work and because of his untruthful statement to defendant Kline when asked about participation in the Fantasy Football League. The plaintiff, therefore, can not establish that Horn was terminated for his speech or because of his opposition to participating in political activities.
(Doc. No. 98, at 15.) With respect to Horn's equal protection claim based upon a "class of one" theory of discrimination, see Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562 (2000) (recognizing such a theory), Magistrate Judge Smyser held that summary judgment should be entered in Defendants' favor because Horn "has not presented any evidence that [Barry Horn] was disciplined differently than any other similarly situated Sheriff's Office employee." (Doc. No. 98, at 17.) On October 25, 2007, Horn filed objections to the report and recommendation. (Doc. No. 101.) Defendants filed a memorandum in response to Horn's objections. (Doc. No. 104.)
In the objections to the Report and Recommendation, Horn does not disagree with the Magistrate Judge Smyser's legal conclusions. Rather, Horn's sole complaint is that Horn was unable to meaningly obtain discovery from Defendants. Specifically, Horn complains that:
There seem to be a number of unresolved issues before this Court including the Magistrate Judge's decision to end discovery which is ensconced in these Recommendations. This is the case even though the [Magistrate Judge] has been persistently disobeyed by the defendants who never complied with the court's orders to provide a summary of each of their witnesses' prospective testimony so plaintiff could question them. The result was a Rule 56 results [sic] that plaintiff couldn't respond to. The Recommendation doesn't mention these facts. The particular order in question, dated August 1, 2007 criticizes plaintiff for not asking early through either a motion or for requesting another discovery conference. Plaintiff is severely prejudiced by the courts erroneous decision. As a plaintiff your damned if you do and damned if you don't. No guidance was ever given to plaintiff as to how early or when a request which had been repeated numerous times, was going to be strongly enforced by the [Magistrate Judge]. It never was [sic] what good are attorney fee sanctions if the plaintiff can't get discovery. Time and time again the request was made for information that would have enabled plaintiff to hopefully structure a Rule 56 response. In short, the first time plaintiff even saw the witnesses' responses was when the defendants used them for summary judgment. Consequently there is only one appropriate response and that is to reject the ...