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Doe v. Allentown School District

July 8, 2009

JUNIOR DOE, ET AL
v.
ALLENTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Golden, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Before the Court is the United States' Motion for Leave to Intervene in this action, which was filed on June 18, 2009. In its Motion, the United States contends that it is entitled to intervene as of right pursuant to Rule 24(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Alternatively, the United States argues that the Court should permit intervention on the basis that the United States has satisfied the requirements of permissive intervention pursuant to Rule 24(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The United States seeks to intervene in this case to support the sexual harassment claims asserted by Plaintiffs against Defendant Allentown School District ("ASD" or "School District") pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. (See U.S. Proposed Compl. in Intervention ¶ 1); see also 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. The United States' Proposed Complaint in Intervention is solely against ASD pursuant to Title IX. (See U.S. Proposed Compl. in Intervention ¶ 2). ASD is the only Defendant opposing the United States' request to intervene. For the foregoing reasons, the United States' Motion for Leave to Intervene (Doc. No. 131) is granted.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The claims in this action arise out of a series of alleged sexual assaults perpetrated by Defendant F.H.-a twelve-year old boy who transferred to Central Elementary School ("CES") in Allentown at the beginning of the 2003 school year-against four first-grade boys in bathroom stalls at CES. (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 38, 39, 49; Doc. No. 124). The alleged assaults took place between December 2003 and March 2004. (Id. at ¶ 39).*fn1 Plaintiffs, the four minor victims of these alleged assaults, brought this action against ASD and several other defendants asserting various federal and state law claims. Plaintiffs are asserting two federal claims in this case: (1) one count against various defendants alleging violations of Plaintiffs' constitutional right to bodily integrity pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and (2) one count against ASD alleging violations of Title IX. (Id. ¶¶ 69-93).

This case was brought in May 2006. (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiffs subsequently filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint in an effort to include, among other new claims, a count alleging violations of Title IX. (Doc. No. 93). After extensive briefing and oral argument, the Court granted Plaintiffs' request to include this Title IX count against ASD on February 26, 2009. See Doe v. Allentown Sch. Dist., No. 06-1926, 72 Fed. R. Serv. 3d 1021, 2009 WL 536671, at *3-5 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 2, 2009); (Doc. No. 117). On March 9, 2009, Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint, which included their Title IX claim against ASD. (Doc. No. 118). Plaintiffs subsequently filed a corrected Second Amended Complaint on April 21, 2009. (Doc. No. 124).

STANDARD

Pursuant to Rule 24(a)(2), "[o]n timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who...claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest." Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has interpreted Rule 24(a)(2) to require an intervening applicant to prove the following four elements: (1) a timely application for leave to intervene; (2) a sufficient interest in the litigation; (3) a threat that the interest will be impaired or affected, as a practical matter, by the disposition of the action; and (4) inadequate representation of the prospective intervenor's interest by existing parties to the litigation. Kleissler v. U.S. Forest Serv., 157 F.3d 964, 969 (3d Cir. 1998); Harris v. Pernsley, 820 F.2d 592, 596 (3d Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 947 (1987). "Although these requirements are intertwined, each must be met to intervene as of right." Harris, 820 F.2d at 596.

ANALYSIS

The United States has satisfied the four elements necessary to intervene as of right pursuant to Rule 26(a)(2).

A. Timeliness of Application

The timeliness of a motion to intervene is determined from all the circumstances by the trial court in the exercise of its sound discretion. Mountain Top Condo. Ass'n v. Dave Stabbert Master Builder, Inc., 72 F.3d 361, 369 (3d Cir. 1995). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has articulated three factors for district courts to consider in determining whether a motion to intervene is timely: (1) how far the proceedings have gone when the movant seeks to intervene; (2) the prejudice that delay may cause the parties; and (3) the reason for the delay. Pennsylvania v. Rizzo, 530 F.2d 501, 506 (3d Cir. 1976), cert. denied, 426 U.S. 921 (1976); see also Mountain Top, 72 F.3d at 369.

An analysis of these factors demonstrates that the United States' Motion for Leave to Intervene is timely. Though this case is over three years old, Plaintiffs' Title IX claim against ASD was only added in March 2009 (Doc. No. 118)-just over three months before the United States filed its request to intervene in support of this claim. Discovery in this matter has only just begun. Paper discovery began in May 2009, and depositions are scheduled to commence in July and August 2009. (ASD Br. at 2). A Rule 16 Scheduling Conference was conducted on June 18, 2009, and the United States was permitted to participate in this Conference. (Doc. No. 132). Additionally, a Scheduling Order was issued on June 30, 2009. (Doc. No. 136).

As this case is in the early stages of protracted discovery and is not slated for trial until April 2011, any prejudice to ASD is minimal and not, as ASD contends, "severe." (ASD's Br. at 8). The United States' intervention poses little threat of interfering with the current discovery schedule set by the parties, especially since the United States' Proposed Complaint in Intervention does not add a new cause of action. Indeed, the United States asserted during the Court's June 18, 2009 Rule 16 Scheduling Conference that it "was prepared to adhere to any schedule that is set forth by the Court . . . and the parties." The United States also agreed to meet any deposition dates that have already been set by the parties. The Court has no reason to disbelieve such statements and will take the United States at its word that its involvement will not delay this case. In short, ASD's contention that the United States' intervention will further "complicate the discovery [of] an already complicated litigation process" is simply not sufficient to render the United States' intervention either untimely or prejudicial. (ASD's Br. at 8); see Lopez v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville and Davidson County, No. 07-799, 2008 WL 4831318, at *3-4 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 4, 2009) (permitting intervention of ...


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