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Charles Breslin, et al v. Dickinson Township

May 19, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge

(Judge Stengel) (Magistrate Judge Carlson)


I. Introduction

This case present a singular, and singularly senseless, circumstance. The Plaintiffs' counsel urges us to re-consider a ruling that we entered on a motion that the Plaintiff's counsel never opposed, and demands that we re-consider this ruling even though Plaintiffs' counsel has already fully complied with the order.

This matter now comes before us on a motion filed by the Plaintiffs, which invites us to re-consider prior discovery rulings which we made in the course of this litigation. (Doc.116.) This motion to re-consider is unusual in several respects: First, the rulings which the Plaintiffs ask us to re-consider in this motion are rulings which we made only after the Plaintiffs completely neglected to file any opposition to the discovery requests made by the Defendants. Second, the motion invites us to reconsider our prior rulings, but provides no legal citation to the standards governing motions to re-consider, and cites to no legal authority which demonstrates that the Court's initial rulings, which were unopposed by the Plaintiffs, were erroneous. Third, the Plaintiffs urge us to re-consider these discovery rulings, but neglect to mention that they have already fully complied with these rulings, making their motion entirely moot.

For the reasons set forth below, the motion to re-consider will be denied.

II. Statement of Facts and of the Case

Some brief factual context is helpful in understanding the current motion to re-consider. This case is a civil rights action brought by the Plaintiffs against Defendants, various local township officials, alleging constitutional First Amendment and First Amendment-retaliation claims. Following contentious discovery proceedings, this case was referred to the undersigned on January 25, 2011, for the purpose of overseeing pre-trial discovery.(Doc. 77.)

On March 17, 2011, the parties each separately requested that the Court schedule a discovery conference to address these on-going discovery disputes. (Docs. 94 and 95.) The Court promptly responded to these concerns, scheduling and conducting a discovery conference with all counsel on March 24, 2011. (Doc. 96.) At the close of this conference, the Court entered an order setting a discovery litigation schedule in this case. This schedule was largely animated by concerns voiced by the Plaintiffs' counsel regarding delays in this litigation, and in clear and precise terms set a 30-day schedule for resolving pending discovery disputes. (Doc. 97.)

Despite having actively sought the Court's intervention in these discovery matters, (Doc. 95), the Plaintiffs' counsel, regrettably, largely neglected these deadlines, failing to comply with the April 15, 2011, deadline set by the Court for the filing of discovery motions, and ignoring an April 22, 2011, deadline for responding to a motion to compel filed by the Defendants. Despite the decision by Plaintiffs' counsel to forego all of these deadlines, we independently assessed the merits of these discovery demands made by the Defendants and found that the Defendants were entitled to some, but not all, of the relief which they sought in their motion to compel. Specifically, we concluded that the Defendants were entitled to obtain the Social Security numbers of the Plaintiffs, something that "is considered routine information in almost all civil discovery matters." Gober v. City of Leesburg, 197 F.R.D. 519, 521 n.2 (M.D.Fla. 2000). In addition, we found, consistent with settled case law, Frank v. City of Manchester, No. 09-389, 2010 WL 4720121(D.N.H. Nov. 15, 2010)(ordering disclosure of Plaintiff's aliases), that the Defendants were also entitled to disclosures of aliases and pen names used by the Plaintiffs in internet postings. Finally we found that the Plaintiffs' counsel had over-charged the Defendants $13.20 in copying costs and directed that the Plaintiffs' counsel reimburse these costs.

While the Plaintiffs' counsel chose not to contest this discovery motion when it was filed, counsel now belatedly disputed the Court's resolution of the motion by filing a motion to re-consider these rulings. (Doc. 116.) That motion to re-consider has been fully briefed by the parties, (Docs. 117 and 121)*fn1 , briefing which reveals yet another puzzlement in this litigation. Although the Plaintiffs have moved to reconsider these rulings which they initially did not oppose, it is represented by the Defendants that the Plaintiffs have fully complied with these discovery demands, actions which seem to render their motion to re-consider entirely moot.

II. Discussion

A. This Motion is Now Moot

At the outset, it appears that this motion to re-consider these discovery rulings is now moot, since the Plaintiffs have fully complied with their discovery obligations in accordance with this Court's prior order. The mootness doctrine recognizes a fundamental truth in litigation: "[i]f developments occur during the course of adjudication that eliminate a plaintiff's personal stake in the outcome of a suit or prevent a court from being able to grant the ...

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