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Taylor v. Harrisburg Area Community College

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 5, 2014

SUBRINA TAYLOR, Plaintiff
v.
HARRISBURG AREA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

Plaintiff's most recent motions appear on the court's docket nearly a month after the court granted judgment in favor of Defendant in Plaintiff's employment discrimination action. In the first motion, Plaintiff requests that the court grant her an extension of time in which to file a motion for reconsideration of the court's January 30, 2014 order granting summary judgment. (Doc. 121.) In the second motion, Plaintiff requests that the court set aside the judgment[1] entered in favor of Defendant. (Doc. 122.) For the foregoing reasons, both of Plaintiff's motions will be denied.

I. Background

The parties are familiar with the history of this litigation, and the procedural and factual background have been seen forth in the court's memorandum accompanying its order granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment and is incorporated herein by reference. Accordingly, the court will only set forth the most pertinent portions of the procedural history that justify its denial of the instant motion for an enlargement of time.

Proceeding in this matter pro se, Plaintiff filed her original complaint commencing this civil action on January 30, 2012. (Doc. 1.) Following her survival of a motion to dismiss, as well as her filing of several unsuccessful motions, Attorney James D. Young entered his appearance on Plaintiff's behalf while a fully briefed motion to dismiss was pending.[2] (Doc. 50.) Plaintiff was thereafter granted leave to file a second amended complaint with the assistance of counsel.

Over the course of the following months, the parties were granted numerous extensions of time in which to conduct discovery, including an order moving jury selection to January 6, 2014. ( See Doc. 67.) On October 15, 2013, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 73), brief in support (Doc. 74), and statement of material facts (Doc. 75). On November 5, 2013, the date on which Plaintiff's response was due pursuant to Local Rule 7.6, Plaintiff filed a motion that requested an extension of time until November 12, 2013 (Doc. 78), which the court granted (Doc. 80). On November 12, 2013, Plaintiff filed a second motion that requested an extension of time until November 22, 2013 (Doc. 81), which the court granted (Doc. 82). On November 21, 2013, Plaintiff filed a third motion that requested an extension of time until November 27, 2013 (Doc. 87), which the court granted (Doc. 88). On November 27, 2013, Plaintiff filed a fourth motion that requested an extension of time until December 2, 2013 (Doc. 89), which the court granted (Doc. 92). Because the court still had not received a response from Plaintiff as of January 3, 2014, eighty days since the filing of Defendant's motion, it granted Defendant's request to deem the motion for summary judgment as unopposed, pursuant to Local Rules 7.6 and 56.1. (Doc. 99.)

On January 6, 2014, Plaintiff filed a pro se motion for reconsideration, which requested that the court both reconsider its order deeming unopposed Defendant's motion for summary judgment due to Plaintiff's lack of response and grant Plaintiff an extension of time to "secure another attorney" and respond to the nearly three-month-old motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 100.) The court struck from the record Plaintiff's pro se filing due to her being represented. (Doc. 102.) On January 7, 2014, Attorney Young fled a motion to withdraw as Plaintiff's attorney (Doc. 104), which was opposed by Defendant (Doc. 105). On January 17, 2014, while the motion to withdraw was pending, Attorney Young and Plaintiff, acting pro se, each filed a motion for reconsideration of the January 3, 2014 order. (Docs. 106 & 107.) On January 27, 2014, following a conference call during which defense counsel withdrew their opposition to Attorney Young's withdrawal, the court granted the motion to withdraw (Doc. 109) and entered an order deeming moot Attorney Young's motion for reconsideration as superseded by Plaintiff's pro se motion for reconsideration (Doc. 110). On January 29, 2014, the court issued a memorandum and order denying Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. (Docs. 111 & 112.)

On January 30, 2014, 107 days after the motion for summary judgment had been filed, the court granted judgment in favor of Defendant following a full merits analysis on the facts before it. (Docs. 113, 114 & 115.) In its 33-page memorandum, the court found, inter alia , that, although a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether Plaintiff was qualified for the position, Plaintiff failed to establish her prima facie burden with regard to her racial discrimination claims due to her inability to demonstrate that the employment decisions were racially motivated, [3] that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact with regard to the legitimacy of Defendant's proffered nondiscriminatory reasons for its employment decisions, and that the record failed to establish any causal connection between Plaintiff's filing the 2006 EEOC complaint and Defendant's decision not to hire her in 2009. ( See Doc. 113, pp. 32-33 of 33.) Thus, Defendant was entitled to judgment in its favor. Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal twenty days thereafter. (Doc. 117.)

On February 26, 2014, Plaintiff filed her motion seeking an extension of time. (Doc. 121.) In support of her request, Plaintiff characterizes her failure to respond to Defendant's motion for summary judgment as "excusable neglect." ( Id. at p. 1 of 4.) Plaintiff again lays fault at the feet of her attorney ( see, e.g. , id. at p. 2 of 4) and avers that she had just discovered that "a default judgment can be set aside by the grace of the Court." ( Id. at p. 3 of 4.) Plaintiff argues that her request creates no undue hardship for Defendant because otherwise, Defendant will have to spend resources defending against an appeal.[4] ( Id .) Plaintiff requests that the court grant her one week to research how to bring forward a motion to set aside judgment, " and, presumably, file such a motion. ( Id . at p. 4 of 4.)

On March 2, 2014, before the court ruled on the February 26, 2014 motion seeking an extension, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for relief from judgment, essentially embodying the substance of her motion for an extension of time. (Doc. 122.) On March 3, 2014, Plaintiff filed a brief in support of her motion for relief from judgment. (Doc. 125.) Both Plaintiff's motion for an extension of time and Plaintiff's motion for relief from judgment have been adequately briefed and are appropriate for disposition.

II. Legal Standard

The court will address Plaintiff's motion for an extension of time to file a motion for relief from judgment (Doc. 121) before considering Plaintiff's motion for relief from judgment (Docs. 122 & 125).

A. Jurisdiction

"The filing of a notice of appeal is an event of jurisdictional significance - it confers jurisdiction on the court of appeals and divests the district court of its control over those aspects of the case involved in the appeal." Griggs v. Provident Consumer Disc. Co. , 459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982); see also Venen v. Sweet , 758 F.2d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 1985). However, a district court retains jurisdiction even after the filing of a notice of appeal with regard to the timely filing of a few motions, such as a motion to alter or amend judgment under Rule 59 or a motion for relief from judgment under Rule 60, if the motion is filed within 28 days after the judgment is entered. See Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4)(A)(iv) & (vi). Moreover, the court has no discretion to extend the time for a party to move to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) or for relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 60. Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(2) ("A court must not extend the time to act under Rules... ...


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