Rollins et al v. Alabama Community College System et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that 205 MOTION to Sever Claims of Plaintiff Tamara Ward and for Separate Trial is GRANTED; that Tamara Ward's claims are severed from those of Shemedrea Johnson and Renoda Thomas for purposes of trial; that consis tent with the Plaintiffs' request that the cases be kept on the same docket, Tamara Ward's claims will be tried during the same October 31, 2011 trial term during which Shemedrea Johnson and Renoda Thomas's claims will be tried; that t he deadlines in sections 9, 10, and 11 of 32 Scheduling Order are re-set to October 5, 2011, as to the claims of Shemedrea Johnson and Renoda Thomas and the claims of Tamara Ward; that the Defendants and Plaintiff Tamara Ward are DIRECTED to submit a separate proposed pre-trial order from the proposed pre-trial order submitted by the Defendants and Shemedrea Johnson and Renoda Thomas. Signed by Honorable Judge W. Harold Albritton, III on 9/29/2011. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Appeals Checklist)(cc, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SHEMEDREA JOHNSON, RENODA
THOMAS, and TAMARA WARD,
ALABAMA COMMUNITY COLLEGE
SYSTEM, INC., et al.,
) CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:09cv636-WHA
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This case is before the court on a Motion to Sever Claims of Plaintiff Tamara Ward and
for Separate Trial (Doc. # 205), filed by the Defendants on September 20, 2011.
The court having ruled on all Motions for Summary Judgment, this case is proceeding to
trial on Renoda Thomas’s Title VII and Equal Protection failure to promote claims, Shemedrea
Johnson’s Title VII and Equal Protection claims for failure to promote based on a 2008
reorganization request, and Tamara Ward’s Title VII, Equal Protection, and Equal Pay Act
claims based on placement on the D Salary Schedule.
The Defendants have asked that Tamara Ward’s claims be severed from the claims of
Renoda Thomas and Shemedrea Johnson for purposes of trial.
Rule 42 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that courts may order separate
trials for convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize. Rule 42 requires
district courts to examine the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case. See Beckford v. Dep’t
of Corrections, 605 F.3d. 951, 962 (11th Cir. 2010). In upholding a district court’s exercise of
discretion not to sever claims, the Eleventh Circuit has indicated that efficiency is not achieved
through severance if there is a substantial overlap of issues, facts, evidence, and witnesses.
Griffin v. City of Opa-Locka, 261 F.3d 1295, 1301 (11th Cir. 2001).
In this case, as presented in the context of Motions for Summary Judgment, the claims of
Johnson and Thomas shared similarities of issues, facts, evidence, and witnesses, because the C
salary schedule position sought by these plaintiffs was filled by the same comparator, Billy
Merrill, and because Samuel Munnerlyn made a statement which a jury could find evidenced
gender-based animus and which related to that specific position within the business office.
The claims of Tamara Ward, while also involving Munnerlyn, are otherwise dissimilar
from the claims of Johnson and Thomas. Ward argues that comparator Michael Barrett was
offered a D Salary Schedule position, and on the same day a new contract of employment was
created for her setting her at a lower D Salary Schedule position. Furthermore, Ward and Barrett
are instructors, and were not employed in the business office. In addition, only Ward is
proceeding on an Equal Pay Act claim.
The court also notes that evidence relied upon by the Defendants in moving for summary
judgment on Ward’s claims consisted largely of an affidavit of Wilford Holt (“Holt”). Holt
offered the opinion that Barrett’s placement was consistent with the requirements of the D Salary
Schedule, and indicated that although he did not remember his recommendation to Munnerlyn,
he was sure he would have made a recommendation.
Based on the factual issues, witnesses, and evidence which are different in Ward’s claims,
including salary schedule placement, type of position, comparators, and Holt’s role, among
others, and because there are legal issues unique to Ward presented by her Equal Pay Act claim,
the court concludes that there is not a substantial overlap of issues, facts, evidence, and
witnesses. Based on the differences presented by Ward’s claims, the court concludes that it will
be more convenient, will avoid prejudice, and will expedite and economize to separately try
Tamara Ward’s claims. Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED as follows:
1. The Motion to Sever Claims of Plaintiff Tamara Ward and For Separate Trial (Doc.
#205) is GRANTED, and Tamara Ward’s claims are severed from those of Shemedrea Johnson
and Renoda Thomas for purposes of trial.
2. Consistent with the Plaintiffs’ request that the cases be kept on the same docket,
Tamara Ward’s claims will be tried during the same October 31, 2011 trial term during which
Shemedrea Johnson and Renoda Thomas’s claims will be tried.
3. Summary judgment motions having been disposed of, pursuant to the court’s Order of
April 12, 2011 (Doc #166), the deadlines in sections 9, 10, and 11 of the Scheduling Order (Doc.
#32) are re-set to October 5, 2011, as to the claims of Shemedrea Johnson and Renoda Thomas
and the claims of Tamara Ward
4. The Defendants and Plaintiff Tamara Ward are DIRECTED to submit a separate
proposed pre-trial order from the proposed pre-trial order submitted by the Defendants and
Shemedrea Johnson and Renoda Thomas.
Done this 29th day of September, 2011.
/s/ W. Harold Albritton
W. HAROLD ALBRITTON
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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