George v. Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation

Filing 42

ORDER denying 41 Amended Motion for Stay of Case due to Federal Government Shutdown for lack of good cause. Signed by Judge Douglas L Rayes on 1/10/2019. (MMO)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 7 8 Rosita George, Plaintiff, 9 10 ORDER v. 11 No. CV-17-08200-PCT-DLR Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, 12 13 Defendant. 14 15 Plaintiff Rosita George, a member of the Navajo Nation, applied for relocation 16 benefits in January 2009. After years of review, Defendant the Office of Navajo and Hopi 17 Indian Relocation (“ONHIR”)—an agency of the federal government—denied Ms. 18 George’s application. Ms. George then filed this case seeking judicial review pursuant to 19 the Administrative Procedures Act. 20 In October 2018, Ms. George moved for summary judgment reversing ONHIR’s 21 decision. ONHIR responded to Ms. George’s motion in November and simultaneously 22 cross-moved for summary judgment affirming its decision. Later that month, Ms. George 23 filed a reply in support of her motion for summary judgment and a response opposing 24 ONHIR’s cross-motion. ONHIR then moved to extend its reply deadline to January 14, 25 2019, which the Court granted. 26 Thus, a decade after applying for relocation benefits, it appeared that Ms. George 27 was well on her way to a judicial resolution of her claim. But then the President of the 28 United States and Congress chose not to fund portions of the federal government, an 1 impasse that continues to this day. Because of the President and Congress’s voluntary 2 refusal to appropriate funds, ONHIR’s attorneys by law are now prohibited from working 3 on this case. See 31 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1342, 1349, 1350, 1518, 1519. ONHIR therefore 4 asks the Court to stay this case due to the partial federal government shutdown. 5 This case’s schedule “may be modified only for good cause and with the judge’s 6 consent.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4). The good cause standard “primarily considers the 7 diligence of the party seeking the amendment.” Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 8 975 F.2d 604, 609 (9th Cir. 1992). If the moving party “was not diligent, the inquiry should 9 end.” Id. 10 Although the Court appreciates the quandary that ONHIR’s counsel (through no 11 fault of their own) find themselves in, the Court must evaluate the diligence of the party 12 seeking to change the schedule. The federal government’s voluntary refusal to pay for its 13 own agency’s legal representation—despite ample resources to do so—does not constitute 14 good cause for delaying this case.1 It has been ten years since Ms. George applied for 15 relocation benefits. She is entitled to judicial review and this Court has a constitutional 16 duty to resolve her claim. The Court intends to discharge its duty, even as the other 17 branches of government struggle to discharge theirs. 18 Moreover, the January 14 deadline for ONHIR to file its reply memorandum is the 19 only remaining deadline of consequence. (See Doc. 8 ¶ 3 (“the matter shall be deemed 20 submitted when all motions, responses, and replies have been timely filed”).) Considering 21 ONHIR has briefed the issues in this case both through its response in opposition to Ms. 22 George’s motion for summary judgment and its own cross-motion, the Court doubts 23 ONHIR will be prejudiced if, due to a lapse in appropriations, it is unable to file a reply 24 25 26 27 28 1 This is not to say that a lapse in appropriations can never support a motion to stay. For example, this Court recently granted a joint motion to stay due to the partial federal government shutdown in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Corizon Health Incorporated, et al., No. CV-18-02942-PHX-DLR. (See Doc. 22 in that case). But in that case, the federal government—through its agency the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—is litigating at least in part to vindicate the rights of private individuals allegedly adversely affected by the defendant’s challenged conduct. Denying the joint stay request therefore would prejudice the rights of those individuals, who have no control over the current budgetary impasse. The equitable calculus is different where, as here, the federal agency is representing its own interests rather than the interests of private citizens. -2- 1 brief. Reply memoranda, after all, are optional. See LRCiv 56.1(d) (“the moving party . . 2 . may have fifteen (15) days after service of the responsive memorandum within which to 3 serve and file a reply memorandum”), 7.2(d) (permitting a moving party to file a reply “if 4 that party so desires”). 5 Accordingly, 6 IT IS ORDERED that ONHIR’s motion to stay (Doc. 41) is DENIED for lack of 7 8 good cause. Dated this 10th day of January, 2019. 9 10 11 12 13 Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -3-

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