Braden v. Mountain Home School District et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 39 Motion to Amend. A status conference remains set for 1/9/13 at 1:30 p.m. in Fort Smith. Signed by Honorable P. K. Holmes, III on January 7, 2013. (lw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
SCOTT BRADEN, as parent and next friend of M
Case No. 3:10-CV-03118
MOUNTAIN HOME SCHOOL DISTRICT; CHARLES
SCRIBER, individually and in his official capacity as
Superintendent; DEBBIE ATKINSON, individually and as
Director of Special Education; MICHELLE MCWILLIAMS,
individually and in her official capacity as Principal
of Pinkston Middle School; LINDA WHITE, individually
and as Vice Principal of Pinkston Middle School; and
CASSIE FOWLER, individually and in her official capacity
as Teacher of the Alternative Learning Education Classroom
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Currently before the Court is Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (Doc.
39). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s Motion is DENIED.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave
[to amend a pleading] when justice so requires.” It is clear to the Court that in the case at bar, justice
does not require granting leave to amend at this juncture. The Complaint was filed on December 8,
2010 and originally set for trial on March 26, 2012. The case was then continued to November 5,
2012, after counsel for both parties informed the Court shortly before trial that they had failed to
conduct any discovery during the past year that the matter was pending.
On September 13, 2012, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 15), to
which Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. 23), and Defendants filed a Reply (Doc. 31).
As the Motion for Summary Judgment sought to dismiss Plaintiff’s entire case, the parties in the
course of responding and replying to the Motion thoroughly briefed all legal issues and identified
the material disputes of fact that remained. On October 18, 2012, the Court entered its Order (Doc.
33) granting in part and denying in part Defendants’ Motion and preserving several claims for trial.
Approximately two weeks before the November 5, 2012 trial date, Plaintiff’s counsel moved
for another continuance, citing her ongoing personal medical issues as grounds. The Court, out of
concern that this case had been pending for nearly two years and was the oldest active case on the
docket, held a telephonic pre-trial conference on October 29, 2012, just one week prior to the trial
date. During the telephonic conference, Plaintiff’s counsel informed the Court that new counsel
would shortly be entering an appearance on behalf of Plaintiff, and current counsel would withdraw.
Even though discovery had been concluded, the legal and factual issues had been briefed extensively
by the parties on summary judgment, and Defendants had stated that they were substantially ready
for trial at that time, the Court had no choice but to continue the trial for the express purpose of
allowing sufficient time for Plaintiff’s new counsel to familiarize himself or herself with the case
and prepare for trial. The Court issued an amended scheduling order on November 1, 2012, setting
the new trial date for April 1, 2013.
As of today, despite Plaintiff’s counsel’s assurances to the Court, new counsel has not entered
an appearance on Plaintiff’s behalf. Moreover, the Court understands that nothing has changed with
regard to current counsel’s apparent inability to devote the time needed to zealously prosecute this
matter on behalf of her client. See Doc. 34 (“[Plaintiff’s current] Counsel will need to be available
to assist in her husband’s daily treatment at UAMS, which is mandatory . . . Counsel requests that
the trial of this case be continued until sometime in March, 2013, due to her personal emergency);
Doc. 34-1 (“[Counsel] will need to cancel all out of town hearings and trials over the next 4 months
in order to provide the required assistance for her husband’s daily treatment at the UAMS Myeloma
Institute.”). In short, even though two months have passed since the Court continued the trial of this
matter to accommodate new counsel, the only new entry on the Court’s docket is the instant Motion
for Leave to Amend the two-year-old Complaint.
The extended discovery deadline—which the Court put in place for the benefit of Plaintiff’s
new counsel, who never made an appearance—is now a little more than one week away. It is plain
to the Court that Plaintiff seeks to capitalize on the multiple continuances granted in this case to
assert new claims that have arisen during the two-year pendency of this matter. These new claims
are factually dissimilar from the rest of the claims in the Complaint, which concern Defendants’
knowledge of the alleged sexual abuse of Plaintiff’s child by another student in 2009.
According to Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Amend (Doc. 39), the new claims he wishes to
add to his Complaint derive from administrative appeals now pending before the Arkansas
Department of Education for Defendants’ alleged violations of the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act in 2011. The Court notes that Plaintiff filed these administrative appeals on August
9, 2012—eighteen months after the original Complaint was filed in this case—and on December 31,
2012—two years after the original Complaint was filed and two months after this case was set to go
to trial. (Docs. 39-1 and 39-2). Allowing Plaintiff to amend the Complaint now would necessitate
further discovery, more continuances, and unnecessary delay in the administration of justice in this
case. Plaintiff is free to bring these other claims in a separate lawsuit.
Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File Amended
Complaint (Doc. 39) is DENIED. A status conference remains set for January 9, 2013, at 1:30 p.m.
in Fort Smith.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 7th day of January, 2013.
/s/P. K. Holmes, III
P.K. HOLMES, III
CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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