Washington v. Jackson State University et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 3 Motion to Dismiss for the reasons set out in the Order. Signed by District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III on August 9, 2017. (SP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:17-CV-426-DPJ-FKB
JACKSON STATE UNIVERSITY, et al.
This employment-discrimination case is before the Court on Defendant Dowell Taylor’s
Motion to Dismiss . Taylor says he did not receive timely service of process and that the state
and federal claims against him otherwise fail on the merits. For the reasons that follow, the
motion is granted as to the Title VII claims but denied as to the state-law wrongful-termination
Facts and Procedural History
Plaintiff Allison Washington filed this lawsuit against Jackson State University and
Dowell Taylor in Hinds County Circuit Court on October 19, 2015. She alleges claims under
Title VII “and Mississippi statutory and common law” for sex discrimination, harassment,
retaliation, and wrongful termination. Compl. [1-1] at 1. Washington served JSU on November
13, 2015, but was unable to serve Taylor within the 120 days provided by Mississippi Rule of
Civil Procedure 4(h), and on February 12, 2016, she filed her first motion for a 120-day
extension to effect service on Taylor. Judge Weill granted that motion on March 14, 2016,
extending the deadline to serve Taylor until June 15, 2016.
Washington filed her second motion for a 120-day extension to serve Taylor on June 10,
2016. Had that motion been granted, she would have had until October 13, 2016, to effect
service on Taylor. But Judge Weill did not enter the proposed order Washington’s attorney sent,
and on October 16, 2016, Washington filed a third motion for a 120-day extension for service of
process. Judge Weill granted that motion on October 18, 2016, by entering an order captioned
“Order Granting Third Extension of Time to Serve Complaint to Defendant Dowell Taylor.”
Third Extension Order [3-6]. But the circuit court’s docket sheet actually linked the electronic
filing of that order with the second motion for extension. Docket [8-11] at 2. If the second and
third motions were both effectively granted, Washington’s deadline to serve Taylor would have
been February 10, 2017.
On February 10, 2017, Washington filed her fourth motion for a 120-day extension to
serve Taylor. Judge Weill granted that motion but noted that it would be the final extension.
Order [3-8] at 3. Again, assuming all previous extensions were granted, this final deadline
would have been June 10, 2017. On May 6, 2017, Washington finally served Taylor, who
removed the case to this Court and moved to dismiss.
Taylor contends that the claims against him should be dismissed for failure to comply
with Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h). Alternatively, he asserts that the Title VII claims
against him lack merit. Finally, in rebuttal, he argues that the state-law wrongful-termination
claim against him fails as a matter of law.
Service of Process
The parties agree that the timing of service of process in this removed case is governed
by Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h), which provides:
If a service of the summons and complaint is not made upon a defendant within
120 days after the filing of the complaint and the party on whose behalf such
service was required cannot show good cause why such service was not made
within that period, the action shall be dismissed as to that defendant without
prejudice upon the court’s own initiative with notice to such party or upon
Miss. R. Civ. P. 4(h).
Based on this rule, Taylor makes three main arguments for finding that he was not
properly served: (1) the state-court orders failed to establish “good cause” for the delays; (2)
service was untimely because Washington failed to serve him before the first extension expired;
and (3) because Washington received only three extensions totaling 360 days, her final day for
service was February 10, 2017. None of these arguments are compelling.
Taylor first says that because, in his view, Washington “never established good cause for
any extension of time she received to serve Taylor, . . . her service on Taylor—564 days after
first having the summons issued to him, was untimely.” Def.’s Mem.  at 4. But the statecourt orders did explain why time was needed, and this Court will not second guess Judge
Weill’s rationale or rulings. See 18B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice
& Procedure § 4478.4 (3d ed. 1998) (explaining that where a case “move[s] from one court to
another by such means as . . . removal . . . [f]or the most part, later courts tend to adhere to
earlier rulings by other courts for the same reasons that inform general law-of-the-case
Taylor’s second and third arguments relate to Washington’s second extension request that
Judge Weill never expressly granted, but that was linked as having been granted in the electronic
docket. Taylor first says that absent the second extension, service was untimely once the first
extension expired. He then alternatively argues that Judge Weill granted only three of the four
requests, so the cumulative extensions equaled 360 days and expired February 10, 2017. See
Def.’s Mem.  at 5. These arguments ignore the orders Judge Weill entered.
While it is true the record would be clearer if all four of Washington’s proposed orders
granting her four separate motions for extensions had been entered, Judge Weill’s intent is not
hard to find. Judge Weill’s final order states that “on October 18, 2016, this Honorable Court
signed an Order allowing the Plaintiff an additional one-hundred and twenty (120) days to
complete service of process, making the new deadline February 13, 2017.” See Fourth
Extension Order [3-8] at 2 (emphasis added). The order then “extend[ed] the time in which
Plaintiff may complete service of process by one-hundred and twenty (120) days.” Id. at 3.
Judge Weill signed that order on February 15, 2017. And he did not—as Taylor argues—thereby
retroactively reduce the time for service from February 13 to February 10. Instead, it was the
judge’s plain intention to extend the deadline for another 120 days from the previous February
13 deadline—i.e., until June 10. Washington served Taylor on May 6, making service timely.
Dismissal is not warranted on the basis of Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h).
In response to the motion to dismiss, Washington “agree[d] to dismiss her claims of sex
discrimination, harassment, and retaliation under Title VII against Defendant Dowell Taylor.”
Pl.’s Resp.  at 6. So the sole remaining claim against Taylor is the wrongful-termination
claim, in which Washington alleges that she “was unlawfully terminated by Defendant without
just cause and without due process.” Compl. [1-1] ¶ 31. Taylor does not substantively address
the claim in his opening brief, saying only that, given the lack of timely service, Mississippi’s
three-year statute of limitations applicable to the claim has expired, warranting dismissal with
prejudice for untimely service. Def.’s Mem.  at 6. But the Court has rejected the untimelyservice argument.
Taylor addresses the merits of the wrongful-termination claim for the first time in
rebuttal, saying that the facts as alleged by Washington do not state a claim under Mississippi
law. Def.’s Rebuttal  at 2. “It is the practice of . . . the district courts [in this circuit] to refuse
to consider arguments raised for the first time in reply briefs.” Gillaspy v. Dall. Indep. Sch.
Dist., 278 F. App’x 307, 315 (5th Cir. 2008). Washington was not given the opportunity to
respond to Taylor’s substantive argument on the state-law claim. The Court therefore declines to
The Court has considered all arguments. Those not specifically addressed would not
have changed the outcome. For the foregoing reasons, Defendant Dowell Taylor’s Motion to
Dismiss  is granted in part. The Title VII claims against Taylor are dismissed with prejudice.
The motion is otherwise denied.
SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED this the 9th day of August, 2017.
s/ Daniel P. Jordan III
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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