Springer v. Wallace et al
ORDER granting the parties' 40 motion to stay as follows: the current scheduling order is stricken; this case will be reset on the court's 11/2017 trial docket with other deadlines as established by separate scheduling order; the two summary judgment motions 32 and 33 filed by the County are stricken, with leave granted for the County to file a single further summary judgment motion per the scheduling order. Signed by Honorable Joe Heaton on 7/26/2017. (cla)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
RICK WALLACE, ALFALFA COUNTY
SHERIFF, in his official capacity, and
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
OF ALFALFA COUNTY
The parties have jointly moved to stay all pretrial deadlines, including the trial
setting, pending the court’s ruling on the pending motions for summary judgment. The
court does not ordinarily suspend pretrial preparation requirements in such circumstances,
but concludes it is appropriate here albeit for reasons other than those identified by the
In this case, plaintiff asserts gender discrimination and disability discrimination
claims based on federal law. Nominally, the claims are asserted against two defendants:
the Sheriff of Alfalfa County “in his official capacity” and the Board of County
Commissioners of Alfalfa County. However, both defendants are, in substance, the same
defendant—Alfalfa County. A suit brought against a county official in his official capacity
is, in substance, a suit against the county. See Myers v. Okla. Cnty. Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs,
151 F.3d 131, 1316 n.2 (10th Cir. 1998). A suit brought nominally against the board of
county commissioners is, in these circumstances, a suit against the county. The Board of
County Commissioners is named as the defendant because that is the way, based on
Oklahoma law, a county is sued. 19 OKLA. STAT. § 4; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b)(3)
(capacity to sue or be sued for parties that are not individuals or corporations is determined
by state law).
The failure of the nominal defendants to recognize that there is, in substance, a
single defendant in this case—the County—results in pointless arguments over whether the
Board is the plaintiff’s “employer.” It also creates at least the potential for inconsistent
legal positions being asserted for the same defendant. 1
Further, in the circumstances
existing here, it results in violation of the rules of this court. Alfalfa County has filed two
summary judgment motions and briefs without leave of court, contrary to L.Cr.R. 56.1(a).
It has also violated, in substance, the rules as to page limits. L.Cv.R. 7.1(e).
Based on the foregoing, the parties’ motion to stay [Doc. #40] is GRANTED as
follows: (a) the current scheduling order is STRICKEN; this case will be reset on the
court’s November 2017 trial docket with other deadlines as established by separate
scheduling order; and (b) the two summary judgment motions filed by the County are
STRICKEN, with leave granted for the County to file a single further summary judgment
motion per the scheduling order.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
The Sheriff is the county official most likely to qualify as the pertinent decision-maker in
cases of this sort, and his actions may determine the substantive liability of the county. But that
does not mean the Sheriff is authorized to control the county’s litigating position, or that the
County can litigate on two fronts through different agents. See 19 Okla. Stat. § 1(1) and § 3; Bd.
of Cnty. Comm’rs v. Morgan, 324 P.2d 268, 270 (Okla. 1958) (the board of county commissioners
of each county has control of litigation where the county’s interests are involved).
Dated this 26th day of July, 2017.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?