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MARTIN v. HOWARD UNIVERSITY
May 23, 2002
DAWN MARTIN, PLAINTIFF,
HOWARD UNIVERSITY, ET AL., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Facciola, United States Magistrate Judge.
Once more into the breach. I wonder if the parties and the court will
ever wake up from the nightmare discovery has become in this case.
The University acknowledges, with concern, that it
unintentionally failed to comply with certain
provisions of this Court's April 11 Order. This
defendant apologizes to the Court and to plaintiff for
Defendant Howard University's Response to Order to Show Cause at 1 (filed
June 11, 2001). Howard's counsel, represented at my direction by his own
Mr. Lattimore apologizes for the failure to comply in
all respects with the Court's Order of April 11,
2001, which required that discovery response be
completed within twenty days.
Response of Phillip A. Lattimore, III to Show-Cause Order at 1 (filed
June 11, 2001).
These submissions by Howard and its counsel were therefore devoted to
why its counsel's failure was not contumacious — namely because it
was due to the extenuating circumstance of primary counsel's involvement
in a trial in the Superior Court. Thus, although the motion for
reconsideration now before me was filed the same day as the responses to
the order to show cause, neither Howard nor its counsel asserted that my
order of April 11, 2001 was in any way erroneous.
Indeed, my order that they show cause why they should not be held in
contempt dealt only with the failure of Howard to comply with a deadline
I set and had nothing to do with whether it had responded to plaintiff's
discovery requests — the premise of its current motion for
reconsideration. In my order, I stated the following:
As a preliminary matter, I will first resolve the
issue of Howard University's failure to comply with
this Court's Order of April 11, 2001. The May 1st
discovery deadline set by this Court passed without
any indication from defendant that it could not meet
this deadline. Defendant did not take any measures to
seek relief from the May 1st deadline. Rather, the
defendant merely allowed the deadline to lapse without
any response whatsoever. Defendant filed no pleadings
in this case until May 18, 2001, when it sought leave
to file a late response to plaintiff's motion for
Defendant's flagrant disregard for this Court's
Order is unacceptable. Accordingly, Howard University
shall show cause in writing within ten (10) days of
the date of this order why Howard University and its
counsel should not be held in contempt for failure to
comply with this Court's order of April 11, 2001,
directing defendant to provide plaintiff with answers
to her interrogatories and document requests as
compelled by the Order, and why defendant University
should not be precluded from presenting a defense in
this case altogether.
Memorandum Opinion and Order at 4.
Since my show cause order dealt only with the failure of Howard and its
counsel to meet the deadline I set, any alleged mistakes in my April 11,
2001 order are of academic interest. First, even a "mistaken" order
commands obedience until it is overturned on appeal. Maness v. Meyers,
419 U.S. 449, 458 (1975). Second, Howard could have brought my supposed
mistakes to my attention after I issued the April 11, 2001 order and
before the May 1, 2001 deadline had past. Instead, Howard chose
to ignore the May 1, 2001 deadline and instead moved me to reconsider my
April 11, 2001 order after being directed to show cause why it and its
counsel should not be held in contempt. Thus, as Howard would have it, a
party can ignore alleged mistakes in a court order, let deadlines come and
go, and then, only after being ordered to show cause why it should not be
held in contempt, inform the court of the court's supposed errors. It is
hard to imagine a process that more trivializes the obligation a litigant
has to comply with a court's orders.
Finally, Howard's complaint is that it had been ordered to provide
information that it has already provided. First, assuming that is true,
how has it been harmed? Second, there is no authority that would permit
the filing of this motion for reconsideration. Howard cites
Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) but forgets that the rule applies only to setting
aside a final judgment. My April 11, 2001 order was no such thing. ...
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