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Warren v. Thompson

September 16, 2004

MICHELL GRAVES WARREN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOMMY THOMPSON, SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Deborah A. Robinson United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff's Motion for New Trial (Docket No. 101) is pending for determination by the undersigned. Upon consideration of the motion, the memoranda in support thereof and in opposition thereto and the entire record herein, Plaintiff's motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, in her amended complaint, alleged that Defendant "systematically and continuously violated her statutory rights by discriminating against her on the basis of her race, and for retaliation" in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. First Amended Complaint for Declaratory, Injunctive, and Monetary Relief Arising from Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Race and Retaliation ("Amended Complaint") ¶ 2. By an order entered on January 31, 2003, the undersigned granted Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. See January 31, 2003 Memorandum Opinion and Order (Docket No. 94).

A jury trial commenced on February 3, 2003 on the claims of discrimination and retaliation alleged in paragraphs 29, 30, 32 (last sentence), 39, 40 and 41 of Plaintiff's amended complaint. See January 14, 2003 Final Pretrial Order (Docket No. 77) at 2.*fn1 At the close of the Plaintiff's case in chief, the undersigned granted Defendant's Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law with respect to Plaintiff's discrimination claims. On February 7, 2003, the jury returned a verdict for the Defendant with respect to Plaintiff's retaliation claims. Judgment was entered for Defendant on February 21, 2003.

Plaintiff now requests that this action "be returned to U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts, to whom the case was initially assigned." Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for New Trial ("Plaintiff's Memorandum") at 1. Plaintiff submits that because the parties never filed a "notice of consent" in accordance with Local Civil Rule 73.1(b), the assignment of this case to the undersigned is "void." Id. at 2. Plaintiff, in the alternative, moves for a new trial pursuant to Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. First, Plaintiff submits that the court erred in dismissing her discrimination claims "because there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could have found discrimination." Id. at 3-4. Second, Plaintiff asserts that she "is entitled to a new trial because the court excluded probative evidence that resulted in a verdict that was contrary to all of the relevant evidence and a miscarriage of justice." Id. at 1.

Defendant, in his opposition, submits that "there is no question that the parties clearly and unambiguously indicated their consent in writing when they executed their Joint Meet and Confer Statement pursuant to LcvR 16.3[.]" Defendant's Opposition to Motion for New Trial ("Defendant's Opposition") at 4.*fn2 Second, Defendant contends that the Court properly granted Defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law with respect to Plaintiff's discrimination claims. Id. at 6-9. With respect to the remainder of the contentions advanced by Plaintiff, Defendant asserts that the court's determinations were all proper exercises of the court's discretion regarding evidentiary matters. Id. at 9-17.

DISCUSSION

Consent to Proceed Before a Magistrate Judge

Section 636 of Title 28 of the United States Code provides, in pertinent part, that [u]pon the consent of the parties, a full-time United States magistrate judge... may conduct any or all proceedings in a jury or non-jury civil matter and order the entry of judgment in the case, when specially designated to exercise such jurisdiction by the district court[.]

28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). Further, 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(2) provides that

[i]f a magistrate judge is designated to exercise civil jurisdiction under paragraph (1) of this subsection, the clerk of court shall, at the time the action is filed, notify the parties of the availability of a magistrate judge to exercise such jurisdiction. The decision of the parties shall be communicated to the clerk of court. Thereafter, either the district court judge or the magistrate judge may again advise the parties of the availability of the magistrate judge, but in so doing, shall also advise the parties that they are free to withhold consent without adverse substantive consequences. Rules of court for the reference of civil matters to magistrate judges shall include procedures to protect the voluntariness of the parties' consent.

28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(2).

Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ...


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