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Theresa Weston Saunders v. District of Columbia

January 6, 2012

THERESA WESTON SAUNDERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Before the Court is the parties' [93] Joint Motion to Extend the Discovery Deadlines ("Motion to Extend"), filed on January 5, 2012. Through their Motion to Extend, the parties seek a two-month extension of time to complete discovery in this case, from the current Court-ordered deadline of January 13, 2012 to and including March 13, 2012. Upon careful consideration of the parties' submission, and the record of this action as a whole, the parties' [93] Motion to Extend shall be GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART, as set forth below.

I. BACKGROUND

The Scheduling Conference in this action was held on July 12, 2011, more than twenty-five weeks ago. The Court entered the governing Scheduling and Procedures Order that same day. See Scheduling and Procedures Order ("Scheduling Order"), ECF No. [90]. The Scheduling Order was "intended to serve as the unalterable road map (absent good cause) for the remainder of the case." Olgay v. Soc'y for Envtl. Graphic Design, Inc., 169 F.R.D. 219, 220 (D.D.C. 1996) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

The Court entered the Scheduling Order only after hearing from the parties, and the Court endeavored to give the parties the schedule that they desired. See Scheduling Order at 6. Nonetheless, the Court emphasized that the dates it set were "firm" and warned the parties that they were expected to "adhere to [the] schedule." Id. Most important for purposes of evaluating the parties' Motion to Extend, the Scheduling Order included the following deadlines:

* Expert disclosures were to be served by no later than October 11, 2011, with opposing disclosures due by no later than December 9, 2011; and

* All discovery was required to be completed, and all discovery-related motions were to be filed, by no later than January 13, 2012.

See id. at 5-6.

In addition to these aforementioned deadlines, which were ordered by the Court, the parties were instructed to submit for the Court's consideration a Joint Discovery Plan identifying "precise dates for any and all depositions and exchange of written discovery, documents and other materials." Id. at 5. Consistent with this Court's practice, the parties were advised at the Scheduling Conference that the Court would not adopt or "so order" the Joint Discovery Plan; rather, the exercise was intended to force the parties to plan out the course of discovery at the very outset and to ensure that discovery would be completed in a reasonably diligent manner and within the overall confines ordered by the Court-most notably, the January 13, 2012 deadline for the completion of all discovery.

The parties conferred and submitted a Joint Discovery Plan to the Court on August 3, 2011. See Joint Discovery Plan, ECF No. [91]. In their agreed-upon plan, the parties would serve the bulk of their written discovery requests, with the possible exception of requests for admission, by no later than August 24, 2011, nineteen weeks ago. See id. at 1. Assuming the parties responded to those requests within the timeframes set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, responses to written discovery requests would be served by no later than September 23, 2011, fifteen weeks ago. See, e.g., FED. R. CIV. P. 33(b)(2), 34(b)(2). Finally, the parties agreed that depositions for fact witnesses would be conducted by December 7, 2011, four weeks ago. See Joint Discovery Plan at 2.

On August 3, 2011, upon reviewing the Joint Discovery Plan (in particular, the parties' apparent disagreement over the deadline to serve requests for admission), the Court reminded the parties that it had not ordered any specific dates for the exchange of written discovery. See Min. Order (Aug. 3, 2011). Instead, the Court advised the parties only that discovery requests "must be served with sufficient promptness to allow the responding party adequate time to respond, to permit the parties to meet-and-confer to resolve any objections or issues, and to allow time to file any discovery-related motions on or before January 13, 2012," the deadline for the completion of all discovery. Id.

The Court did not hear a peep from the parties for the next five months, when they filed the pending Motion to Extend. The Court presumed that the parties were diligently discharging their discovery obligations in order to comply with the terms of the Court's Scheduling Order. Had they followed their Joint Discovery Plan, they would have.

II. DISCUSSION

The [93] Motion to Extend reveals that the parties have failed to act with reasonable diligence in conducting discovery in this action. Although it has been nearly six months since the Court held the Scheduling Conference and entered its Scheduling Order, the parties have made little progress. According to the representations made in the Motion to Extend, it appears that all the parties have managed to do in this extensive period is exchange a first round of written discovery requests and responses. See Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Joint Mot. to Extend ("Mem."), ECF No. [93-1], at 1 (indicating that the parties have exchanged discovery responses but are "working toward" supplementing their ...


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