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Cohen v. Board of Trustees of University of District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 9, 2014

ROBERT COHEN, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

EMMET G. SULLIVAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Cohen failed to file a timely opposition to a motion to dismiss. Over one week late, his counsel sought an extension of time. The defendants opposed, and Mr. Cohen was required to demonstrate excusable neglect for his tardiness. Mr. Cohen admitted that his counsel received notice of the motion to dismiss, but reviewed only the exhibits that were attached to that motion. His counsel concluded that the motion had been improperly filed and that no response was necessary. The Court previously held that this did not constitute excusable neglect, denied the request for an extension of time, and granted the motion to dismiss as conceded. Plaintiff now moves for reconsideration. Upon consideration of the motion, the defendants' response, the applicable law, and the entire record, the Court DENIES plaintiff's motion.

I. Background

The background of this case may be gleaned from the Court's prior Opinion. See Cohen v. Bd. of Trustees, No. 14-754, 2014 WL 3047503 (D.D.C. July 7, 2014). In sum, the defendants moved to dismiss this case on May 7, 2014 and "plaintiff's opposition was due on May 27, 2014." Id. at *1. On June 5, 2014, plaintiff filed an untimely motion to extend that deadline. See id. He argued that his tardiness was excusable:

Mr. King, plaintiff's counsel, asserts that he failed to file an opposition brief because, on the day the motion to dismiss was filed, he "downloaded and opened the document but believed that the PDF document was incomplete because it appeared to start on a random page, and the pages that appeared were the exhibits to the motion." Rather than reviewing all docket entries associated with the motion to dismiss, Mr. King concluded "that the filing was made in error, " "waited for a corrected version or a supplement to be filed, " and "asked a staff member to also check the filing to confirm that it was missing the actual motion." The staff member also... "found the filing to be incomplete."
Approximately one week later, Mr. King "checked the docket again and saw no new entries on the docket to correct the filing." He continued to assume that the motion to dismiss had been entered in error.... He now understands that "when he originally attempted to download the motion he simply incorrectly clicked on the wrong link (exhibits instead of leading document)."

Id. at *2 (citations omitted).[1]

On July 7, 2014, the Court denied the motion for extension of time. The Court analyzed the four factors provided by the Supreme Court for considering whether excusable neglect exists and found that two factors supported the defendants: (1) the impact-of-delay factor supported the defendants because of numerous delays caused by plaintiff's failures to comply with deadlines throughout this litigation; and (2) the reason-for-delay factor supported the defendants because plaintiff's explanation of his counsel's failure to read documents associated with a dispositive motion did not constitute a reasonable excuse. See id. at *2-4 (citing Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 507 U.S. 380 (1993)).

The Court was thus presented with a motion to dismiss to which no timely opposition had been filed. Accordingly, the Court granted that motion as conceded. See id. at *4-5. In light of this, the Court also denied as moot the plaintiff's motion for leave to amend his complaint. See id. at *1 n.3. As an additional basis for denying the motion to file an amended complaint, the Court noted that "the motion to amend fails to comply with Local Civil Rule 7(m) because it does not include... a statement as to whether the motion is opposed.'" Id. (alteration in original).

On August 4, 2014, the plaintiff filed the pending motion to amend the Court's judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), or for reconsideration pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1), (6). See Mot. to Reconsider, ECF No. 15. The defendants filed their opposition on August 20, 2014. See Opp., ECF No. 16.

II. Analysis

A. Plaintiff is Not Entitled to Relief Under Rule 60(b).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) provides, in relevant part, that "[o]n motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party... from a final judgment... for... (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect [or]... (6) any other reason that justifies relief." "The movant has the burden to establish that [he is] entitled to relief under Rule 60(b)." F.S. v. District of Columbia, No. 10-1203, 2014 WL 4923025, at *2 (D.D.C. Oct. 2, 2014). Plaintiff's motion never clearly explains how the circumstances of the Court's judgment fall within these provisions; rather, he seeks to relitigate the Court's finding that his delay was not "excusable neglect."

First, Mr. Cohen suggests that the Court "resolve all doubts against dismissing the case without addressing the merits." Mot. at 12. The Court has already recognized the "general presumption in favor of resolving disputes on their merits." Cohen, 2014 WL 3047503, at *1. "This presumption, however, cannot overrule legal requirements." Id. Accordingly, the D.C. Circuit and this Court regularly enforce Local Civil Rule 7(b), which requires that a motion be opposed "[w]ithin 14 days of the date of service" and permits a Court to treat an unopposed motion "as conceded." See, e.g., FDIC v. Bender, 127 F.3d 58, 67-68 (D.C. Cir. 1997); Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 117 F.3d 571, 577-78 (D.C. Cir. 1997); Inst. for Policy Studies v. U.S. Cent. Intelligence Agency, 246 F.R.D. 380, 386 ...


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