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Artis v. Yellen

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 22, 2015

CYNTHIA ARTIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JANET L. YELLEN, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

EMMET G. SULLIVAN, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is defendant's motion to strike the class allegations raised in plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint and for an Order directing the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint stating more specifically their individual claims of discrimination. Also before the Court are plaintiffs' motions for a jury trial and an expedited status hearing. Upon consideration of the motions, the responses and replies thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record, the Court GRANTS defendant's motion, and DENIES plaintiffs' motions.

I. Background

The history of this case is chronicled more fully in the Court's recent Opinion denying the plaintiffs' motion for class certification. See Artis v. Yellen, No. 1-400, 2014 WL 4801783 (D.D.C. Sept. 29, 2014). In summary, this case was filed in 2001, alleging class-wide discrimination by the Federal Reserve Board against African-American secretarial and clerical employees. The Court initially allowed the plaintiffs to conduct limited discovery regarding administrative-exhaustion issues. See Artis v. Greenspan, 223 F.Supp.2d 149 (D.D.C. 2002). Discovery took a few years, but on January 31, 2007, the Court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. See Artis v. Greenspan, 474 F.Supp.2d 16 (D.D.C. 2007). The Court denied plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration on March 2, 2009. See Artis v. Bernanke, 256 F.R.D. 4 (D.D.C. 2009). On January 11, 2011, the D.C. Circuit reversed the dismissal for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See Artis v. Bernanke, 630 F.3d 1031 (D.C. Cir. 2011).

On remand, the case proceeded into a long and contentious class-discovery period, which is discussed more fully in the Court's class-certification decision. See Artis, 2014 WL 4801783, at *4-6. In sum, the plaintiffs refused to participate in discovery, necessitating a motion to compel their responses to written discovery and appearances for depositions. See id. at *4. The plaintiffs also filed their own motion to compel the production of certain personnel data, which the Court denied due to their failure to point to any discovery request that the defendant had failed to answer. See id. Plaintiffs repeatedly sought reconsideration of this Order in 2012 and 2013, raising arguments that had been previously rejected or could have been raised in the motion to compel. See id. at *5-6. The Court rejected these requests for reconsideration. Id. The plaintiffs' interlocutory appeal of these decisions-which sought to "enforce" the D.C. Circuit's mandate in plaintiffs' prior appeal-was denied on November 26, 2013. See Order, Artis v. Bernanke, No. 09-5121 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 26, 2013).

On January 3, 2014, plaintiffs filed their motion for class certification. See Mot. to Certify Class, ECF No. 211. The Court denied that motion on September 29, 2014. See Artis, 2014 WL 4801783. The Court found that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that they satisfied the commonality and typicality requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) because they provided nothing-neither fact nor argument-to explain how their claims of discrimination were anything but individualized allegations regarding actions taken by lower-level managers pursuant to delegated discretion. See id. at *9-12. The Court also concluded that the plaintiffs could not satisfy the requirements of bringing a class action under any provision of Rule 23(b). See id. at *12-13.[1]

The Court's Order denying class certification also directed the parties, "in accordance with the Scheduling Order, " to "confer with respect to a schedule for the next phase, and... submit a proposed schedule to the Court.'" Order, ECF No. 224 at 1 (quoting Scheduling Order, ECF No. 95 at 2) (alteration in original). Per the Scheduling Order, the next phase would be "Phase II: Merits/Liability." Scheduling Order, ECF No. 95 at 2. After reviewing the parties' competing status reports, the Court issued the following Minute Order:

The parties have filed competing status reports containing their recommendations for further proceedings. In plaintiffs' status report, the plaintiffs asserted that they intended to file a Rule 23(f) appeal of the Court's Order denying class certification on October 14, 2014 and to file a motion to stay proceedings on October 15, 2014. The Court has received neither a motion to stay nor a notice of any appeal. Accordingly, the Court will proceed to resolve the parties' competing proposals. Defendant asserts that plaintiffs' complaint does not set forth sufficient factual description of the plaintiffs' individual claims of discrimination and therefore requests that the Court order the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint setting forth such facts. Plaintiffs counter that their complaint states a general pattern-or-practice claim and that they cannot supply any additional facts absent further discovery. Plaintiffs nonetheless ask that the Court institute a schedule whereby they would be permitted to amend their complaint at the close of merits-related discovery. To begin, the Court notes that a complaint serves to provide a defendant with notice of the claims asserted against it and therefore to structure the discovery process. See Chennareddy v. Dodaro, 282 F.R.D. 9, 12 (D.D.C. 2012) ("plaintiffs are simply not entitled to discovery on the merits of their claims until they have properly pled such claims"). Accordingly, if plaintiffs intend to file an amended complaint, that complaint must be filed before Phase II discovery begins. Plaintiffs are therefore ORDERED to file any amended complaint by no later than November 7, 2014. The defendant shall file its response to any amended complaint or, if no amended complaint is filed, any motion requesting whatever relief the defendant feels is appropriate in connection with the currently operative complaint, by no later than December 8, 2014. The Court STAYS discovery pending further Order of this Court.

Minute Order of October 17, 2014.[2]

Plaintiffs did not file an Amended Complaint. On December 8, 2014, the defendant filed the pending motion to strike the class allegations in plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint and for an order directing the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to state their individual claims of discrimination. See Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 230. The plaintiffs have opposed that motion, Opp. to Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 231, and the defendant filed a reply brief. See Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 232.

Soon after that motion became ripe, the plaintiffs moved for an immediate jury trial on issues involving the Court's resolution of various class-discovery disputes as well as the merits of the plaintiffs' classwide pattern-or-practice claim. See Pls.' Mot. for Trial, ECF No. 233. The defendants object to this request, Opp. to Mot. for Trial, ECF No. 234, and the plaintiffs have filed a reply brief in further support of it. See Reply in Supp. of Mot. for Trial, ECF No. 235.

Finally, on May 4, 2015, plaintiffs filed a motion that appears to reiterate their request for a jury trial, requests a status hearing to discuss the scope of merits discovery, and indicates that if the Court grants the defendant's motion to strike, the plaintiffs will refuse to amend their Complaint. See Pls.' Mot. for Hearing, ECF No. 237. The defendant opposed this motion, Opp. to Mot. for Hearing, ECF No. 238, and the plaintiffs filed a reply brief on May 28, 2015. See Reply in Supp. of Mot. for Hearing, ECF No. 239.

These motions are all ripe for ...


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