United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
P. Jordan III, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
employment-discrimination case is before the Court on
Defendant Dowell Taylor's Motion to Dismiss . Taylor
says he did not receive timely service of process and that
the state and federal claims against him otherwise fail on
the merits. For the reasons that follow, the motion is
granted as to the Title VII claims but denied as to the
state-law wrongful-termination claim.
Facts and Procedural History
Plaintiff Allison Washington filed this lawsuit against
Jackson State University and Dowell Taylor in Hinds County
Circuit Court on October 19, 2015. She alleges claims under
Title VII “and Mississippi statutory and common
law” for sex discrimination, harassment, retaliation,
and wrongful termination. Compl. [1-1] at 1. Washington
served JSU on November 13, 2015, but was unable to serve
Taylor within the 120 days provided by Mississippi Rule of
Civil Procedure 4(h), and on February 12, 2016, she filed her
first motion for a 120-day extension to effect service on
Taylor. Judge Weill granted that motion on March 14, 2016,
extending the deadline to serve Taylor until June 15, 2016.
filed her second motion for a 120-day extension to serve
Taylor on June 10, 2016. Had that motion been granted, she
would have had until October 13, 2016, to effect service on
Taylor. But Judge Weill did not enter the proposed order
Washington's attorney sent, and on October 16, 2016,
Washington filed a third motion for a 120-day extension for
service of process. Judge Weill granted that motion on
October 18, 2016, by entering an order captioned “Order
Granting Third Extension of Time to Serve Complaint to
Defendant Dowell Taylor.” Third Extension Order [3-6].
But the circuit court's docket sheet actually linked the
electronic filing of that order with the second motion for
extension. Docket [8-11] at 2. If the second and third
motions were both effectively granted, Washington's
deadline to serve Taylor would have been February 10, 2017.
February 10, 2017, Washington filed her fourth motion for a
120-day extension to serve Taylor. Judge Weill granted that
motion but noted that it would be the final extension. Order
[3-8] at 3. Again, assuming all previous extensions were
granted, this final deadline would have been June 10, 2017.
On May 6, 2017, Washington finally served Taylor, who removed
the case to this Court and moved to dismiss.
contends that the claims against him should be dismissed for
failure to comply with Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure
4(h). Alternatively, he asserts that the Title VII claims
against him lack merit. Finally, in rebuttal, he argues that
the state-law wrongful-termination claim against him fails as
a matter of law.
Service of Process
parties agree that the timing of service of process in this
removed case is governed by Mississippi Rule of Civil
Procedure 4(h), which provides:
If a service of the summons and complaint is not made upon a
defendant within 120 days after the filing of the complaint
and the party on whose behalf such service was required
cannot show good cause why such service was not made within
that period, the action shall be dismissed as to that
defendant without prejudice upon the court's own
initiative with notice to such party or upon motion.
Miss. R. Civ. P. 4(h).
on this rule, Taylor makes three main arguments for finding
that he was not properly served: (1) the state-court orders
failed to establish “good cause” for the delays;
(2) service was untimely because Washington failed to serve
him before the first extension expired; and (3) because
Washington received only three extensions totaling 360 days,
her final day for service was February 10, 2017. None of
these arguments are compelling.
first says that because, in his view, Washington “never
established good cause for any extension of time she received
to serve Taylor, . . . her service on Taylor-564 days after
first having the summons issued to him, was untimely.”
Def.'s Mem.  at 4. But the state-court orders did
explain why time was needed, and this Court will not second
guess Judge Weill's rationale or rulings. See
18B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal
Practice & Procedure § 4478.4 (3d ed. 1998)
(explaining that where a case “move[s] from one court
to another by such means as . . . removal ...