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Alston v. Mississippi Department of Transportation

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

July 30, 2019

JASON D. ALSTON PLAINTIFF
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case of alleged employment discrimination is before the Court on numerous motions, most of them filed by pro se plaintiff Jason D. Alston.

         I

         Relevant Procedural History

         On August 24, 2017, Jason D. Alston, proceeding pro se, filed a third amended complaint against the Mississippi Department of Transportation (“MDOT”). Doc. #70. Although the facts section of the third amended complaint contains allegations of racial discrimination related to a failure to promote, and allegations of unlawful retaliation related to a write-up and subsequent forty-hour suspension, see id. at 2-4, the pleading asserts only a claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, id. at 5-6.

         MDOT moved to dismiss the third amended complaint on November 10, 2017. Doc. #82. On January 2, 2018, United States Magistrate Judge Jane M. Virden issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that the motion be granted to the extent Alston asserted a retaliation claim based on failure to promote, and that the motion be denied with respect to Alston's claims premised on “September reprimand(s)/40-hour suspension.” Doc. #93. This Court adopted the Report and Recommendation on April 17, 2018. Doc. #99.

         After a period of discovery: (1) MDOT moved for summary judgment, Doc. #140; (2) Alston moved for summary judgment, Doc. #142; (3) Alston filed “Plaintiff's Second Motion to take Judicial Notice, ” Doc. #150; (4) Alston moved for leave to file a sur-reply in opposition to MDOT's motion for summary judgment, Doc. #151; (5) Alston filed “Plaintiff's Motion to Take Judicial Notice in Support of Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, ” Doc. #156; (6) Alston moved for Rule 11 sanctions against MDOT, Doc. #163; and (7) Alston moved to supplement his motion for sanctions, Doc. #169.

         II

         Alston's Motion to Supplement

         Alston's motion to supplement seeks leave to “attach” an Exhibit A to his motion for sanctions filed January 22, 2019, and to attach an Exhibit B to the accompanying memorandum filed the same day. Doc. #169 at 2. The proposed attachments are signature pages dated January 17, 2019. Docs. #169-1, #169-2. The Court presumes these signature pages are intended to replace the apparently erroneous signature pages dated December 21, 2018, in Alston's January 22 motion for sanctions and supporting memorandum. See Doc. #163 at 3; Doc. #164 at 9.

         MDOT opposes Alston's motion to supplement because it already responded to the motion for sanctions and because “Plaintiff's Motion for Leave is Plaintiff's fifth motion asserting that Defendant has engaged in misconduct ….” Doc. #170. While both assertions may be true, neither justifies denying the limited and non-substantive relief Alston's motion seeks. Accordingly, Alston's motion to supplement his motion for sanctions will be granted.

         III

         Alston's Motions for Judicial Notice

         In “Plaintiff's Second Motion to take Judicial Notice, ” Alston asks the Court to take judicial notice of statements made by MDOT or its counsel (1) during his deposition, (2) in MDOT's memorandum supporting its motion for summary judgment, (3) in MDOT's reply in support of its motion for summary judgment, and (4) in MDOT's response to his motion for summary judgment. Doc. #150. Alston argues these statements show MDOT's counsel has acted in “total disregard for the Federal Rules of Civil Proc[e]dures 11.” Id. at 4. MDOT opposes the motion because “there is no credible evidence to demonstrate that the Defendant has acted in bad faith ….” Doc. #155 at 2.

         MDOT's response seems to confuse the relief requested in the motion (taking judicial notice of certain statements) with the alleged purpose of the request (to support a motion for sanctions). While the motion for sanctions may ultimately be denied, that does not mean the Court may not take judicial notice of the statements Alston seeks to sanction. Regardless, a court does not need to take judicial notice of exhibits which already appear on the Court's docket. Fenton v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., No. 17-cv-113, 2017 WL 1346672, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Apr. 12, 2017) (collecting cases). Because the deposition and memorandums Alston asks the Court to take judicial notice of are already on this Court's docket, there is no reason to take judicial notice of such documents. Therefore, “Plaintiff's Second Motion to Take Judicial Notice” will be denied as moot. For the same reason, the Court also will deny as moot “Plaintiff's Motion to Take Judicial Notice in Support of Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, ” which asks the Court to take judicial notice of Alston's deposition and MDOT's memorandum in support of its motion for summary judgment. Doc. #156.

         IV

         Alston's Motion for Sanctions

         Alston, invoking Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and this Court's inherent power to sanction, seeks $100, 000 in attorney's fees because MDOT's memorandum in support of its motion for summary judgment states the elements of an Americans with Disabilities Act retaliation claim rather than a Title VII retaliation claim. See Doc. #164. MDOT argues sanctions are unwarranted because it correctly stated Title VII law in its reply and in other filings.[1] Doc. #166 at 2. MDOT's response also purports to “correct[] its Memorandum” to apply the proper standard. Id.

         Because Title VII and ADA retaliation claims are resolved under the same standard, [2]because the relevant pleading made clear it was seeking dismissal of a Title VII claim, and because MDOT indisputably referred to the correct standard in other briefs, Alston essentially seeks $100, 000 for an inconsequential typographical error. Neither Rule 11, which does not apply when errors are timely corrected, [3] nor this Court's inherent authority to sanction, which only applies in instances of bad faith, [4] contemplate sanctions for such an action. See Gray v. Staley, 310 F.R.D. 32, 40 (D.D.C. 2015) (Rule 11 sanctions denied where counsel subsequently corrected misstatement on the ...


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