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BLEDSOE v. POTTER

September 7, 2005.

EUGENE BLEDSOE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN POTTER, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARK FILIP, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Eugene Bledsoe ("Plaintiff" or "Bledsoe"), a United States postal worker, brings this action against John Potter, the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service ("the Postal Service" or "Defendant"). Plaintiff, who is African-American, alleges that the Postal Service retaliated against him for his previous protected activity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Specifically, Bledsoe alleges that as a result of EEOC complaints he filed against the Postal Service, his superiors denied him overtime opportunities by changing his scheduled work days. The Postal Service has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. As explained below, the Postal Service's motion is granted.

I. Relevant Facts

  A. Lack of Compliance with Rule 56.1

  The relevant facts are taken from the parties' filings under Local Rule 56.1 ("L.R. 56.1"). As is the practice in this district, the Court only considers those facts or additional facts that are presented in conformity with L.R. 56.1. There are substantial issues in this case concerning compliance with Local Rule 56.1. By way of background, the Seventh Circuit has "consistently and repeatedly upheld a district court's discretion to require strict compliance" with L.R. 56.1. See Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. Of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir. 2000); accord Cichon v. Exelon Generation Co., LLC, 401 F.3d 803, 809 (7th Cir. 2005). The Seventh Circuit and district courts have not been wedded to enforcement of the local rule as a matter of mere formalism. Rather, precedent acknowledges that it is a "reasonable judgment" that "consistent, `bright-line' enforcement is essential" — not only in promoting compliance with the local rule, but also "to ensuring that [the] long-run aggregate benefits in efficiency" that L.R. 56.1 is intended to produce are realized for the system of justice in the Northern District of Illinois. Kozola v. Bd. of Ed. of City of Chicago, 385 F.3d 1104, 1109 (7th Cir. 2004) (collecting cases); accord, e.g., Midwest Imports v. Coval, 71 F.3d 1311, 1316 (7th Cir. 1995). In addition, the process established in L.R. 56.1 (and its predecessor, L.R. 12(M) and (N)), helps focus and narrow the factual disputes so the court is not attempting to guess at what fairly can be argued and inferred from an often massive factual record; that dynamic helps to ensure that the summary judgment process best promotes fair results for all.

  The Postal Service filed a statement of facts pursuant to L.R. 56.1(a)(3) in conjunction with its motion. ("Def S.F." (D.E. 16).) The procedural rules require Bledsoe to file not only a response to the Postal Service's statement of facts (see L.R. 56.1(a)), but also a separate statement of additional facts (see L.R. 56.1(b)), which must include citations to specific and appropriate record material in support of any factual assertions. See, e.g., Midwest Imports, 71 F.3d at 1317. The Court previously issued a minute order in this case striking Bledsoe's response to the Postal Service's Rule 56.1 statement without prejudice, inter alia, for failure to provide an appropriately supported statement of additional facts, as required by L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B). (D.E. 23.)*fn1 In the order, the Court explained that the affidavit and other exhibits filed by Bledsoe are not a substitute for a Rule 56.1 statement. (Id. (quoting Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 584 (N.D. Ill. 2000) ("`We emphasize, however, that Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) "provides the only acceptable means of . . . presenting additional facts."'") (quoting Midwest Imports, 71 F.3d at 1317) (emphasis in Malec)). Rather than filing a statement of additional facts with appropriate supporting citations, as instructed by L.R. 56.1 and the Court's previous order, Bledsoe provides four paragraphs of "Additional Facts," three of which have no supporting citations at all. (D.E. 28.) Equally if not more problematic, Bledsoe (who is represented) repeatedly and improperly includes additional facts within his responses to the Postal Service's factual statements, and he also improperly submits outside the L.R. 56.1(b) format a lengthy affidavit and several exhibits. Effectively none of this material is presented as required through the Rule 56.1(b) statement or any reasonable semblance thereof. See, e.g., Midwest Imports, 71 F.3d at 1317. It is therefore not properly considered.

  As mentioned, with respect to the few paragraphs denominated as "Additional Facts," three of the four paragraphs fail to cite appropriate record support as required. (They, in fact, provide no citations whatsoever.) Precedent repeatedly teaches that the Court has no duty to scour the record searching for arguments or facts on behalf of a party. See, e.g., Albrechtsen v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Wis. Sys., 309 F.3d 433, 436 (7th Cir. 2002); Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 583 ("Factual allegations not properly supported by citation to the record are nullities."). Doing so would delay the adjudication of motions and cases involving litigants who have actually complied with well-settled local rules designed to facilitate reasonably prompt adjudication of cases for everyone. With respect to the one paragraph providing a record citation, the cited material does not support or verify the statement. (D.E. 28 ¶ 1.) For these reasons, the Court disregards Bledsoe's four paragraphs of "Additional Facts." The Court notes, however, that even if these facts were deemed admitted, summary judgment would still be warranted, as explained further below.

  With respect to the inclusion of additional facts in response to the Postal Service's L.R. 56.1 statements, the Seventh Circuit has consistently affirmed that this practice is improper and that statements contained in responses that go beyond what is necessary to justify a denial will not be considered. See Cichon, 401 F.3d at 809 (collecting cases); Midwest Imports, 71 F.3d at 1316-17. L.R. 56.1 was designed precisely to avoid this sort of procedural morass — both because the situation makes it difficult to identify the universe of actual, material, factual disputes; and also because the time required to decipher the improper filings creates undue burdens on limited judicial resources that delay the courts' efforts to render decisions for other litigants. Accord Smith v. Lanz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003); Bordelon, 223 F.3d at 528-29 (affirming district court's decision to strike entire response to movant's statement of facts rather than searching for individual, proper statements; holding that "the purpose of [the predecessor rule of L.R. 56.1] — to require the parties to identify the disputed issues in a concise format — would be defeated if the court were required to wade through improper denials and legal argument in search of a genuinely disputed fact"); Midwest Imports, 71 F.3d at 1316-17. Thus, the Court disregards the additional statements of fact contained in the following paragraphs of Bledsoe's response to the Postal Service's Statement of Fact ("Pl. Resp." (D.E. 28)): ¶¶ 13, 14, 15, 38, and 52.

  With respect to Bledsoe's affidavit, the Court already noted in its previous order that, while the affidavit and exhibits may be used by Bledsoe to support his denials or additional statements of fact when properly presented within the framework of L.R. 56.1, they are not a substitute for additional statements of fact, for responses to the government's factual statements, or for appropriate citation within those other documents. (D.E. 23.) Bledsoe's failure to properly bring virtually any facts before the Court is sufficient on its own for granting the Postal Service's motion, as Bledsoe has failed to adduce sufficient evidence to forestall summary judgment in response to the government's materials. See Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 584 ("[T]he penalty for failing to properly respond to a movant's 56.1(a) statement is usually summary judgment for the movant."). For the reasons explained below, however, even if one were to ignore Bledsoe's procedural deficiencies, the Postal Service would still be entitled to summary judgment.*fn2 Before addressing these reasons, the Court addresses other infirmities in Bledsoe's response to the Postal Service's L.R. 56.1 statement.

  First, Bledsoe has failed to respond to certain paragraphs of the Postal Service's Rule 56.1 statement. Specifically, Bledsoe has failed to respond to paragraphs 55, 56 and 74. These paragraphs are, therefore, deemed admitted. See, e.g., Kozola, 385 F.3d at 1108 ("`[A]ll material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party.'") (quoting Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B)).

  Second, as with the four paragraphs of "Additional Facts," Bledsoe's responses to the following paragraphs of the Postal Service's Rule 56.1 statement fail to provide appropriate record support for their purported denials: ¶¶ 17, 20, 29-31, 35-36, 40, 42, 45-46, 48-50, 52, 57-58, 60, 67, 71, 73. For the reasons discussed above, the Court deems admitted those statements of fact of the Postal Service. Accord, e.g, L.R. 56.1(a), (b)(3)(B); Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 584 (failure to adhere to L.R. 56.1 requirements, including citation to specific evidentiary materials justifying denial, is equivalent to admission).*fn3 Finally, Bledsoe claims to lack sufficient information or knowledge with respect to the following paragraphs of the Postal Service's L.R. 56.1 statement: ¶¶ 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 46, and 72. Responses such as "without sufficient information to admit or deny" are unacceptable at the summary judgment stage. See, e.g., Williams v. Elvyea, 163 F. Supp. 2d 992, 994 (N.D. Ill. 2001). A non-movant must establish a genuine issue of material fact to forestall summary judgment. A response that the non-movant does not have sufficient information cannot create a dispute, and thus the Court deems these statements of fact admitted. In addition, because any response other than admit or deny is improper, the Court deems the following responses an admission: Pl. Resp. ¶¶ 24, 31-35, 38, 39, 40, 45, 49, 66-68, and 71, 73. Accord, e.g., Greer v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago, 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001) ("Local Rule 56.1 . . . requires the non-moving party to admit or deny each factual statement proffered by the defendant and to designate with specificity and particularity those material facts believed to establish a genuine dispute for trial.").*fn4 B. Facts

  Eugene Bledsoe, an African-American man, began working for the Postal Service some thirty-five years ago at the Evanston, Illinois, Post Office.*fn5 (Pl. Resp. ¶ 1.) Bledsoe began his career as a Special Delivery Messenger. (Def. SF ¶ 2.) The Special Delivery Messenger originally had its own bargaining unit, or "craft," but by 1997, the craft ceased to exist on its own and was merged with the Clerk craft. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 6.) Thus, after the merger, Bledsoe became a Special Delivery Messenger Clerk, which was part of the Clerk craft. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 8.) Part of Bledsoe's job responsibilities included delivery of Express Mail. (Id. ¶ 9.) The delivery of Express Mail is not limited to Special Delivery Messenger Clerks; it can be delivered by letter carriers or clerks. (Id. ¶ 11.) It is undisputed that prior to the acts described below, Bledsoe had filed at least one EEOC complaint, which is a protected activity. (See id. ¶¶ 70, 71, 73.)

  In 1999, Martin Cain was assigned to the Evanston Post Office as the Customer Service Manager. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 23.) In April 2000, Michael Kobler became the Postmaster of that Post Office. (Id. ¶ 22.)*fn6 When Kobler came to the Post Office, it had very high relative use of overtime. (Id. ¶ 30.) In fact, it was the highest use in the entire Northern District of Illinois Postal Service area. (Id. ¶ 31.) Postmaster Kobler was told that he needed to bring the overtime down and turn it into regular time (id. ¶ 32); in this regard, Kobler was told that, to keep his job, he needed to reduce overtime costs by some 8-10% (id. ¶ 34).

  One of Cain's responsibilities was to conduct time studies of employees. (Id. ¶ 24.) (These productivity studies appear to track how an individual employee spends each component of his or her workday.) In 1999, Cain conducted approximately 30 such studies, and in 2000, he conducted another 10 to 15 studies. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 26.) As many as 48 total time studies may have been conducted at the Evanston Post Office in 2000, ...


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