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Knox v. Rhodes

April 9, 2010

CHRISTOPHER KNOX, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DR. KELLY RHODES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Christopher Knox's Appeal (Doc. 155) of Magistrate Judge Philip M. Frazier's minute Order (Doc. 141) of March 3, 2010, wherein Magistrate Judge Frazier denied Knox's Motion (Doc. 131) for leave to file an amended complaint. Defendants Roger Walker, Jr., Jason Garnett, Danny Hartline, Jesse Montgomery, Kenneth Bartley, Willard Elyea, Wendy Navarro, Kelly Rhodes, and Lawrence Weiner filed a Response (Doc. 157) to Knox's appellate brief.

For the following reasons, the Court, inter alia, AFFIRMS Magistrate Judge Frazier's minute Order (Doc. 141).

BACKGROUND

On April 14, 2008, Knox filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, challenging the conditions of his confinement at Tamms Correctional Center and claiming that Defendants are not providing adequate care for his serious medical needs. The Complaint (Doc. 1) filed on that date remains the operative complaint, and the motion underlying the instant appeal represents the first request by Knox to amend said complaint.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A district court reviewing a magistrate judge's decision on non-dispositive issues should only modify or set aside that decision if it is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) (2006); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a).

ANALYSIS

Knox asserts two primary bases for relief from Magistrate Judge Frazier's ruling. First, he contends that Magistrate Judge Frazier did not have authority to deny leave to amend the complaint. According to Knox, the most Magistrate Judge Frazier could do was provide a report and recommendation on the issue. However, this assertion is simply wrong. In the Memorandum and Order of May 14, 2009, the Court referred this case "to a United States Magistrate Judge [thereafter randomly assigned to Magistrate Judge Frazier] for further pre-trial proceedings." (Doc. 9, p. 6). The effect of this explicit referral is chronicled at 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a), and Local Rule 72.1, where nowhere is it expressed or implied that magistrate judges are without authority to deny leave to amend one's complaint. If anything, the concerns of judicial economy that led to the creation of such rules would have a magistrate judge decide as many non-dispositive issues as could be referred. Moreover, Knox willingly admits that his stance is without relevant precedent from the Seventh Circuit. This is because Seventh Circuit precedent is contrary to his stance. See, e.g., Hall v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 469 F.3d 590, 595 (7th Cir. 2006) ("The district judge correctly held that the magistrate judge's denial of Hall's motion to amend his complaint was nondispositive, subject only to review for clear error."); Wingerter v. Chester Quarry Co., 185 F.3d 657, 660 (7th Cir. 1998) (acknowledging magistrate judge was authorized to rule on motion for leave to file third amended complaint). Thus, Knox's assertion that Magistrate Judge Frazier did not have the authority to deny him leave to amend is without merit.

Knox's second contention is that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 permits amendment as to all Defendants. He first contends that Rule 15(a)(1) allows for amendment as a "matter of right" against Defendants Illinois Department of Corrections (hereinafter "IDOC"), David Weidner, and presumably Dr. Scott, who have yet to be served, and Defendant Dr. Gnu, who has yet to respond to the complaint.(Doc. 155, p. 4). Rule 15(a)(1) states as follows:

A party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within:

(A) 21 days after serving it, or

(B) if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under [Federal] Rule [of Civil Procedure] 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1) (emphasis added). "[T]here is, in fact, only one, single 21-day period available for amending as a matter of course. The earliest served responsive pleading or motion starts that single period running." 3 Moore's Federal Practice, ยง 15.12[3] (Matthew Bender 3d ed.) (quotations omitted) (emphasis in original). In other words, no new 21-day period will start to run even if a responsive pleading is served after the service of a Rule 12(b), (e), or (f) motion. Id. Here, Knox is correct that IDOC, Weidner, Scott, and Gnu have yet to act in this litigation. However, all of the other named Defendants have so acted, as evidenced by numerous answers and motions, including dismissal motions pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The Court notes that Defendants Claudia Kachigian and Marvin Powers' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 23) of August 17, ...


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