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Hatcher v. Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 24, 2014

LAURA J. HATCHER, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Reconsider filed by Plaintiff, Laura Hatcher, on August 8, 2014 (Doc. 72). In particular, Plaintiff asks the Court to reconsider its previous Order (Doc. 70), wherein Counts 2 and 4 of Plaintiff's first amended complaint were dismissed with prejudice and without leave to amend. Plaintiff requests that the dismissal be modified to a dismissal without prejudice and that she be granted leave to file a second amended complaint. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion to reconsider is denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed her original three-count civil rights complaint against Defendant Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University and Rita Cheng on April 26, 2013 (Doc. 2). Defendants moved to dismiss all three counts, and Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion to dismiss (Docs. 8, 12). On August 6, 2013, five days after Plaintiff filed her response to the motion to dismiss, the Court entered a scheduling order giving Plaintiff until October 30, 2013, to amend her complaint (Doc. 16). One day shy of the deadline to amend and before the Court had ruled on Defendant's motion to dismiss, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking leave to amend her complaint (Doc. 20). The motion was granted, and Plaintiff filed her first amended complaint on November 26, 2013, alleging the same three counts that were in the original complaint, and adding a fourth count against Kimberly Kempf-Leonard (Doc. 22).

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the first amended complaint on December 23, 2013, and Plaintiff filed a response in opposition, as well as two supplements to her response (Docs. 39, 41, 56, 63). Months ticked by without a ruling on the motion to dismiss, and the case was reassigned to the undersigned on May 20, 2014. Upon reassignment, Defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint was set for hearing on July 28, 2014 (Doc. 53). Following the motion hearing, the Court issued an order granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion to dismiss the first amended complaint (Doc. 70). Counts 2, 3, and 4 were dismissed with prejudice, and Rita Cheng and Kimberly Kempf-Leonard were terminated as Defendants (Doc. 70). The only claim that survived was Plaintiff's claim for sex discrimination against Defendant Board of Trustees (Count 1). The Court gave the parties one month to file dispositive motions on the sex discrimination claim.

Plaintiff responded to this setback by asking the Court to reconsider the dismissal of Counts 2 and 4 and allow her to amend her complaint a second time (Doc. 72).[1] She did not submit a proposed second amended complaint with her motion.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Where, as here, a party seeks reconsideration not of a final judgment, but of an interlocutory order, the motion is properly considered under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). FED. R. CIV. P. 54(b); Galvan v. Norberg, 678 F.3d 581, 587 n.3 (7th Cir. 2012). Rule 54(b) provides that an interlocutory order that does not adjudicate all claims involving all parties to a suit "may be revised at any time before the entry of judgment." FED. R. CIV. P. 54(b). Motions to reconsider an interlocutory order under Rule 54(b) are governed by the law of the case doctrine. Santamarina v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 466 F.3d 570, 571-72 (7th Cir. 2006); Pickett v. Prince, 207 F.3d 402, 407 (7th Cir. 2000) ("Unlike the case in which a judgment is sought to be vacated... a motion to reconsider a ruling is constrained only by the doctrine of the law of the case.") "[T]he law of the case doctrine embodies the notion that a court ought not to re-visit an earlier ruling in a case absent a compelling reason, such as manifest error or a change in the law, that warrants re-examination." Minch v. City of Chi., 486 F.3d 294, 301 (7th Cir. 2007).

B. Analysis

Plaintiff is asking the Court to reconsider the dismissal of Counts 2 and 4 based on what she considers to be an error. As noted above, the Court dismissed those Counts with prejudice and without leave to amend. Plaintiff argues that she should be given an opportunity to cure the pleading defects (Docs. 72, 80). After reviewing its previous order, as well as the parties' submissions, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to provide a compelling reason why it should reexamine its earlier ruling, and there was no manifest error in its decision to dismiss Counts 2 and 4 with prejudice and without leave to amend.

Plaintiff suggests that the Court should not have dismissed her claims with prejudice because she is entitled to amend her complaint as a matter of course under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1). Plaintiff is incorrect. It is well-established that, because Plaintiff had already filed one amended complaint, her right to amend as a matter of right was extinguished. Agnew v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 683 F.3d 328, 347 (7th Cir. 2012); Fleming v. Rhymer, 79 F.3d 1150 (7th Cir. 1996) ("Fleming had already amended his complaint once, and under Rule 15(a) was allowed to amend his complaint again only by leave of the court or by written consent of the adverse party."); Rodgers v. Lincoln Towing Service, Inc., 771 F.2d 194, 203 (7th Cir.1985). Even if that was not true, and Plaintiff could file her second amended complaint as a matter of right, that right terminated twenty-one days after she was served with Defendants' first motion to dismiss. See FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(1). Therefore, Plaintiff was allowed to amend again only with leave of Court.[2] FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2); Bank of Am., N.A. v. Knight, 725 F.3d 815, 819 (7th Cir. 2013) ("Rule 15(a) says that a party may amend its complaint once as a matter of course. After that, leave to amend depends on persuading the judge that an amendment would solve outstanding problems without causing undue prejudice to the adversaries.")

Rule 15(a)(2) provides that courts should "freely give leave when justice so requires, " but "that does not mean it must always be given." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2); Hukic v. Aurora Loan Services, 588 F.3d 420, 432 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, in situations such as this, where a plaintiff seeks leave to amend the complaint after the deadline for doing so as provided in the scheduling order, the plaintiff has to show more than the interests of justice require permitting the plaintiff to amend the complaint. See Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 734 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Alioto v. Town of Lisbon, 651 F.3d 715, 719 (7th Cir. 2011)). The plaintiff also must make a heightened showing of good cause to justify modifying the time limit for filing amended pleadings. Adams, 742 F.3d at 734 (citing Alioto, 651 F.3d at 719).

At no point in this litigation-neither at the time the Court dismissed Counts 2 and 4, nor in the motion to reconsider that is presently before the Court-has Plaintiff shown good cause for modifying the scheduling order or that the interests of justice ...


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