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Langer v. Board of Education of City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 18, 2017

ODETTE LANGER, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.

          Sheila Finnegan, Magistrate Judge

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Odette Langer (“Plaintiff”) brings suit against the Board of Education of the City of Chicago (“Defendant”) for race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, breach of contract, and violation of federal due process.[1] This case is currently before the Court on Plaintiff's objections [231] to Magistrate Judge Finnegan's July 13, 2016 discovery order. See [226]. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's objections [231] are overruled. As a housekeeping matter, the Court also directs the Clerk to terminate as moot Plaintiff's motion for extension of time to respond to Magistrate Judge Finnegan's July 13, 2016 discovery order [229]. Finally, the Court enters the following schedule for dispositive motions: Dispositive motions, along with memoranda in support and LR 56.1 and 56.2 Statement(s), due by 2/28/2017; response(s) due by 4/4/2017; replies due by 4/25/2017. The Court will rule by mail.

         I. Background

         The background of this case is set forth in detail in the Court's order granting in part and denying in part Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint, knowledge of which is assumed here. See [49] at 2-6. Briefly stated, Plaintiff alleges that, for discriminatory reasons, her supervisor, Joseph Kallas (“Kallas”), coerced her into retiring from her position as principal of John Barry Elementary School (“Barry School”) in 2010 under threats of termination. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant's CEO, Ron Huberman (“Huberman”), never responded to her request to remove her notice of retirement from Defendant's files or alternatively to rescind the notice of retirement under Board of Education Rule 4-16(b).

         Magistrate Judge Finnegan began supervising discovery in this case in January 2014. She set April 1, 2014 as the deadline for the parties to serve written discovery. Plaintiff failed to serve written discovery by that date or to respond to Defendant's discovery. Defendant therefore filed a motion to compel. Magistrate Judge Finnegan granted Plaintiff an extension of time until May 20, 2014 to serve written discovery. Plaintiff missed this deadline and belatedly served her first requests for production (“RFP”) of documents on May 27, 2014. The nineteen numbered requests were exceedingly broad, contained numerous unnumbered subparts (which, when included, increase the total number of requests to well over 100), and in many places were difficult to decipher.[2]

         On May 28, 2014, Magistrate Judge Finnegan held a hearing on discovery. Defendant reported that Plaintiff had not responded to discovery or served her own requests by the April 1, 2014 deadline. Over Defendant's objection, Magistrate Judge Finnegan allowed Plaintiff to serve her late discovery, required Defendant to serve a response, and ordered the parties to have a Rule 37 conference if necessary. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 37. Defendant's written responses to the RFPs contained numerous objections.

         On June 25, 2014 (and unbeknownst to Magistrate Judge Finnegan until much later), Plaintiff served a second set of RFPs. This new set was also quite expansive and focused on documents pertaining to Barry School's “value added calculations, ” a method of measuring academic growth from year to year. Defendant objected to the second set of RFPs on the basis that they were served more than a month after the extended May 20, 2014 deadline for written discovery.

         In an attempt to resolve the parties' disputes concerning written discovery and to advance the completion of all discovery, Magistrate Judge Finnegan subsequently held approximately twenty hearings with the parties, at which they provided updates on their ongoing efforts to narrow and complete Plaintiff's RFPs and Magistrate Judge Finnegan ruled on discrete disputes over the RPFs. At the close of each hearing, the Court asked whether either party had any additional issues to bring to the Court's attention. Magistrate Judge Finnegan's July 13, 2016 order provides a detailed summary of these hearings and her rulings, knowledge of which is assumed here. [226] at 9-34.

         By June 2015, it appeared that the parties were on the cusp of completing written discovery. However, at the June 17, 2015 status hearing, Plaintiff stated that she had requested but not yet received certain written discovery that Defendant had agreed to produce. Plaintiff stated that she had email communications with defense counsel reflecting these agreements. Magistrate Judge Finnegan ordered Plaintiff to provide the supporting email communications to her, if the parties could not resolve the dispute themselves. The parties did not resolve their dispute, and Plaintiff did not file the supporting email communications with the Court. Instead, over the next ten months Plaintiff filed three new motions, which made clear that she sought to litigate almost all of her original document requests, including ones on which Magistrate Judge Finnegan had already expressly ruled. See [170] (filed October 19, 2015), [197] (filed April 18, 2016), and [199] (filed April 18, 2016).

         While she was overseeing written discovery, Magistrate Judge Finnegan was also overseeing deposition discovery. As is relevant to Plaintiff's objections, at the November 24, 2014 status hearing, Magistrate Judge Finnegan asked the parties what depositions they planned to take. Defendant stated that it intended to depose only Plaintiff, and Plaintiff stated that she did not yet know of any depositions that she would take. Magistrate Judge Finnegan ordered the parties to file a written status report by January 7, 2015 discussing their planned depositions and the dates they had agreed upon for them. Plaintiff filed a late status report on January 15, 2015, but did not identify any witnesses who she intended to depose. At the January 23, 2015 status hearing, Plaintiff stated that, at the moment, she did not intend to depose anyone. Magistrate Judge Finnegan gave Plaintiff until February 25, 2015 to send Defendant a list of witnesses who she wanted to depose. Plaintiff did not send Defendant a list of witnesses by the February 25, 2015 deadline. Upon Plaintiff's motion, Magistrate Judge Finnegan granted Plaintiff until March 18, 2015 to identify deponents, but warned Plaintiff that no further extensions would be allowed. See [132] at 1. Plaintiff did not identify any deponents by the extended March 18, 2015 deadline.

         At the May 26, 2015 status hearing, defense counsel informed Magistrate Judge Finnegan that he intended to depose Monica Rosen (“Rosen”), Defendant's former Talent Management Officer, on July 1, 2015. Defense counsel also stated that he would not be deposing Kallas, unless it became necessary based on Rosen's testimony. Two days before Rosen's deposition, defense counsel informed Plaintiff via email that he was cancelling the deposition. On July 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking permission to depose both Rosen and Kallas. Magistrate Judge Finnegan granted the motion to depose Rosen, over Defendant's objection, and required the deposition to be completed on August 25 or 26, 2015. Magistrate Judge Finnegan took under advisement whether to allow Kallas to be deposed. On September 1, Magistrate Judge Finnegan ruled that Plaintiff could depose Kallas so long as the deposition was completed by October 31, 2015.

         Plaintiff eventually took Rosen's deposition on November 12, 2015, after cancelling it once due to illness. She also sought an extension of time to take Kallas' deposition. On October 30, 2015, Magistrate Judge Finnegan granted Plaintiff an extension, but ordered that Kallas' deposition must be completed before the December holidays. Plaintiff subsequently sought to delay Kallas' deposition until after January 1, 2016. Defendant objected. Magistrate Judge Finnegan held a telephonic status conference on December 8, 2015. Plaintiff failed to dial in.

         Defense counsel informed Magistrate Judge Finnegan that Kallas was available to be deposed on December 30, 2015, and Magistrate Judge Finnegan ordered that the deposition go forward on that date. On December 28, 2015, Plaintiff cancelled the deposition, allegedly because she had a bad cold and was taking prescription medication. On January 7, 2016, she filed a motion asking to reschedule Kallas' deposition. After determining via in camera review that Plaintiff had not actually been taking prescription medication, Magistrate ...


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