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Portz v. St. Cloud State University

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 4, 2017

ALEXIE PORTZ, JILL KEDROWSKI, ABIGAIL KANTOR, MARILIA ROQUE DIVERSI, FERNANDA QUINTINO DOS SANTOS, MARIA HAUER, HALEY BOCK, KAITLYN BABICH, ANNA LINDELL, and KIERSTEN ROHDE, individually and on behalf of all those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY and MINNESOTA STATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, Defendants.

          ANDREW T. JAMES, DONALD CHANCE MARK, JR., AND SHARON L. VAN DYCK, FAFINSKI MARK & JOHNSON, P.A., FOR PLAINTIFFS.

          KEVIN A. FINNERTY, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, FOR DEFENDANTS.

          ORDER REVERSING THE ORDER OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiffs Alexie Portz, Jill Kedrowski, Abigail Kantor, Marilia Roque Diversi, Fernanda Quintino dos Santos, Maria Hauer, Haley Bock, Kaitlyn Babich, Anna Lindell, and Kiersten Rohde (collectively “Plaintiffs”) appeal United States Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois's order denying Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend their complaint against Defendants St. Cloud State University (“SCSU”) and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiffs sought to add two additional claims under Title IX based on Title IX's requirements regarding equal allocation of athletics-related financial assistance and equal allocation of athletic treatment and benefits. The Magistrate Judge denied Plaintiffs' motion, reasoning Plaintiffs filed an untimely motion and failed to show good cause for the delay as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). Because the Court finds good cause for the amendment after considering all relevant circumstances and factors, the Court will sustain Plaintiffs' objections and reverse the Magistrate Judge's order.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs filed the initial complaint on April 28, 2016. (Compl., Apr. 28, 2016, Docket No. 1.) In Count I, Plaintiffs alleged that SCSU provided proportionally greater participation opportunities for male athletes than female athletes in violation of Title IX. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 44-45, 61-78.) Count II alleged that SCSU's failure to provide equal amounts of benefits and opportunities to male and female athletes was in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 79-89.)

         On July 25, 2016, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, enjoining Defendants from eliminating or reducing support for SCSU's women's tennis team. Portz v. St. Cloud State Univ., 196 F.Supp.3d 963, 978 (8th Cir. 2016). On August 16, 2016, the parties filed a joint stipulation expanding the preliminary injunction to preclude SCSU from eliminating or reducing resources to the women's Nordic skiing team. (Joint Stipulation to Amend Order Granting Mot. for a Prelim. Inj., Aug. 16, 2016, Docket No. 40.)

         On August 26, 2016, Plaintiffs served their first set of interrogatories and requests for production. (See Decl. of Andrew T. James (“James Decl.”), Ex. 3 at 96-97, Nov. 15, 2016, Docket No. 72; id., Ex. 5 at 117-18.) On September 23, 2016, at Defendants' request, Plaintiffs' counsel granted a one-week extension for production in response to Plaintiffs' discovery requests, resulting in an October 5, 2016, deadline for production. (Id., Ex. 6 at 121.) On September 26, 2016, Defendants alerted Plaintiffs that they would not be able to comply with the October 5 deadline, and Plaintiffs again agreed to extend the deadline to October 12, 2016. (Id. at 120.) On September 29, 2016, the parties filed a joint stipulation to amend the compliant, which was granted, and Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. (Order Granting Pl. Leave to Amend, Sept. 30, 2016, Docket No. 56; Am. Compl., Sept. 30, 2016, Docket No. 57.) In their amended complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that, with respect to Title IX, “[a]t the time this Complaint was filed, only equal athletic participation opportunities are at issue in this case.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 39.)

         On October 4, 2016, the Magistrate Judge entered the Pretrial Scheduling Order, stating “[t]hat all Motions which seek to amend the pleading or add parties must be filed and the Hearing thereon completed on or before November 15, 2016.” (Pretrial Scheduling Order at 2, Oct. 4, 2016, Docket No. 59.) On October 31, 2016, Plaintiffs received from Defendants two CDs containing vast amounts of information - one CD contained 9, 336 documents - in response to Plaintiffs' requests for production. (James Decl., Ex. 8.)

         On November 16, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a motion to file a second amended complaint, alleging that the information contained in the CDs produced on October 31 provided a basis to assert additional Title IX claims, which they previously did not have evidence to allege. (Pls.' Mot. to Amend the Am. Verified Compl., Nov. 16, 2016, Docket No. 74.) On December 15, 2016, the Magistrate Judge held a hearing on the motion and took it under advisement. (Min. Entry, Dec. 15, 2016, Docket No. 78.) The Magistrate Judge denied the motion on January 17, 2017, finding an absence of good cause to allow an amendment past the deadline under Rule 16(b)(4). (Order at 20, Jan. 17, 2017, Docket No. 79.) The Magistrate Judge reasoned, in part, that because the additional claims were based on information available before the October 31 document production, Plaintiffs had time to comply with the Pretrial Scheduling Order but failed to do so. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs object to the Magistrate Judge's order, arguing that the Defendants' delay in providing the information ultimately produced on October 31 provides good cause to amend the Pretrial Scheduling Order.

         ANALYSIS I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “The standard of review applicable to an appeal of a Magistrate Judge's order on nondispositive pretrial matters is extremely deferential.” Skukh v. Seagate Tech., LLC, 295 F.R.D. 228, 235 (D. Minn. 2013); Roble v. Celestica Corp., 627 F.Supp.2d 1008, 1014 (D. Minn. 2007). Reversal is only appropriate if the order is “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); D. Minn. LR 72.2(a)(3). For an order to be clearly erroneous, the district court must be “left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Lisdahl v. Mayo Found., 633 F.3d 712, 717 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573 (1985)). “[T]he district court has inherent power to review the final decision of its magistrates.” Bruno v. Hamilton, 521 F.2d 114, 116 (8th Cir. 1975).

         II. LEAVE TO ...


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