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Sewell v. Commodity Futures Trading Commission

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 31, 2017

STARSHA M. SEWELL Plaintiff,
v.
COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Pending in this employment discrimination case is Defendant Commodity Futures Trading Commission's (“CFTC”) motion for extension of time (ECF No. 9), Plaintiff Starsha Sewell's motion for relief from an Order pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(a) and for sanctions (ECF No. 10), and the CFTC's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 13). The issues are fully briefed and the Court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion for extension of time is granted, Plaintiff's motion is denied, and Defendant's motion to dismiss is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 21, 2015 Plaintiff Starsha Sewell applied for the position of Deputy Director of Customer Education and Outreach with the CFTC. Plaintiff was never granted an interview, and on or about May 17, 2016, [1] the CFTC informed her that she had not been selected for the position. Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 4. On June 8th, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The EEOC sent Plaintiff a Dismissal and Notice of Rights on June 10, 2016, which informed Plaintiff that the EEOC was closing its file on her charge because “Respondent [CFTC] is a federal agency.” ECF No. 1-7.[2]

         On June 30, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court against the CFTC[3] alleging that the CFTC unlawfully discriminated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it failed to hire her for the deputy director position because of her race and protected status. See ECF No. 1 at 1-4; ECF No. 3. The Complaint also details allegations against several individuals and agencies unrelated to the CFTC in what appears to be an amalgamation of arguments Plaintiff made in prior lawsuits. See, e.g., Sewell v. Strayer Univ., 956 F.Supp.2d 658 (D. Md. 2013); Sewell v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., No. GJH-16-2456, 2017 WL 992407, at *1 (D. Md. Mar. 13, 2017). But because the CFTC is the only Defendant in this case, the Court will consider only Plaintiffs claims against the CFTC. Cf. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 668 (2009).

         The CFTC filed a motion for extension of time to file an answer or otherwise respond to Plaintiff's complaint on November 11, 2018. ECF No. 9. Plaintiff then filed her own motion on November 28th, which is both a motion to amend or correct an Order pursuant to Rule 60(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and a motion for sanctions against the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, Rod Rosenstein. ECF No. 10. On December 13, 2016, the CFTC filed its motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (3), and (6) or, in the alternative, a motion to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. See ECF No. 13-1. For the following reasons, the CFTC's motions for an extension of time and to dismiss are granted and Plaintiff's motion is denied.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. CFTC's Motion for Extension of Time

         On November 18, 2016, CFTC filed a motion for a thirty-day extension of time to answer or otherwise respond to Plaintiff's complaint. ECF No. 9. The CFTC was served with Plaintiff's complaint on September 20, 2016, and therefore had until November 21 to file its response pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(a)(2). The motion explained that counsel for CFTC had been appointed as a Special Assistant United States Attorney a month after Plaintiff served the CFTC and would therefore require until December 21 to file a response so that it could fully investigate the claim. Id. The CFTC then filed its motion to dismiss on December 13. See ECF No. 13. Rule 6(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that, when an act must be completed within a specific time period, “the court may, for good cause, extend the time . . . with or without motion or notice if the court acts, or if a request is made, before the original time or its extension expires.” The Court finds that the CFTC's delay in filing its motion to dismiss was reasonable under the circumstances and there is no evidence of bad faith on its part. The Court also notes that the CFTC timely filed its motion for extension of time, has already filed its motion to dismiss, and Plaintiff filed her response to the CFTC's motion to dismiss.[4] Moreover, Plaintiff does not argue that the delay prejudiced her in any way. Therefore, the CFTC's motion for extension of time (ECF No. 9) is granted.

         B. Plaintiff's Consolidated Motion to Correct Judgment and Motion for Sanctions

         On November 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed a “consolidated motion” which appears to serve two purposes. See ECF No. 10. First, the motion is brought pursuant to Rule 60(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for the perceived failure of the Court to allow Plaintiff time to respond to CFTC's motion for extension of time. Second, Plaintiff seeks a default judgment and declaratory judgment as sanctions against Rod Rosenstein for his alleged “fraud on the court.”[5]Both motions are denied.

         Rule 60(a) allows a court to “correct a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission whenever one is found in a judgment, order, or other part of the record.” Here, Plaintiff argues that CFTC's motion for extension of time was granted on November 18, 2016, before Plaintiff could respond to the request for an extension. However, the Court had not ruled on CFTC's motion for extension of time until today. It appears that the source of Plaintiff's confusion is the proposed order attached to CFTC's motion. Plaintiff interpreted this document to be an order issued by the Court. A proposed Order, however, is only a suggested template for the order should the Court rule in the party's favor, and it is not adopted until signed. Accordingly, the Court did not err. Plaintiff had ample opportunity to respond to CFTC's motion. Plaintiff's motion brought pursuant to Rule 60(a) is denied.

         Plaintiff's motion also asks the Court to enter default judgment and declaratory relief against CFTC as a sanction for what Plaintiff interprets to be fraudulent conduct. See ECF No. 10 at 5 (“Sewell now, [sic] moves this court for a Default and Declaratory Judgment, as a Sanction for Rod Rosenstein, et. al's. [sic] fraud on the court”). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Rod Rosenstein and a United States Marshal committed “fraud on the court” by withholding service of process from or filing “fraudulent evidence of service of process” for former United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch and CFTC Chairman Timothy Massad. ECF No. 10 at 5. Plaintiff contends that Loretta Lynch and Timothy Massad are parties to this case and should provide answers to the claims she makes in her complaint. See Id. (alleging Rod Rosenstein and Joel Ruderman “engaged in mail fraud and concealed this action from the remaining parties to this case”). She posits that service of process was withheld from these individuals in order to somehow advance the interests of the Maryland Mortgage Task Force, FBI Director James Comey, and Assistant FBI Director Joseph Campbell. Id.

         Plaintiff's motion for sanctions is without merit. The Court in its September 12th Order reminded Plaintiff that under “Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(i), a federal agency is served by registered or certified mail on the Agency, the United States Attorney General, and the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland.” ECF No. 4 at 2. Summonses were issued to former United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch, CFTC Chairman Timothy Massad, and former United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein on September 15, 2016. See ECF No. 6. These summonses were returned executed on September 21 and October 17. ECF Nos. 7 & 8. As Plaintiff notes, the return receipts issued to Massad and Lynch do not bear a signature from the recipient, but the return receipt issued to Rosenstein does. See ECF No. 7 at 2, 4; ECF No 8-1. However, the CFTC does not challenge the sufficiency of the service of process and it filed a motion to dismiss on other grounds. Nor did Plaintiff sue any of ...


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