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Al-Sabah v. Agbodjogbe

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 5, 2017

JEAN AGBODJOGBE, et al., Defendants.



         This Memorandum addresses a motion for extension of the deadlines contained in a scheduling order, prompted by the entry of new counsel for defendants. Plaintiff"s motion to strike is also pending.

         I. Factual Background

         On March 17, 2017, plaintiff Alia Salem Al-Sabah filed suit (ECF 1) against multiple defendants: Jean Agbodjogbe; Nandi Scott; N&A Kitchen LLC; N&A Kitchen II LLC; 5722 York Road LLC; 9 Jewels LLC; and ASA Foundation, Inc. Plaintiff alleges that defendants defrauded her of millions of dollars that she provided to them for investment purposes. Id. Through counsel, plaintiff agreed to several extensions of time for defendants to respond to the suit. See, e.g., ECF 12; ECF 14; ECF 18. Defendants answered the suit on May 2, 2017. ECF 20.

         On May 25, 2017, the Court approved the Scheduling Order. See ECF 26. Notably, the Scheduling Order states, ECF 26 at 1: “The schedule will not be changed except for good cause.” (bold in original). Of relevance here, the Scheduling Order set a discovery deadline of October 27, 2017, as to matters concerning fact discovery, and a deadline of February 23, 2018, for completion of discovery relating to experts. Id. at 3.

         New counsel entered their appearance for defendants on September 21, 2017. See ECF 66. Then, on September 25, 2017, defense counsel filed a “Motion To Modify Scheduling Order.” ECF 67 (“Motion”). In the Motion, defendants seek to extend by 120 days the remaining deadlines set forth in the Scheduling Order. ECF 67, ¶ 2. In particular, they seek to conclude fact discovery on February 23, 2018, claiming, inter alia, that counsel need time to educate themselves about the case. Id., ¶ 3.

         Plaintiff opposes the Motion (ECF 69, “Opposition”). In her Opposition, plaintiff asserts, among other things, that the newly retained attorneys are the “fourth set of attorneys to represent” defendant in this case . . . .” (emphasis in original). However, the record reflects that defendants were previously represented by only one other law firm. See also ECF 70 at 4. In other words, the new defense lawyers are only the second set of attorneys for the defendants. In any event, plaintiff argues that the change in counsel does not constitute good cause for an extension of the deadlines set forth in the Scheduling Order. Defendants have replied. ECF 70 (“Reply”). Thereafter, plaintiff moved to strike the Reply. ECF 71 (“Motion to Strike”).

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons stated below, I shall grant the Motion (ECF 67) in part and deny it in part. Additionally, I shall deny plaintiff"s Motion to Strike. ECF 71.

         II. Discussion

         A. Motion To Modify Scheduling Order

         Scheduling orders serve a vital purpose in helping a court manage its civil caseload. Gestetner Corp. v. Case Equipment Co., 108 F.R.D. 138, 141 (D. Me. 1985); see also Naughton v. Bankier, 14 Md.App. 641, 653, 691 A.2d 712, 718 (1997) (recognizing that a scheduling order helps “to maximize judicial efficiency and minimize judicial inefficiency”). “In an era of burgeoning case loads and [crowded] dockets, effective case management has become an essential tool for handling civil litigation.” Tower Ventures, Inc. v. City of Westfield, 296 F.3d 43, 45 (1st Cir. 2002) (alteration added). To that end, a scheduling order is an important vehicle in “'securing the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.”' Miller v. Transcend Services, Inc., 10 CV 362, 2013 WL 1632335, at *4 (M.D. N.C. Apr. 16, 2013) (citation omitted).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 16 concerns scheduling and case management. The Rule “recognize[s] . . . that the parties will occasionally be unable to meet . . . deadlines [in a scheduling order] because scheduling order deadlines are established relatively early in the litigation.” O'Connell v. Hyatt Hotels of Puerto Rico, 357 F.3d 152, 154 (1st Cir. 2004). Rule 16(b)(4) provides: “A schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge"s consent.”

         Thus, Rule 16 focuses on good cause with respect to modification of a scheduling order. In regard to good cause, the “[p]rimary consideration of the Rule 16(b) 'good cause" standard is the diligence of the movant. Lack of diligence and carelessness are 'hallmarks of failure to meet the good cause standard."” Rassoull v. Maximus, Inc., 209 F.R.D. 372, 374 (quoting West Virginia Housing Dev. Fund v. Ocwen Techonlogy Xchange, Inc., 200 F.R.D. 564, 567 (S.D. W.Va. 2001)); see Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 906 (6th Cir. 2003).

         Clearly, “'the focus of the inquiry is upon the moving party"s reasons for seeking modification. If that party is not diligent, the inquiries should end."” Marcum v. Zimmer, 163 F.R.D. 250, 254 (S.D. W.Va. 1995) (quoting Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 607-08 (9th Cir. 1992) (emphasis added in Marcum). Under Rule 16(b), the court also considers whether the non-moving party would be prejudiced by any delay, the length of the delay, ...

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