United States District Court, D. Maryland
Catherine A. Bledsoe Maryland Office of the Attorney General
Assistant Attorney General
STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Ms. Gross and Counsel:
matter has been referred to me for discovery disputes and
related scheduling matters. [ECF No. 49]. Plaintiff Valedia
Gross, who proceeds pro se, filed this lawsuit
against Defendants Morgan State University and Joyce Brown
(“Defendants”), alleging employment
discrimination based on race, age, and disability, in
violation of various federal laws. [ECF No. 1]. Ms. Gross
filed a Motion to Compel Discovery. [ECF No. 46]. Defendants
filed an Opposition [ECF No. 47], and Ms. Gross replied
thereto. [ECF No. 52]. I find that no hearing is necessary.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following
reasons, Ms. Gross's Motion to Compel is DENIED.
Defendants note, Ms. Gross has not clearly outlined any
specific relief she seeks. Ms. Gross's Motion to Compel
appears to request that this Court order Defendants to
produce Michon Arrington for deposition, and that this Court
impose sanctions for Defendants' alleged false discovery
responses and false statements contained in their pleadings.
[ECF No. 46]. Specifically, Ms. Gross alleges that
Defendants' initial attorney, Thomas Faulk, made
“false or fraudulent statements” in
Defendants' Motion for Leave to Late-File Answer [ECF No.
11], and that, in subsequent pleadings and discovery
responses, Defendants have continued to rely upon those
falsities and have failed to correct the record. [ECF No. 46,
4-7, 9-15]. It is unclear, however, which statements Ms.
Gross contends are false. Ms. Gross makes only general
allegations, such as, “Plaintiff's official copy of
the EEOC/FOIA file reveals Defendants' false or
fraudulent statements . . . .” [ECF No. 46, 5]. This
Court best understands Ms. Gross's position to be that
Mr. Faulk provided false statements to obtain leave to
late-file an Answer to her Complaint by citing “to the
official EEOC/FOIA” file, though Ms. Gross contends he
“never had an official copy.” [ECF No. 46, 10];
[ECF No. 46-5, 1].
Ms. Gross contends that Defendants “fabricated”
the employment status of Michon Arrington. [ECF No. 46, 6].
According to Ms. Gross, Defendants falsely stated that
Arrington was hired “to perform Plaintiff's
Contractual Obligations of Office Secretary, during her
employment . . . [and] proved Plaintiff
‘incompetent.'” [ECF No. 46, 6]. Ms. Gross
argues that Defendants' alleged false statements
“influenced” the Court's decision to grant
them leave of court to late-file their Answer and that
current Counsel, Ms. Catherine Bledsoe, used the same false
statements in various filings, including Defendants'
September 7, 2017 Answers to Interrogatories and September
22, 2017 Responses to Requests for Admissions. [ECF No. 46,
Gross's arguments are without merit. First, the fact that
Ms. Bledsoe, as of October 10, 2017, had not received a
complete file from the EEOC [ECF No. 46-5, 1] does not
necessarily render fraudulent Mr. Faulk's reliance on
EEOC documents in his April 27, 2017 filing. Ms. Bledsoe
reiterated to Ms. Gross: (1) that Mr. Faulk, in his April
27th filing, relied upon the affidavit of Ms. Armada Grant
when stating that Defendants were delayed in receiving EEOC
documents; and (2) that the University had “not
formally request[ed] the file from the EEOC at that
time.” [ECF No. 46-5, 1]. Nonetheless, it is evident
that Mr. Faulk was in possession of some documents from the
EEOC, as they were included in his filing as Attachments to
the affidavit of Ms. Grant. [ECF No. 11, 12-13, 16-18].
Importantly, this Court finds that Mr. Faulk's references
in his filing to the EEOC documents were accurate. Secondly,
contrary to Ms. Gross's allegation, Defendants did not
“fabricate” the employment status of Michon
Arrington to prove her “incompetent.” [ECF No.
46, 6]. In her affidavit, Defendant Joyce Brown swore only,
that once Administrative Assistant DeWayne Davis resigned,
his “responsibilities were [temporarily] performed by
the remaining staff members[, ] including Ms. Gross, Michon
Arrington, temp secretary, myself, and the Assistant
Director, Ms. Alison Hillen, and the Alumni Officer, Milton
Hawkins.” [ECF No. 21-1, 4]; [ECF No. 21, 4]. This is
the sole context in which Defendants mention Ms. Arrington.
[ECF No. 21]. Defendants' allegations of Ms. Gross's
poor job performance and “incompeten[ce]” are
thus completely independent from and unrelated to Ms.
Arrington. See [ECF No. 21-1, 1-9]. Further, upon
Ms. Brown discovering that she was mistaken about the timing
of Ms. Arrington's employment - that she had not been
employed until after Ms. Gross had been terminated -
Defendants disclosed this fact to the Court. [ECF No. 46-7, 2
n.1]. This Court fails to find that the mistake prejudiced
Ms. Gross in any manner.
to the extent any inaccuracies existed in Defendants'
Motion for Leave to Late-File Answer [ECF No. 11], it is
unlikely that, in their absence, Ms. Gross would have been
entitled to a Default Judgment. “[A]s a general matter,
defaults [should] be avoided and  claims and defenses
[should] be disposed of on their merits.” Colleton
Preparatory Acad., Inc. v. Hoover Universal, Inc., 616
F.3d 413, 417 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing Tazco, Inc. v.
Director, Office of Workers Comp. Program, U.S. Dep't of
Labor, 895 F.2d 949, 950 (4th Cir. 1990) (“The law
disfavors default judgments as a general matter.”));
Consol. Masonry & Fireproofing, 383 F.2d 249,
251 (4th Cir. 1967) (“Generally a default should be set
aside where the moving party acts with reasonable promptness
and alleges a meritorious defense.”).
Gross repeatedly makes reference to 18 U.S.C. § 1001.
[ECF. No 46, 1, 3-4, 11, 17]. Because this is a civil
lawsuit, that statute does not apply. Similarly, Ms.
Gross's several citations to the Rules of Professional
Conduct are not pertinent to this proceeding. While the Rules
of Professional Conduct govern attorney conduct, they are not
a vehicle for litigants to compel discovery. To compel
discovery, litigants must rely upon the Federal Rules of
the question is whether Ms. Gross is entitled to further
discovery at this stage. She did not notice any depositions,
before the discovery deadline, pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 30(b). It is unclear whether Defendants could
have produced Ms. Arrington for deposition, but, in the
absence of proper notice, they did not have to address her
availability. Ms. Gross's remaining claims of deficient
discovery also did not comply with Local Rule 104.8, which,
for a motion to compel, requires movants to set forth the
specific request, the alleged deficient response, and the
asserted basis for why the response is insufficient. Loc. R.
104.8 (D. Md. 2016). Importantly, “pro se litigants
such as [Ms. Gross] must . . . adhere to the rudimentary
dictates of civil procedure.” Holsey v.
Collins, 90 F.R.D. 122, 128 (D. Md. 1981). Finally, no
discovery order issued by Judge Bredar has been violated,
and, as such, sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 37(b) are not available.
on the above, Ms. Gross's Motion to Compel [ECF No. 46]
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as
an opinion and docketed as an order.