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Brown v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

January 20, 2017

FELICIA BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, And SUSAN NYGREN, Defendants.

         ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT SUSAN NYGREN'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SUPPLEMENTAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT ARGUMENT (DKT. NO. 65), VACATING THAT PORTION OF ITS SEPTEMBER 20, 2016 SUMMARY JUDGMENT ORDER DENYING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO COUNT IV RELATING TO SUSAN NYGREN IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY (DKT. NO. 56), GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF NYGREN IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AS TO COUNT IV, AND DISMISSING SUSAN NYGREN AS A DEFENDANT

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge

         On November 11, 2016, defendant Susan Nygren filed a motion for leave to file additional summary judgment argument. Dkt. No. 65. She also filed a brief containing new summary judgment arguments. Dkt. No. 66. She filed these documents after the court denied her original motion for summary judgment on the individual capacity portion of Count IV of the complaint (alleging an equal protection claim against her in her official and individual capacities), dkt. no. 56, and denied her motion to reconsider that ruling, dkt. no. 61. Defendant Nygren now has fleshed out her motion as to the individual capacity equal protection claim in Count IV, and the court will grant summary judgment in her favor as to that claim and dismiss defendant Nygren.

         BACKGROUND

         The court will not recount the full history of the case. The reader may find that full history in the court's September 20, 2016 order granting in part and denying in part the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 56. The following facts are relevant to this order.

         The court explained in the original summary judgment decision that in Count IV of her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that Nygren, individually and in her official capacity, had violated the plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. Dkt. No. 56 at 5 (citing dkt. no. 1 at ¶¶41-44). The court recounted how, in their summary judgment brief, the defendants had argued “that Count IV, to the extent that it asserts a claim against Nygren in her official capacity, is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.” Id. at 7 (citing dkt. no. 31 at 3). The court found that the plaintiff had not disputed the defendants' official capacity argument. Id. (citing the plaintiff's opposition brief, dkt. no. 47 at 28). For that reason, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Nygren on Count IV “to the extent that Count IV asserts a claim against Nygren in her official capacity.” Id. at 8.

         In a footnote to that sentence, however, the court stated, “Because the defendants sought summary judgment on Count IV only to the extent that that count alleged an official-capacity claim against Nygren, dkt. no. 31 at 24-26, the court will allow the plaintiff to proceed on [the equal protection] claim against Nygren in her personal capacity. See also Dkt. No. 50 at 13.” Id. at 8, n.5.

         Shortly after the court issued that decision, the defendants filed a motion for reconsideration, asking the court to grant summary judgment in Nygren's favor on the equal protection/individual capacity claim, as well. Dkt. No. 59. The defendants filed that motion under Civil L. R. 7(h), which allows parties to follow an expedited motion schedule if they are seeking non-dispositive relief. Id. The court denied the motion, holding that a motion to reconsider a denial of a motion for summary judgment was not a “non-dispositive” motion, and thus that Rule 7(h) was not the appropriate mechanism for seeking the relief defendant Nygren requested. Dkt. No. 61.

         At a status conference about a month later, defense counsel told the court that defendant Nygren planned to file a motion asking for leave to file a partial motion for summary judgment on the question of whether the plaintiff ought to be able to proceed on her equal protection claim against Nygren in her individual capacity. Dkt. No. 64. The court gave Nygren a deadline of November 11, 2016 by which to file that motion, with objections due by December 12 and replies by January 6, 2017. Id. at 1.

         MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SUPPLEMENTAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT ARGUMENTS

         Nygren, as she had told the court at the status conference that she would do, filed a motion for leave to file a brief containing additional summary judgment arguments. Dkt. No. 65. In support, Nygren explains that the defendants had intended their original summary judgment motion and brief to address all of the plaintiff's claims against all of the defendants, including the plaintiff's equal protection claim against Nygren in her individual capacity. Id. at 2. She states that after the court ruled on the summary judgment motion, she realized that the court did not understand the motion to request summary judgment on the individual capacity portion of Count IV. Id. Nonetheless, she points to various phrases in the original summary judgment pleadings which, she argues, should have tipped the court off that she was seeking summary judgment on that claim. Id. at 2-4.

         Nygren also argues that if the court allows her to a brief containing additional argument on just this claim, the plaintiff would not be prejudiced; the parties already have briefed the issues, and the court already has held that the plaintiff did not submit sufficient evidence to support her claim that the DOC (Nygren's employer) subjected the plaintiff to sexual harassment or a hostile work environment based on her sex. Id. at 4. She points out that this new brief would not require the court to find any additional facts, and that it wouldn't delay the proceedings because the trial date is not until May 8, 2017. Id. Finally, she argues that if the court were to grant her motion for summary judgment on the equal protection claim against her, it would avoid jury confusion, because such a decision would leave only a single Title VII claim against the Department of Corrections for a jury to decide. Id. at 5. For all of these reasons, Nygren argues, the court should grant her leave to file a brief containing additional summary judgment arguments as to the individual capacity claim.

         The plaintiff did not oppose the motion to file a brief containing additional argument. While the court does not agree with Nygren that the court should have had to piece together oblique phrases here and there in the original pleadings to cobble together a conclusion that Nygren intended to seek summary judgment on the equal protection claim against her individually, the court does agree that the plaintiff will not be prejudiced by the supplemental arguments, that those arguments don't cause the court to have to make any additional factual findings, and that they won't delay the trial of the case. For all of these reasons, the court will grant Nygren's motion to file the brief containing additional summary judgment arguments. Dkt. No. 65.

         ANALYSIS ...


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