United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
IN RE EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION LITIGATION AGAINST THE STATE OF ALABAMA, et al.,
STATE OF ALABAMA, et al., Defendants. EUGENE CRUM, JR., et al., Plaintiffs,
H. THOMPSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
long-running employment-discrimination case against the State
of Alabama and various State agencies is before the court on
the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the claims
of plaintiffs Katherine Mathews and Wanda Jackson
Speights on the basis of judicial
estoppel. Also before the court is a renewed motion
for summary judgment, or in the alternative, motion to
dismiss for want of prosecution against plaintiff Katherine
Mathews. Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
For the reasons below, summary judgment will be granted as to
Speights's claims, and the court will dismiss
Mathews's claims for failure to prosecute.
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The court must view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
Failure to Prosecute
have authority to dismiss for want of prosecution under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). “If the
plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with [the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure] or a court order, a defendant may
move to dismiss the action or any claim against it.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). “The court's power to dismiss
is an inherent aspect of its authority to enforce its orders
and ensure prompt disposition of lawsuits.” Jones
v. Graham, 709 F.2d 1457, 1458 (11th Cir. 1983)
(citations omitted). “The legal standard to be applied
under Rule 41(b) is whether there is a ‘clear record of
delay or willful contempt and a finding that lesser
sanctions would not suffice.'” Id. at 1459
(citation omitted); see also Gratton v. Great Am.
Commc'ns, 178 F.3d 1373, 1375 (11th Cir. 1999).
“[B]ecause dismissal is considered a drastic sanction,
a district court may only implement it, as a last
resort[.]” World Thrust Films v. International
Family Entertainment, 41 F.3d 1454, 1456 (11th Cir.
case began on March 9, 1993, when Ellen Tolbert and Geneice
Smith filed suit in this court against the Alabama Department
of Corrections ("ADOC") alleging that ADOC had
engaged in gender discrimination against them. Tolbert v.
State of Alabama, 93cv287. On November 8, 1993, 23
individuals, including plaintiffs Mathews and Speights, filed
a motion to intervene in the case. On December 28, 1993, the
motion was granted, and a complaint was filed naming Mathews
and Speights. In 1994, this court consolidated the
Tolbert cases with a number of other cases where the
plaintiffs were making employment-discrimination claims
against a number of state agencies, and Eugene Crum was made
the lead named plaintiff.
Speights has a law degree and practiced law with Birmingham
Area Legal Services before going to work the State of
Alabama. She worked for the State both as a Legal Research
Aide in the Department of Revenue's legal department and
as a Federal Grant Analyst/Planning and Economic Development
Specialist for the Alabama Department of Economic and
spring of 1993, Speights met with the plaintiffs'
attorneys in this case regarding the alleged employment
discrimination by the State that is the basis of her claims
in this case. On October 22, 1993, she filed a voluntary
petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy but did not notify the
bankruptcy court in her filings of her potential
discrimination claim in this case. She did not update her
bankruptcy filings after plaintiffs' attorneys filed the
motion to intervene or when the complaint was filed naming
her as a plaintiff in this case. Speights was discharged from
bankruptcy in February 1994.
Mathews began working for the Alabama Department of Economic
and Community Affairs as a computer programmer in 1986.
Unlike Speights, she has no background in the law; she
studied business administration and has an associate's
degree in computer technology. In April of 2013, Mathews
filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Mathews
did not inform the bankruptcy court of her claim in this
case, and she received a no-asset discharge from bankruptcy
in August 2013.
filed their motion for summary judgment against Speights and
Mathews on November 25, 2013. On December 20, 2013,
plaintiffs' counsel moved to withdraw from the
representation of Speights and Mathews, and the court granted
the motion later that month. The court then entered a
submission order giving Speights and Mathews an additional
two weeks to respond to the motion. As they were
unrepresented, the court explained in detail how the
plaintiffs should respond. Speights and Mathews did not
respond. More recently, defendants filed a renewed motion for
summary judgment against ...