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Brooks v. Barrett

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

November 15, 2018

MARTIN BROOKS, Plaintiff,
v.
JUNE BARRETT and PERRY FULTON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GRAY M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Now before the court is a Motion for Preliminary Injunction filed by Plaintiff Martin Brooks (Doc. 22), a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants June Barrett and Perry Fulton (Doc. 27), a Motion to Compel filed by Brooks (Doc. 35), and a Motion for Sanctions filed by the defendants. Doc. 43.

         Brooks filed this lawsuit on June 7, 2018, alleging several state and federal claims arising out of his attempt to have a barbeque sauce sold to public schools in Alabama in 2012. Doc. 1. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73, the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. Docs. 16 & 17.

         The court granted in part and denied in part a previous motion to dismiss and gave Brooks leave to file an amended complaint clarifying whether he intended to seek prospective injunctive relief. Brooks filed an amended complaint seeking prospective injunctive relief and the case has proceeded against Barrett and Fulton in their individual and official capacities.

         After careful consideration of the parties' submissions and the applicable law, for reasons to be discussed below, the motion for summary judgment is due to be GRANTED as to the federal claims, the motion for preliminary injunction is due to be DENIED as to the federal claims, and the court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims. The motions to compel and for sanctions also are due to be DENIED.

         I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

         The court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims in this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and § 1367. The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and the court finds adequate allegations to support both.

         II. FACTS

         The facts viewed in a light most favorable to the non-movant are as follows: Brooks makes a barbeque sauce which he identifies in his affidavit as “Dat Good Sauce.” Doc. 49-2 at 2. Brooks contacted Fulton with the Child Nutrition Program (“CNP”) for the State of Alabama Department of Education (“ALDOE”) in February 2011 about selling his sauce to the department. Doc. 49-2 at 3.

         Fulton told him to call back in November 2011, and Brooks did. Doc. 49-2 at 3. Fulton did not inform Brooks of the “bid nomenclature” or that the bid process involved the Department of Finance. Doc. 49-2 at 3. Fulton alleges in an affidavit that there is a three-step prequalification process before submitting a bid in response to an ALDOE invitation to bid: (1) an initial review of the product for conformance to specifications, (2) product advisory committee review, and (3) student taste testing. Doc. 29-1 at 3. Products to be placed on bids must receive at least a 75% approval rating by students in at least three or four school systems chosen for testing. Doc. 29-1 at 3.

         Brooks received a letter from Fulton on November 7, 2011. Doc. 49-2 at 3. The letter, which Brooks provided to the court, states that the State of Alabama Statewide Purchasing Committee had scheduled a time to meet with Brooks at 2:00 p.m. on December 7, 2011. Doc. 49-2 at 11. The letter sets out what Brooks must provide at the meeting and that the meeting is the second step in the “possibility of approving your products for inclusion in the upcoming State of Alabama Child Nutrition Program bid.” Doc. 49-2 at 11. Brooks participated in the meeting and was informed that he could proceed to the next step, which is taste testing by students. Doc. 49-2 at 12. A letter to Brooks set out the names of the Child Nutrition Program (“CNP”) Directors and the phone numbers at Russellville City Schools, Sheffield City Schools, Geneva County Schools, Hoover City Schools, Wilcox County Schools, and Jefferson County Schools, and told Brooks to contact each school to make arrangements for providing sauce for the taste tests. Doc. 49-2 at 12. Brooks states in the affidavit that he dropped the sauce off with the CNP Directors but had not been provided information relating to the specific contract under bid on or how long the contract would last. Doc. 49-2 at 4.

         According to Fulton, Dat Good Mustard Barbeque Sauce was tested in six school districts, the school districts provided him with the results of the taste tests, and the “taste test results revealed Mr. Brooks' product did not receive at least a 75% approval rating by students in the school districts chosen for testing. Therefore, Dat Good Mustard BBQ sauce was not-prequalified for the next invitation to bid.” Doc. 29-1 at ¶ 18.

         On February 28, 2012, Brooks sent an email to Fulton requesting the test results, and on March 1, 2012 he received a package with the manual for procurement for CNP in the mail. Doc. 49-2 at 5. He again contacted Fulton to request the complete taste test results but he received incomplete testing documentation. Doc. 49-2 at 5.

         On April 2, 2013, Brooks filed a complaint with the Office of Inspector General. Doc. 49-2 at 6. Brooks received a letter from Stephen G. Hortin, Deputy Director of the School and Family Nutrition Program with the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), which, according to Brooks, informed him that he would be allowed to have his product re-tested. Doc. 49-2 at 6.

         On July 20, 2013, Barrett received a letter from Kirk Farquharson of the USDA stating that the USDA had evaluated Brooks' complaint and determined that “the procedures were followed except for two elements.” Doc. 30-11. The USDA said that the ALDOE could not provide documentation that Brooks had been formally notified of the taste test results and could not provide documentation that the ALDOE notified Brooks of his appeal rights, so the USDA expected the ALDOE to allow Brooks to submit his product again for taste testing in the 2013-14 school year. Doc. 30-11.

         Brooks then contacted several schools and could not get a “clear verification” that the taste tests had been conducted so he asked for an investigation from Program Specialist Michelle Morris with the USDA. Doc. 49-2 at 6. In 2016, he received notice that the Office of Inspector General would be reopening an investigation, but he never received a status update or outcome of any investigation. Doc. 49-2 at 8. In 2017, Brooks received an electronic mail message from Swanson Hall of the USDA that informed him that the taste test was “valid.” Doc. 49-2 at 8.

         Brooks states in his affidavit that he spoke to a “few principals from some of the schools” who told him that no test had been conducted at their schools, so he contacted legal counsel whose investigator spoke with “several current and retired principals and they could never recall any of those specific schools conducting a food test.” Doc. 49-2 at 8. The affidavit of the investigator states that he contacted “all of the schools listed” and “could not get a clear ‘yes' we conducted a food test in that year.” Doc. 49-4 at 2.

         III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         A. Motion for Preliminary Injunction

         A district court may grant injunctive relief if the movant shows (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) that irreparable injury will be suffered unless the injunction issues; (3) the threatened injury to the movant outweighs whatever damage the proposed injunction may cause the opposing party; and (4) if issued, the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. McDonald's Corp. v. Robertson, 147 F.3d 1301, 1306 (11th Cir. 1998). “A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy not to be granted unless the movant clearly established the ‘burden of persuasion'” as to the four requisites.” Id.

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is proper “if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, ” relying on submissions “which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must “go beyond the pleadings” and show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

         Both a party “asserting that a fact cannot be” and a party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed must support their assertions by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c)(1)(A)-(B). Acceptable materials under Rule 56(c)(1)(A) include “depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.”

         To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party “must do more than show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). On the other hand, the evidence of the nonmovant must be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in its favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         After the nonmoving party has responded to the motion for summary judgment, the court shall grant summary judgment 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(a).

         C. Motion to Compel

          On notice to other parties and all affected persons, a party may move for an order compelling the disclosure of discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). The motion must include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to make disclosure or discovery in an effort to obtain it without court action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). “A motion to compel discovery is committed to the discretion of the trial court.” Commercial Union Ins. Co. v. Westrope, 730 F.2d 729, 731 (11th Cir. 1984).

         If a district court denies a motion to compel discovery, the court must require the movant, the attorney filing the motion, or both, to pay the party who opposed the motion its reasonable expenses incurred in opposing the motion, but the court must not order the payment if the motion was substantially ...


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