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Carter v. City of Montgomery

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

December 20, 2019

ALDARESS CARTER, individually and for a class of similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF MONTGOMERY, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROYCE C. LAMBERTH UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         On December 3, 2019, plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to File Third Amended Complaint. ECF No. 231. Defendants Judicial Correction Services, Inc. ("JCS"), Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc., CHC Companies, Inc., Branch D. Kloess, and the City of Montgomery ("the City") have filed oppositions to plaintiffs' motion.[1] ECF Nos. 235, 236, 238, 241. Upon consideration of the motion, oppositions, and partial reply (ECF No. 240), the Court will deny plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Third Amended Complaint.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Aldaress Carter filed his original Complaint initiating this lawsuit in August of 2015. ECF No. 1. He filed his First Amended Complaint in September of 2015 (ECF No. 18) and his Second Amended Complaint in August of 2018 (ECF No. 145). He now asks this Court to grant him leave to file a Third Amended Complaint. Discovery in this case closed on December 19, 2019-sixteen days after Mr. Carter filed his motion seeking to amend the Complaint for the third time.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), a plaintiff may only amend a complaint "with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave." When the interests of justice so require, "leave to amend should be liberally granted." W.R. Huff Asset Mgmt. Co. v. Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts, 209 Fed.Appx. 931, 934 (11th Cir. 2006) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)). Despite this liberal standard, there are still numerous situations in which leave to amend should be denied. If there is a scheduled deadline for amending a complaint, a plaintiff must show good cause for why that deadline should be set aside. If there is no scheduled amendment deadline, there are three instances in which the Court should not grant the plaintiff leave to amend a complaint. First, the Court may deny leave to amend when there has been "undue delay." Burger KingCorp. v. Weaver, 169F.3d 1310, 1319 (11th Cir. 1999). Second, the Court may deny leave to amend if the amendments would cause "undue prejudice." Id. Third, the Court may deny leave to amend if the amendments would be futile. Id. The Court does not need to find that all three factors are present; rather, the existence of a single factor empowers the Court to deny the motion.

         ANALYSIS

         Mr. Carter characterizes his proposed Third Amended Complaint as merely "confirm[ing] the factual allegations in the pleadings and class definitions to the evidence uncovered in discovery" and "streamlin[ing] and clarify[ing] the legal claims in light of the evidence gleaned from discovery and the Court's rulings." ECF No. 231 at 1. The Court strongly disagrees with his depiction. Mr. Carter has tried to present his Third Amended Complaint as some innocuous document that simply clarifies a few points and sharpens some definitions. He would like the Court to believe that he altruistically drafted these amendments for the benefit of all parties involved; but a mere glance at the redline version of the Third Amended Complaint showing how it differs from the Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 231-2) immediately contradicts Mr. Carter's characterization of his motion. Every single page has numerous redline changes. In fact, the redline version contains so many changes that at times, the Court found itself struggling to understand what exactly the document was saying.

         The defendants ask for application of the good cause standard, which would place the burden on Mr. Carter to show why his motion should be granted, which they maintain that he cannot do. In the alternative, the defendants ask this Court to deny him leave to amend based on undue delay, undue prejudice, and/or futility. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that both undue delay and undue prejudice are independent grounds for denying Mr. Carter's motion. Leave to amend will therefore be denied.

         I. Plaintiffs Unduly Delayed in Filing the Motion for Leave to File Third Amended Complaint.

         The Court finds that Mr. Carter's filing of the Motion for Leave to File Third Amended Complaint was unduly delayed. Looking first at JCS's argument, it notes that the currently operative Second Amended Complaint alleged a conspiracy involving only JCS and the City. ECF No. 145. The proposed Third Amended Complaint, however, alleges a conspiracy between JCS and the Municipal Court. JCS also points out that Mr. Carter knew that his prior Complaint omitted any mention of a conspiracy between JCS and the Municipal Court. JCS specifically stated in its summary judgment motion that the Second Amended Complaint alleged "that a conspiracy exists between JCS and the City, not between JCS and the Montgomery Municipal Court." ECF No. 184 at 51. This means that Mr. Carter's failure to add this allegation earlier in the litigation was not a mere oversight, as he was on notice that he had not alleged a conspiracy between JCS and the Municipal Court.

         Mr. Kloess also believes that the proposed Third Amended Complaint makes substantive changes to the allegations. For example, Mr. Carter has proposed adding a new sub-class: "All individuals in the Main Class for whom Branch Kloess was listed as the Public Defender assigned to the jail docket when they were jailed." ECF No. 231-1 ¶ 5. Mr. Carter has not given any valid reason for waiting until two weeks before the discovery deadline to make this significant addition.

         The City points out that many of the proposed changes have nothing to do with information gleaned in discovery and thus could have been made months ago. The City is also concerned with the addition of allegations regarding a "tripartite conspiracy" between the City, Municipal Court, and JCS. ECF No. 241 at 10. This is a serious substantive change, and the City correctly points out that Mr. Carter failed to "list[] any facts that he learned in discovery for the first time in support of these claims," leaving the Court confused as to why he could not have amended the Complaint prior to the eve of the discovery deadline. Id.

         Mr. Carter claims that he could not have amended the Complaint prior to December 3rd because new facts came to light during discovery. Although fact discovery has been occurring throughout 2019, it seems strange that he would wait until sixteen days before the discovery deadline to amend his Complaint. He has also failed to state any precise date upon which he learned of specific information for the first time that would have given him reason to add these new conspiracy allegations so late in the process. With the discovery deadline looming, he had a responsibility to seek leave to amend his Complaint the moment any new information came to light-not wait until mere weeks before the close of discovery. Mr. Carter represented to this Court that his ...


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