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Sexton v. Hickenlooper

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 15, 2014

JOHN THOMAS SEXTON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
GOVERNOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER, MAYOR MICHAEL HANCOCK, LT. JAMES HENNING OF DENVER POLICE DEPARTMENT, UNKNOWN OFFICER OF DENVER POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

ORDER

KATHLEEN M. TAFOYA, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's "Motion to Amend Complaint and Name Unknown Officer and Have Him Served with Complaint." (Doc. No. 79, filed May 28, 2014.) Defendants Hancock and Henning's (hereinafter "the Denver Defendants") Response was filed on June 23, 2014 (Doc. No. 81) and Plaintiff's Reply was filed on July 10, 2014 (Doc. No. 82). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion to Amend is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

In his Prisoner Complaint, filed April 17, 2013, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hickenlooper, Hancock, Henning, and an "Unknown Officer of the Denver Police Department" (hereinafter the "Unknown Officer"), violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, as well as his Fourth Amendment rights by falsely arresting him and subjecting him to "police brutality." ( See generally Doc. No. 1 [hereinafter "Compl."].)

On June 26, 2013, just over two months after his Complaint was filed, Plaintiff filed a "Motion to Name Unknown Party, " which sought discovery regarding the identity of the Unknown Officer. ( See, Doc. No. 28, filed June 26, 2013.) The court denied this motion because it declined to allow discovery to be conducted before a Preliminary Scheduling Conference was held. (Minute Order, Doc. No. 32, filed June 27, 2013.)

A Preliminary Scheduling Conference was ultimately set for August 21, 2013. ( See Doc. No. 31.)[1] Due to an inadvertent and excusable error-namely, Plaintiff put the wrong date for the Scheduling Conference into his calendar-Plaintiff failed to appear at the August 21, 2013 Scheduling Conference.[2]

Before the Preliminary Scheduling Conference could be reset, Defendants filed a Motion to Stay Proceedings pending a determination as to whether they were entitled to qualified immunity from Plaintiff's allegations. (Doc. No. 49, filed Aug. 27, 2013.) The court granted this Motion on October 1, 2013 and stayed all discovery in this matter pending ruling on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. ( See Order, Doc. No. 52.) Therefore the Preliminary Scheduling Conference was not reset at that time. ( Id. )

Chief District Judge Marcia S. Krieger issued a ruling on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss on March 19, 2014. ( See Opinion and Order, Doc. No. 56.) Accordingly, on March 26, 2014, this court lifted the stay of discovery and set a Scheduling Conference for May 13, 2014 (Minute Order, Doc. No. 60.)

Just over two weeks after the Scheduling Conference, Plaintiff filed his Motion to Amend. ( See Mot. Am.) Plaintiff's Motion to Amend seeks to amend the Complaint to identify the Unknown Officer as Officer Randy Hinricher.

LEGAL STANDARD

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), "The court should freely give leave [to amend the pleadings] when justice so requires." See also York v. Cherry Creek Sch. Dist. No. 5, 232 F.R.D. 648, 649 (D. Colo. 2005); Aspen Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, LLC v. Aspen Valley Hosp. Dist., 353 F.3d 832, 842 (10th Cir. 2003). The grant or denial of an opportunity to amend is within the discretion of the court, but "outright refusal to grant the leave without any justifying reason appearing for the denial is not an exercise of discretion; it is merely abuse of that discretion and inconsistent with the spirit of the Federal Rules." Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). "Refusing leave to amend is generally only justified upon a showing of undue delay, undue prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith or dilatory motive, failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment." Frank v. U.S. West, Inc., 3 F.3d 1357, 1365 (10th Cir. 1993). Notably,

The Federal Rules reject the approach that pleading is a game of skill in which one misstep by counsel may be decisive to the outcome and accept the principle that the purpose of pleading is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits.

Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 48 (1957) abrogated on other grounds by Bell Atl. Corp. v ...


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