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Yu v. Idaho State University

United States District Court, D. Idaho

October 19, 2018

JUN YU, Plaintiff,
v.
IDAHO STATE UNIVERSITY, and JOHN/JANE DOES I through X, whose true identities are presently unknown, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO CONTINUE TRIAL (DKT. 115)

          HONORABLE RONALD E. BUSH CHIEF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending is Defendant's Motion to Continue Trial (Dkt. 115), seeking to vacate the trial presently set for November 13, 2018 and to reset it for no sooner than January 2019. Plaintiff opposes the motion. (Dkt. 124.) Having reviewed the briefing and supporting filings, and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters the following Decision and Order:

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Jun Yu (“Yu”) sued Defendant Idaho State University (“ISU”) in 2015 under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, after ISU dismissed Yu from its Doctoral Clinical Psychology Program in 2013. On February 8, 2018, after extensive discovery and motion practice, trial was set to begin on November 13, 2018. (Dkt. 67.) A pretrial conference was scheduled for October 23, 2018.

         On October 12, 2018, Defendant's lead counsel Michael Kelly moved to continue trial until mid-January 2019 or later. The motion was supported by Mr. Kelly's affidavit, which described an unforeseen scheduling conflict for Mr. Kelly of a personal and confidential nature. (Dkts. 115, 115-1.) Defendant's motion and supporting filings and Plaintiff's response to the motion are the subjects of unopposed motions to seal. (Dkts. 116, 126, 127.) The Court has considered the motions to seal and is granting such motions in a decision that is filed separately from this decision. In light of the motions to seal, the instant decision resolving the motion to continue trial will limit its discussion regarding the specific reasons why Defendant seeks to postpone trial.

         Plaintiff opposes the motion to continue trial. (Dkt. 124.) First, Plaintiff suggests that Defendant's co-counsel, Shannon Graham, could serve as counsel in Mr. Kelly's absence. Second, Plaintiff questions whether the 60-day continuance Defendant requests would be adequate; Plaintiff's implied concern is that too short a continuance would result in a subsequent additional motion to continue trial, adding expense and delay. Third, Plaintiff raises scheduling concerns related to the availability of Plaintiff's counsel's and of Plaintiff's witnesses to try this case in early 2019. Plaintiff notes that most of his witnesses are employed in academia and coordinating their availability during the traditional academic year is difficult. He contends it might not be until May 2019 when he could marshal his witnesses for trial. Finally, Plaintiff contends that a continuance will require him to expend additional funds in hard costs that have already been expended in preparing to commence trial on November 13, 2018. Plaintiff supports this contention with an exhibit attached to an affidavit of counsel showing he has incurred over $22, 000 in costs for witness fees and travel expenses for witnesses and counsel.

         Defendant's deadline for filing a reply memorandum has not yet run, but the Court finds that this matter requires urgent resolution so that the parties can be provided as much notice as possible regarding whether trial will proceed as scheduled or will be continued.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16 governs pretrial conferences, scheduling, and management. Pursuant to this rule, the Court previously entered a scheduling order with deadlines for joining other parties, amending the pleadings, completing discovery, and filing motions. F.R.C.P. 16(b)(3)(A). Further, under the rule, the Court also set a date for a pretrial conference and for the trial. F.R.C.P. 16(b)(3)(B)(vi).

         The Court's scheduling order is to be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent. F.R.C.P. 16(b)(4). The good cause standard of Rule 16(b) “primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment.” Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 609 (9th Cir. 1992). “The court may modify the schedule on a showing of good cause if it cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party seeking the extension.” F.R.C.P. 16 advisory committee's notes (1983 amendment). “Although the existence or degree of prejudice to the party opposing the modification might supply additional reasons to deny a motion, the focus of the inquiry is upon the moving party's reasons for seeking modification.” Johnson, 975 F.2d at 609.

         The federal rules do not impose specific requirements on a motion to continue trial.

         However, District Local Rule Civil 6.1(b) provides as follows:

All requests to vacate, continue, or reschedule a trial date must be in the form of a written motion, must be approved by the client, and must state the specific reason(s) for the requested continuance. A mere stipulation between the parties without providing the specific reason(s) for the requested continuance will be deemed insufficient. Client approval can be satisfied either by the client's actual signature or by the attorney certifying to the Court that the client knows about and agrees to the requested continuance. The requesting party must apprise the Court if they have previously been granted a trial date continuance in this particular action.

         In National Trust Insurance v. Graham Brothers Construction, Defendant filed a summary judgment motion one day after the dispositive motion deadline, arguing that it had good cause for its untimely filing because counsel's daughter was sick three days prior to the deadline, which caused counsel to work fewer hours on those days to help care for the child. 916 F.Supp.2d 1244, 1250 (M.D. Fla. January 4, 2013). In denying the motion, the court noted that the relevant deadline had already been extended twice at Defendant's request and that Defendant failed to seek further extension of the deadline before it lapsed. The Court also observed that Plaintiff - which had timely filed a summary judgment motion of its ...


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