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Espinoza v. City of Seattle

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

October 9, 2019

CITY OF SEATTLE, et al., Defendants.




         Before the court is Plaintiff Daniel Espinoza's motion to amend his complaint. (Mot. (Dkt. # 64); see also Prop. SAC (Dkt. # 64-1).) Defendants City of Seattle and Lieutenant Thomas Mahaffey (collectively, “Defendants”) oppose the motion. (Resp. (Dkt. # 66).) The court has considered Mr. Espinoza's motion, the parties' submissions in support of and in opposition to the motion, the relevant portions of the record, and the // applicable law. Being fully advised, [1] the court DENIES Mr. Espinoza's motion for the reasons set forth below.


         Mr. Espinoza is a police officer with the Seattle Police Department (“SPD”) and a member of the United States Marine Corps Reserve (“USMCR”). (See FAC (Dkt. # 31) ¶¶ 2.2-2.4.) Mr. Espinoza filed this action on November 14, 2017 (see Compl. (Dkt. # 1)) and amended his complaint with the court's leave on August 24, 2018 (see FAC; 8/23/18 Order (Dkt. # 30) at 1-2). On December 18, 2018, the court stayed this case from January 7, 2019 to January 20, 2020, in order to accommodate Mr. Espinoza while he was scheduled to be on active duty military deployment. (See Mot. to Stay (Dkt. # 42) at 2; 12/18/18 Order (Dkt. # 60).) In its order staying the case, the court granted the parties an extension until January 7, 2019, to complete discovery, but stated that “[t]he case deadlines that have passed will not be renewed.” (12/18/18 Order.) At the time the court issued that order, the deadline to amend pleadings had already expired. (See Sched. Order (Dkt. # 17) at 1.)

         In the current motion, Mr. Espinoza requests leave to amend his complaint for a second time. (See Mot.) The operative complaint that Mr. Espinoza seeks to amend- Mr. Espinoza's first amended complaint-centers entirely on Mr. Espinoza's allegations that Defendants harassed, discriminated, and retaliated against him during his employment with the SPD on the basis of his military status. (See generally FAC ¶¶ 2.6-2.52.) More specifically, Mr. Espinoza claims that Defendants passed him over for promotions, denied his departmental transfer requests, subjected him to disciplinary actions, and failed to properly administer his retirement plan because of his membership in the USMCR. (See Id. ¶¶ 2.10-2.11, 2.16, 2.23-2.26, 2.31-2.34, 2.36, 2.39-2.40, 2.42-2.45.) Mr. Espinoza also alleges that when he raised complaints about this alleged harassment and discrimination, Defendants either ignored his grievances or retaliated against him. (See Id. ¶¶ 2.27-2.30, 2.35, 2.38.) Defendants contest Mr. Espinoza's allegations. (See generally Am. Answer (Dkt. # 35) at 4-18.)

         Mr. Espinoza now seeks leave to file a second amended complaint that adds a set of factual allegations and causes of action that have no relationship with Mr. Espinoza's discrimination claims. In the proposed second amended complaint, Mr. Espinoza alleges that Defendants' counsel included “Mr. Espinoza's full name, home address, full social security number, tax records and other private information on the public docket” in a filing submitted in this litigation on December 6, 2018. (Prop. SAC ¶ 2.53.) According to Mr. Espinoza, this private information was available overnight on the docket for a total of 12 hours and 12 minutes. (See Id. ¶¶ 2.63-2.67.) Specifically, Mr. Espinoza claims that Defendants filed his information at 8:12 p.m. on Thursday, December 6, 2018, and sealed that filing by 8:24 a.m. on Friday, December 7, 2018. (See id.) As the court's website materials make clear, the court's ECF Support Desk is available from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.[2] Thus, when Mr. Espinoza's private information // was allegedly filed on the docket, the ECF Support Desk that Defendants needed to contact for sealing assistance was closed, but Defendants were ultimately able to seal that court filing 24 minutes after the Support Desk opened the following morning. (See Resp. at 2; Prop. SAC ¶ 2.67.)

         Based solely on Defendants' court filing and alleged refusal to mitigate the harms Mr. Espinoza's alleged he suffered as a result of his information being published on the court's docket for 12 hours and 12 minutes, Mr. Espinoza seeks to add four causes of action against Defendants, each of which arises under Washington state law: (1) negligence, (2) public disclosure of private facts under RCW 42.56.050, (3) common law invasion of privacy, and (4) outrage. (See Id. at 19-22.[3]) The court now addresses the merits of Mr. Espinoza's motion.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         Once the court files a pretrial scheduling order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16 and the deadline for amending a pleading or joining a party expires, a party's motion to amend a pleading or join an additional party is governed by Rule 16. See Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 607-08 (9th Cir. 1992). Under Rule 16, a party must show “good cause” for amendment in order to justify modifying the case schedule. Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4) (“A schedule may be modified only for good // cause and with the judge's consent.”); see also Johnson, 975 F.2d at 608. “Rule 16(b)'s ‘good cause' standard primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment.” Johnson, 975 F.2d at 609. To show “good cause” a party must show that it could not meet the deadline imposed by the scheduling order despite its diligence. Id.

         If a party is able to show “good cause” to amend the case schedule under Rule 16, it must then demonstrate that amending the pleading at issue is proper under Rule 15. See Id. at 608; MMMT Holdings Corp. v. NSGI Holdings, Inc., No. C12-01570RSL, 2014 WL 2573290, at *2 (W.D. Wash. June 9, 2014). Under Rule 15, the court should “freely give” leave to amend a pleading “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Five factors are used to assess the propriety of a motion for leave to amend: (1) bad faith, (2) undue delay, (3) prejudice to the opposing party, (4) futility of amendment, and (5) whether the party has previously amended its pleading. Allen v. City of Beverly Hills, 911 F.2d 367, 373 (9th Cir. 1990) (citing Ascon Props., Inc. v. Mobil Oil Co., 866 F.2d 1149, 1160 (9th Cir. 1989)).

         B. Mr. Espinoza's Request to Modify the Case Schedule

         The deadline to amend pleadings expired on November 7, 2018, and the court made clear in its order staying this case that expired deadlines would “not be renewed.” (See Sched. Order at 1; 12/18/18 Order.) Although Mr. Espinoza did not file his motion to amend until June 13, 2019, Mr. Espinoza's four-page motion does not ask the court to amend the case schedule to permit him to seek to amend the first amended complaint or explain why there is good cause to do so. (See generally Mot). But Defendants brief the timeliness issue in their opposition papers (see Resp. at 5-6), and, in his reply, Mr. Espinoza alleges that good cause exists to amend the case schedule for two primary reasons: (1) the relevant facts did not arise until after the deadline to amend had passed, and (2) Mr. Espinoza had to exhaust his administrative remedies pursuant to RCW 4.96.020. (See Reply at 2-3.) Typically, the court declines to consider arguments raised for the first time in reply. See Coos Cty. v. Kempthorne, 531 F.3d 792, 812 n.16 (9th Cir. 2008) (declining to consider an argument raised for the first time in a reply brief); Smith v. Marsh, 194 F.3d 1045, 1052 (9th Cir. ...

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