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Martinez v. County of Fresno

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 14, 2019

HERARDO DIONICIO MARTINEZ, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF FRESNO, a Public Entity; ANITA HARPER, Deputy Public Guardian; and DOES 1-15, inclusive, Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO PERMIT FILING OF FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT AND TO MODIFY SCHEDULING ORDER (DOC. 31)

          BARBARA A. MCAULIFFE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Findings and Recommendations

         Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiff Herardo Dionicio Martinez's motion for leave to file a first amended complaint and to modify the scheduling order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b). (Doc. 31.) Defendants County of Fresno and Anita Harper opposed the motion on November 1, 2019. (Doc. 33.) The Court found the motion appropriate for resolution without oral argument and vacated the November 15, 2019 hearing. See Local Rule 230(g). The matter is deemed submitted.

         BACKGROUND

         On March 26, 2018, Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court alleging discrimination by the County of Fresno and Anita Harper due to Plaintiff's sexual orientation. Defendant Harper was sued in her official capacity as Deputy Public Guardian of the County.[1] (Doc. 1.) In the complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Harper was appointed as limited conservator of Robert Camarillo on June 3, 2013. Prior to the appointment, Plaintiff had a social and romantic same sex relationship with Mr. Camarillo. This relationship continued until approximately the summer of 2016 when Defendant Harper allegedly interfered the relationship by accusing Plaintiff of being abusive toward Mr. Camarillo when there was no evidence of any such abuse. Defendant Harper's interference with the relationship reportedly began after Plaintiff made grievances in 2015 against the group home where Defendant Harper placed Mr. Camarillo. (See Doc. 1, Compl. at ¶¶ 8-9.) Plaintiff further alleged that Defendant Harper knew that Mr. Camarillo had a social and romantic relationship with Plaintiff even when Defendant Harper sought a conservatorship over Mr. Camarillo in 2013. Defendant Harper also allegedly knew that Mr. Camarillo considered himself to be gay and considered Plaintiff to be his boyfriend. Defendant Harper took no actions against Plaintiff at that time. However, in 2016, allegedly without probable cause, Defendant Harper began falsely accusing Plaintiff of wrongdoing toward Mr. Camarillo, even going so far as to refer to Plaintiff as a “sexual predator” and claiming that Plaintiff was forcing a sexual relationship on Mr. Camarillo. Defendant Harper's attacks allegedly were false and were motivated by discrimination and bias based on Plaintiff's sexual orientation. Defendant Harper also allegedly communicated her false claims about Plaintiff to the group home where she had placed Mr. Camarillo and insisted that the group home prevent Mr. Camarillo and Plaintiff from seeing each other. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Plaintiff forwarded claims for violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment against the County and Defendant Harper in her official capacity, violation of the California Constitution, and violation of California Civil Code § 52.1. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-20.)

         The case was removed to this Court on June 8, 2018, based on federal question jurisdiction. (Doc. 1.) On September 5, 2018, the Court issued a Scheduling Conference Order. According to that Order, the deadline to file all stipulated amendments to the parties' pleadings or motions to amend expired on October 15, 2018. (Doc. 13 at 3.)

         On June 14, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to modify the Scheduling Conference Order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4). (Doc. 18.) According to the motion, Plaintiff sought modification due primarily to events involving current and former counsel, including other conflicting matters. (Id.) In response to the motion, the Court held a telephonic status conference and directed the parties to meet and confer to determine whether a stipulation could be reached resolving Plaintiff's motion to modify the Scheduling Conference Order. (Doc. 21.)

         On July 2, 2019, the Court partially granted the parties' stipulation to modify the Scheduling Order, which extended the deadlines for expert disclosures, non-expert and expert discovery, pretrial motions, the pretrial conference and trial. (Doc. 23.) The stipulation and order did not include modification of the deadline for amendment to the parties' pleadings. On July 8, 2019, the Court issued an amended order modifying only the trial date. (Doc. 24.) In both modification orders, the Court expressly advised the parties that further requests for continuances on the basis of counsel's lack of preparation would be looked upon with disfavor and that no further extensions or modifications of the deadlines in this case would be granted absent a demonstrated showing of good cause. (Doc. 23 at 3; Doc. 24 at 3.)

         On October 15, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to permit the filing of a first amended complaint, to resolve an outstanding discovery dispute, and to modify the scheduling order. (Doc. 29.) The Court determined that the motion did not comply with this Court's Local Rules and should not consolidate multiple issues in a single motion. Accordingly, the Court directed Plaintiff to re-notice the matter as two separate motions. (Doc. 30, )

         On October 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant motion to permit the filing of a first amended complaint and to modify the scheduling order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4).[2] (Doc. 31.) In seeking leave to amend, Plaintiff explains that the basis of his original complaint was the following:

[T]he County of Fresno and Harper violated his civil rights by filing a Request for a Temporary Restraining Order in early 2018, alleging among other things that:
a) Plaintiff abused Robert Camarillo [“Camarillo”] by not returning him to his group home on August 3, 2016, by the prescribed curfew;
b) the “offender [Plaintiff] will try to remove the victim [Camarillo] from his place of residence and will emotionally abuse him” if the ...

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