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Vaughn v. Hawkins

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

May 14, 2018



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge United States District Court,

         This matter comes before the Court on two motions. The first is a motion by Defendants[1]for reconsideration of this Court's previous Order directing them to permit Plaintiff Eddie Vaughn, (“Plaintiff”), to view certain security camera footage. [DN 55.] The second is a motion by Defendants to strike. [DN 59.] These matters are ripe for adjudication and, for the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion to strike, [DN 59], is GRANTED, and Defendants' motion for reconsideration, [DN 55], is DENIED.

         A. Background

         This case arises out of events which transpired early on the morning of February 26, 2014 at the Kentucky State Penitentiary, (“KSP”). [DN 44, at 2-3.] That morning, Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at KSP, was subjected to a random cell search. [Id.] What happened during and after this cell search, though, is a matter of great contention in this case. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants destroyed his property unnecessarily and then proceeded to assault him. [Id.] Defendants claim that Plaintiff was subjected to a routine cell search, at which time certain items of contraband were found, and the only force used against Plaintiff was in response to his being combative while they were attempting to remove him from the cell block. [Id. at 3.]

         On March 25, 2016, this Court ordered Defendants to “produce any and all video footage pertaining to the claims raised in the instant action, including video footage of Plaintiff's cell extraction and escort from his cell to the segregation unit.” [DN 43, at 5.] Upon in camera review of the footage, the Court ordered that the footage would remain filed under seal, and that Defendants were to make available the video files so that Plaintiff could view them. [DN 54.] Defendants were further ordered to file a status report thereafter indicating that Plaintiff had been afforded access to the video. In response to that Order, Defendants filed the instant motion for reconsideration, seeking an order from this Court denying Plaintiff access to the video footage at issue. [See DN 55.] Plaintiff filed a response thereto, and Defendants filed a reply. However, Plaintiff then filed a “response” to Defendants' reply and, in addition to seeking reconsideration, Defendants have also moved to have Plaintiff's sur-reply stricken from the record. [See DN 59.]

         B. Defendants' Motion to Strike

         The first motion at issue is Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's sur-reply from the Record as an unauthorized filing or, in the alternative, to permit Defendants to file a response thereto. Sequentially, this motion was made after Defendants' motion for reconsideration. However, because it affects the filings the Court will or will not consider in reaching its disposition on the motion to reconsider, the Court will address the motion to strike first.

         1. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(g) in the Western District of Kentucky, motions are “submitted to the Court for decision…after the reply is filed, or the time for filing the response or reply has expired.” In other words, after a party files a motion, “a party opposing a motion must file a response within 21 days of service, ” and then the movant “may file a reply within 14 days of service of the response.” LR 7.1(c). Neither the Local Rules of this jurisdiction nor the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit the filing of sur-replies as a matter of right. See Key v. Shelby Cnty., 551 Fed.Appx. 262, 265 (6th Cir. 2014) (discussing the standard for permitting a party to file a sur-reply). Instead, in order “to file a sur-reply the party must obtain leave of the court.” Eberhard v. Chicago Title Ins. Co., No. 1:11-cv-834, 2014 WL 12756822, at *2 (N.D. Ohio Jan. 8, 2014). District courts are afforded broad discretion in deciding whether to permit a party to file a sur-reply, the classic reason being “[w]hen new submissions and/or arguments are included in a reply brief, and a nonmovant's ability to respond to the new evidence has been vitiated.” Key, 551 Fed.Appx. at 264.

         2. Discussion

         In this case, Defendants seek to have Plaintiff's sur-reply stricken from the Record. The filing at issue was actually styled by Plaintiff as a “response, ” but because it was a “response” to Defendants' reply, the Court construes it as an attempted sur-reply. Defendants argue that, because Plaintiff's filing is properly construed as a sur-reply, he was not permitted to file it without prior leave of the Court and, because he sought no such leave, the “response” should be stricken from the Record. [DN 59, at 1.] In the alternative, Defendants seek authority to file a response to Plaintiff's sur-reply.

         It is uncontested that Plaintiff did not move the Court to permit him leave to file the sur-reply, instead choosing merely to file the document as a matter of course. Thus, it is clear that Plaintiff had no authority to make the filing in the first place. However, even setting aside Plaintiff's failure to follow proper procedure, the Court finds no reason to permit the filing of a sur-reply in the first instance, and so will order the Clerk to strike the filing from the Record.

         In their reply, Defendants largely restate the arguments previously made in their original motion, and provide responses to the arguments Plaintiff made in his response. [See DN 57.] There is nothing in Defendants' reply that this Court would consider to be “new submissions and/or [new] arguments, ” as contemplated by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Key, 551 Fed.Appx. at 264. Moreover, in his response to Defendants' motion to strike, Plaintiff does not so argue. [See DN 60.] Instead, Plaintiff erroneously argues that Defendants, too, have made an improper filing with the Court. Namely, Plaintiff argues that Defendants' original reply to his response to Defendants' motion to reconsider “was unauthorized, and should have been [stricken] from the Record.” [Id. at 2.] Essentially, Defendants filed their motion to reconsider, [DN 55], Plaintiff filed a response, [DN 56], and Defendants filed a reply thereto. [DN 57.] Plaintiff appears to believe that the reply was not authorized and so it should also be stricken. Of course, replies are authorized under Local Rule 7.1, and Defendants' reply was timely, and so Plaintiff's argument is without merit. Moreover, in his ...

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