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Mitchell v. Kansas City Kansas School District

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 7, 2017

JACK ALLEN MITCHELL, II, Plaintiff,
v.
KANSAS CITY KANSAS SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          CARLOS MURGUIA United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the court upon defendant Kansas City Kansas School District's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 38). Plaintiff Jack Allen Mitchell, II, appearing pro se, opposes the motion.

         On March 7, 2016, plaintiff filed this case using the court's form employment discrimination complaint (Doc. 1). On December 6, 2016, the court entered a pretrial order that is now the operative pleading in this case (Doc. 34). Plaintiff alleges that defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-e17, by terminating plaintiff's employment based on race discrimination or retaliation. Plaintiff seeks reinstatement, back pay dating back to October 30, 2015, reinstatement of retirement credit, repaid benefits, reinstatement of benefits, actual damages, and attorney fees, should plaintiff retain counsel.

         I. Legal Standard

         A. Parties proceeding pro se

         The court interprets pro se filings liberally, but parties proceeding pro se are still required to comply with the rules of procedure, both federal and local. Keehner v. Dunn, 409 F.Supp.2d 1266, 1270 (D. Kan. 2005). The court may not act as an advocate for a pro se party, but will overlook “a failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories, and poor syntax or sentence construction.” Id.

         B. Summary judgment standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact” and that it is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In applying this standard, the court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

         The party moving for summary judgment has the burden to show “the lack of a genuine issue of material fact.” Ascend Media Prof'l Servs., LLC v. Eaton Hall Corp., 531 F.Supp.2d 1288, 1295 (D. Kan. 2008) (citing Spaulding v. United Transp. Union, 279 F.3d 901, 904 (10th Cir. 2002) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986))). Once the moving party meets this initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmovant to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (citing Spaulding, 279 F.3d at 904 (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986))).

         The nonmovant may not rest on his pleadings or “rely on ignorance of the facts, on speculation, or on suspicion and may not escape summary judgment in the mere hope that something will turn up at trial.” Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 259 (1986)); Conaway v. Smith, 853 F.2d 789, 794 (10th Cir. 1988). Instead, the nonmovant is required to set forth specific facts, by referencing affidavits, deposition transcripts, or exhibits, from which a rational trier of fact could find for him. Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); see also Ascend Media, 531 F.Supp.2d at 1295 (citing Adams v. Am. Guar. & Liab. Ins. Co., 233 F.3d 1242, 1246 (10th Cir. 2000)). Summary judgment is not a “disfavored procedural shortcut” -it is an “integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 327 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 1).

         II. Background

         The facts are generally undisputed. As required by the local rules, defendant set forth a statement of uncontroverted facts, separately numbered and referring with particularity to those portions of the record upon which it relies. D. Kan. Rule 56.1(a). The rules provide that all facts set forth in such a statement are deemed admitted for the purposes of summary judgment unless specifically controverted by the statement of the opposing party. The responding party must “refer with particularity to those portions of the record upon which the opposing party relies.” D. Kan. Rule 56.1(b)(1). The Rules further provide that if the nonmoving party “relies on any facts not contained in the movant's memorandum, that party must set forth each additional fact in a separately numbered paragraph, supported by references to the record.” Rule 56.1(b)(2). “All facts on which a motion or opposition is based must be presented by affidavit, declaration under penalty of perjury, and/or relevant portions of pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and responses to requests for admissions.” Rule 56.1(d). Plaintiff, as a pro se party, was provided a full copy of these rules as required by 56.1(f).

         Plaintiff generally does not sufficiently controvert defendant's statements. He does not provide the court with a statement of uncontroverted facts. Plaintiff's response contains only the same numbered paragraphs from defendant's motion, admitting or denying most of defendant's statements, sometimes citing to one of plaintiff's attached exhibits. Many of plaintiff's responses are conclusory denials. These are insufficient on a motion for summary judgment.

         When plaintiff cites any record evidence or exhibit in support of a factual assertion, he generally refers to the exhibit as a whole. It would be inappropriate for the court to search through plaintiff's exhibits for evidence to support his case. Especially where, as here, plaintiff included hours of video and audio recording, and other exhibits that do not have apparent relevance. The court would consider such action impermissible advocacy on the behalf of a pro se party. “[I]t is the responding party's burden to ensure that the factual dispute is portrayed with particularity, without . . . depending on the ...


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