Magistrate judge slams ‘troubling trend’: lawyers ignoring orders

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Dave Stafford for www.theindianalawyer.com

Note to lawyers with cases in the Southern District of Indiana: don’t give the overworked judicial officers cause to call you out for missing deadlines or shrugging off orders. Magistrate Judge Tim A. Baker did just that in a blistering two-page order issued Friday.

“The latest developments in this case reflect what the undersigned believes is a continuing and troubling trend of ignoring Court-ordered deadlines and instructions,” Baker wrote in an order that vacated a settlement conference that had been set for Thursday in an employment race- and age-discrimination complaint. He also ordered the parties in the case to private mediation.

In the case at issue, Roseann L. Maxey v. Access Therapy, 1:16-cv-01286, Roseann Maxey, who is African-American, alleges she was fired from her job in June 2015 for failing to recruit an adequate number of candidates, while other employees who also failed to meet recruiting goals were retained. The defense denies her claims of race and age discrimination and states numerous affirmative defenses supporting the decision to fire Maxey.

Baker wrote that counsel for the plaintiff and defendant had not followed prior orders to submit confidential settlement statements to him three days before the hearing, and counsel also failed to exchange updated settlement proposals as a prior order outlined.

“Counsel had no justification for these shortcomings other than a failure to read and follow the order, which of course is unacceptable,” Baker wrote.

“As a result of the lawyers’ inattention to their obligations as counsel of record, they wasted judicial resources. Such resources are particularly scarce at this time given that the Southern District of Indiana is operating under a judicial emergency, which has been exacerbated by the recent deaths of Senior District Judge Larry J. McKinney and Magistrate Judge Denise K. LaRue,” Baker wrote.

“District Judges and Magistrate Judges from across the Seventh Circuit have generously given their time to travel to this district to help the judges here with their caseloads during this challenging period,” Baker continued. “It is against this backdrop that the undersigned is increasingly frustrated with lawyers that neglect to read and follow a straightforward order. This is particularly so given that the order at issue was crafted with the intention of providing the Magistrate Judge with the essential background information needed to assist the lawyers and their clients in resolving their dispute.”

But Baker wasn’t finished.

“Not only were judicial resources wasted, counsel wasted their clients’ time and money too, as well as their own,” he wrote, adding that referring the matter to private mediation also will add to the cost of litigating the dispute.

“A trend can be defined as a current style,” Baker said. “The undersigned remains hopeful that lawyers engaging in such practices will more carefully focus on the task at hand and that, as a result, the troubling trend described above will pass.”

The District Court for the Southern District of Indiana for years has been among the busiest courts in the nation based on federal court weighted caseload statistics. The recent deaths of LaRue and McKinney compounded the court’s longstanding judicial emergency.

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