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Trs. of the Local 464A UFCW Pension Fund was an ERISA action brought by union pension funds against a number of investment managers. The parties submitted a joint discovery plain with a scheduling order and a deadline for amending pleadings. The judge accepted this deadline, and, at first, all was well. However, nearly eight months later, the plaintiffs asked to file an amended complaint.
As discovery progressed, the scheduling order became stale. That is, the discovery efforts occurred in such a way that the parties could no longer meet the deadlines of the order. The plaintiffs sought to amend their complaint due to information that they had uncovered during this extended discovery process.
The magistrate judge, Judge Falk, however, denied the plaintiff’s request to amend the complaint to bring it in line with the evidence they had uncovered. The plaintiffs appealed this decision, and made two arguments. First, they contended that Judge Falk had erred in applying Rule 16’s “good cause” standard rather than Rule 15’s “prejudice” standard in regards to amending pleadings. Second, they argued that the defendants did not show that they would suffer any real prejudice. Finally, the plaintiffs alleged that they could establish good cause for not seeking to amend the complaint until eight months after the deadline.
The crux of the plaintiff’s argument on appeal was that because the scheduling order had become stale, Judge Falk should have applied the regular standard for amending pleadings. This standard allows courts to “freely give leave when justice so requires.” Rule 16, on the other hand, is intended to govern requests to amend pleadings once a scheduling order has been issued.
The District Court did not side with the plaintiffs. Judge Martini noted that in this age, cases are often bogged down by voluminous electronic discovery. He further noted that parties should not be allowed to ignore deadlines because this behavior would frustrate case management. The court held, therefore, that Rule 16 is the appropriate standard for dealing with amending pleadings once a scheduling order has been entered. In doing so, it declined to adopt an exception due to the nature of electronic discovery.
Given this holding, the court dispensed with the plaintiff’s second argument. The defendants are not required to show prejudice under the Rule 16 standard.
The court then addressed the plaintiff’s contention that they had good cause for their delay in seeking to amend their complaint. The plaintiff’s supposed “good cause” was that they did not receive the requested data from the defendants in the format they requested until after the December 31 deadline.
The court held that despite the form, the plaintiffs did have the information that constituted the basis of their amended complaint at the time the original complaint was filed. The court also pointed out that the plaintiffs could have converted the information quite easily. Also, they could have retained an expert to help them interpret the data. Therefore, according to this court, generally, if a plaintiff has in his possession the information which forms the basis of his amended complaint before the appropriate deadline arises, he cannot show good cause for a late request to amend.
Electronic discovery is not an excuse to ignore scheduling orders and treat deadlines with little regard. Judges are clearly concerned about effective case management. This is clearly an important concern not just for judges, but for litigants too. While electronic discovery has changed the litigation landscape, effective case management still means effective and swift justice rather than delay.
Erin received her B.A. in French from Grinnell College in 2007. She will receive her J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law in 2012. Currently, Erin works as a research fellow at the Center for Policy and Research and as a clinical fellow in Seton Hall’s Center for Social Justice’s Civil Litigation division.