32 F.3d 1114 (7th Cir. 1994), 93-2207, Dickerson v. Board of Educ. of Ford Heights, Ill.

Docket Nº:93-2207.
Citation:32 F.3d 1114
Party Name:Mary DICKERSON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF FORD HEIGHTS, ILLINOIS, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:August 12, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 1114

32 F.3d 1114 (7th Cir. 1994)

Mary DICKERSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF FORD HEIGHTS, ILLINOIS, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 93-2207.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 12, 1994

Argued April 27, 1994.

Page 1115

James Childs, Jr. argued, Childs, Willis & Associates, Chicago, IL, for plaintiff-appellant.

Edward M. Kay, James T. Ferrini, Mark Seplak, argued, Susan Condon, Imelda Terrazino, Diane M. Baron, Michael R. Grimm, Clausen, Miller, Gorman, Caffrey & Witous, Chicago, IL, for defendant-appellee.

Before ESCHBACH, COFFEY, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

KANNE, Circuit Judge.

Mary Dickerson, who is seventy-seven years old, filed this age discrimination action against the Board of Education of Ford Heights, Illinois in August 1990. In 1993, after Dickerson had missed two deadlines to submit a pretrial order and had failed to advise the district court in advance of those deadlines that they could not be met, the district court dismissed the action for failure to prosecute. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). Rather than directly appealing that decision, Dickerson's counsel moved to vacate the dismissal, claiming that serious family problems had made it impossible for him to meet the court's deadlines. Following a hearing on counsel's motion, the district court refused to reinstate the case. Again Dickerson did not appeal, instead filing a motion requesting that the district court reconsider its decision not to reinstate the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). Dickerson now appeals the court's denial of the motion to reconsider. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Mary Dickerson began working as a teacher for the Board of Education of Ford Heights, Illinois (the "Board") in 1961. On August 16, 1990, with counsel's assistance, Dickerson filed an amended complaint alleging that the Board had denied her salary raises and promotions because of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 621 et seq. Dickerson also alleged that the Board had deliberately misplaced documents from her personnel file which would have established her credentials for the raises and promotions she had sought. On May 18, 1992, the district court ordered Dickerson to respond to the Board's requests for discovery and directed Dickerson to submit a final pretrial order by August 28, 1992. On that date, neither the pretrial order nor a motion for an extension of time had been filed with the district court. On September 23, 1992, Dickerson requested a sixty-day extension of time within which to file the pretrial order. The parties submitted a joint motion advising the court that all discovery, including the taking of Dickerson's deposition testimony, had been completed, and that Dickerson's request for a sixty-day

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extension of time was necessary due to serious problems that had arisen in counsel's immediate family, including his mother's incapacitating illness. 1 The district court agreed to extend the time within which to file the pretrial order until October 31, 1992.

Dickerson missed the court's October 31, 1992 deadline for filing the pretrial order and took no steps to advise the court concerning the status of the case. On February 10, 1993, acting sua sponte, the district court dismissed the case for want of prosecution. On February 18, 1993, Dickerson's counsel filed a motion to vacate the dismissal, asking the court to excuse his delay in filing the required pretrial order. As grounds for granting the motion, counsel cited his own illness and the difficulties he had encountered due to the unanticipated severity of his mother's illness. Counsel also requested a fourteen-day extension of time to file the requisite order. A hearing on the motion was held on February 26, 1993. At the hearing, the Board's counsel stated that Dickerson's counsel had failed to act with due diligence in prosecuting the case since its inception in 1990. 2 On March 1, 1993, after noting that Dickerson's motion was without arguable merit under Rule 59(e), and that Dickerson had not brought forward any facts which would justify vacating dismissal of the case because of excusable neglect under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b), the court denied the motion. Dickerson then filed a motion for reconsideration of her motion to vacate dismissal, which the court treated as having been brought pursuant to Rule 60(b) for the purpose of reinstating the case. Observing that counsel had presented insufficient grounds to warrant relief under Rule 60(b)...

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