629 F.3d 25 (1st Cir. 2010), 08-2530, Mel

Docket Nº:08-2530.
Citation:629 F.3d 25
Opinion Judge:TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Segundo Mel
Attorney:Luis A. Mel
Judge Panel:Before TORRUELLA and LIPEZ, Circuit Judges, and BARBADORO,[*] District Judge.
Case Date:December 10, 2010
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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629 F.3d 25 (1st Cir. 2010)

Segundo Meléndez-GARCÍA, Plaintiff, Appellant,


Jorge L. SÁNCHEZ; George V. Hillyer; Carlos G. Ramos-Bellido; Jimmy Torres; Artemio de Jesús; John Doe; A-Z Ins. Co., Defendants, Appellees.

No. 08-2530.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

December 10, 2010

Heard June 7, 2010.

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Luis A. Meléndez-Albizu, with whom Gerardo De Jesús-Annoni and Law Offices of Luis A. Meléndez-Albizu were on brief, for appellant.

Efraín Maceira-Ortiz, for appellees.

Before TORRUELLA and LIPEZ, Circuit Judges, and BARBADORO,[*] District Judge.

TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

On April 30, 2001, Segundo Meléndez-García (" Meléndez" ), a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (" ROTC" ) officer, was assaulted during a student protest on the University of Puerto Rico's Río Piedras campus (" the UPR-RP campus" ). Due to the university's non-confrontation policy, Puerto Rico Police Department (" PRPD" ) officers were unable to come to his aid. In April 2002, Meléndez sued various university officials pursuant to 42 U.S. C. § 1983, alleging, among other things, that they had violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to protect him from injury. He also asserted various state-law claims. After protracted discovery, the district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the federal-law claims and dismissed the state-law claims because it concluded that the parties were not diverse.

Meléndez now contends that the district court (1) abused its discretion twice when ruling on discovery motions-first, by refusing to issue sanctions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 37 for the defendants' alleged " massive discovery misconduct," and second, by failing to grant Meléndez's motion to set aside summary judgment based on the same discovery misconduct; (2) improperly dismissed Meléndez's federal civil rights claims on the ground of qualified immunity; and (3) committed clear error in determining that there was no diversity jurisdiction. For the reasons stated hereinafter, we affirm all of the district court's rulings.

I. Background

A. Facts

1. The Non-Confrontation Policy

Historically, relations between ROTC members and some non-ROTC students at UPR have been marked by conflict and tension. For example, during a 1969 protest sparked by the imposition of a one-year sentence on a defendant who refused

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to submit to induction into the armed forces, students at UPR-RP marched into an ROTC building and proceeded to burn and otherwise destroy doors, windows, and glass display cabinets, among other things. During subsequent days, multiple ROTC cadets were assaulted and threatened. As a result of this violence, the university suspended Army ROTC classes for approximately three months. After one protest in 1971, an ROTC cadet was killed. In 1984, a bomb was discovered in the ROTC facility.

In response to the violence and confrontation on the UPR-RP campus, former chancellor Dr. Juan R. Fernández issued a statement encapsulating what came to be known as the " non-confrontation policy" (" NCP" ). The policy evolved over time, and was eventually issued in written form in 2005. The translation of the preamble to the written NCP notes,

The University of Puerto Rico, and particularly the Río Piedras Campus, historically has been the reflection and participant of [sic] the fundamental duties and conflicts of the Puerto Rican society. In some cases[,] events happened that generated tragic results for the University and the country. These events led us as university members to the introspection and search of [sic] some understanding as to how to avoid violence, the entrance of the Police to [sic] the University and the external improper intervention in the University affairs.

The body of the policy explains that the university community is committed to avoiding confrontation by, among other things, establishing as " institutional policy" a practice of " us[ing] all available resources to avoid the intervention of the Puerto Rico Police in university affairs." Although the NCP was not issued in written form until 2005, the parties agree that the unwritten NCP that was in force in 2001 prohibited PRPD officers from entering the campus without the permission of a university administrator.1

2. The Assault on Meléndez

During the months leading up to Meléndez's assault, the tensions between non-ROTC students and ROTC members were evident. The Navy's use of Vieques for weapons testing sparked many anti-Navy demonstrations on campus. In February 2001, the President of UPR-RP's student government wrote a letter demanding that ROTC members not be allowed to wear uniforms on campus. In April 2001, two non-commissioned officers (" NCOs" ) who went to the UPR-RP campus to pick up mail were harassed and threatened by ROTC opponents. ROTC officers and NCOs were regularly harassed and threatened when they wore their uniforms on campus.

On April 30, 2001, the day of the assault, defendant Dr. George Hillyer, who was then the chancellor of UPR-RP, had planned to be away from the campus. He had confirmed with a student group before leaving that no demonstrations were planned for that day. At 5:30 that morning, several ROTC cadets and NCOs began to perform physical training exercises in the UPR track and field area. A number of protesters began demonstrating on a bridge that leads to this area. In response, the officers in charge, Major Jorge Más and Lt. Col. José Martínez, decided to move the exercises to the ROTC compound. The protesters, however, also moved. As a result, cadets and officers were prohibited from entering or leaving

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the compound.2 Protesters intercepted and beat up one cadet who attempted to flee through a hole in a fence. The demonstrators also hurled rocks, eggs, and mangoes at the compound.

At some point, Sgt. José L. González arrived on the scene. As he stood inside a gazebo near a parking lot, a group of demonstrators spotted him and proceeded to push and shove him. Lt. Col. José Miguel Pizarro, who believed that one of his men was in danger, moved toward the gazebo to provide assistance. At that point, Meléndez entered the fray to assist Pizarro, his commanding officer. González was able to get into his car and drive away, but Pizarro and Meléndez were left in the middle of a group of demonstrators, who began to kick and hit them. As the two men walked across the parking lot, a distance of about 150 meters, demonstrators continued to punch and kick them. According to Meléndez, the protesters dissipated after he threatened to press federal charges.

After the protest, Meléndez asked a PRPD officer why he had not intervened, and the officer responded that the university had not authorized entry. Although neither the Campus Guard nor the PRPD arrested or detained any of the protesters, federal authorities eventually arrested Pedro Colón Almenas. Colón Almenas was charged with, and found guilty of, assaulting a federal officer.

B. Procedural History

Meléndez filed suit in federal court on April 30, 2002. In October 2004, after two years had passed without any reports to the court on the status of the case, the court ordered Meléndez to show cause as to why his case should not be dismissed for lack of prosecution. After Meléndez complied, the court decided not to dismiss the case but warned Meléndez that he had to keep the court apprised of the status of the case and bring any discovery disputes to the court without delay. On January 10, 2005, the parties submitted a discovery plan, proposing to coordinate discovery in the present case and a parallel state court action. The court rejected this plan, and set the discovery deadline for May 15, 2005. The discovery deadline was later extended until August 15, 2005.

On September 7, 2005, the defendants filed for summary judgment. On November 28, 2005, as part of discovery in the parallel state case, the defendants informed Meléndez that approximately 390,390 pages of documents were available for review. Believing that these documents were relevant to his federal suit, Meléndez filed a motion requesting that the court enter a default judgment against the defendants, or else impose other " severe sanctions" under Rule 37. The court declined, without explanation, to take either action. Meléndez now argues that the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion. See Section II.A.ii, infra.

On August 23, 2007, the court filed its order granting summary judgment to the defendants on their federal claims. See Meléndez-García v. Sánchez, No. 02-1646, slip op. at 32 (D.P.R. filed Aug. 23, 2007) (" Meléndez I " ). Meléndez appeals this judgment. See Section II.B, infra.

The court declined to rule on the state-court claims in its August 23, 2007 order, instead ordering Meléndez to provide evidence of his domicile as of April 30, 2002 so that the court could determine whether it had diversity jurisdiction. After Meléndez produced the required evidence, the court concluded that he was not a Texas domiciliary as of the date he filed his

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complaint, and thus that there was no diversity of citizenship between him and the defendants. See Meléndez-García v. Sánchez, No. 02-1646, Doc. No. 243, slip op. at 1 (D.P.R. Sept. 30, 2008) (" Meléndez III " ). Meléndez appeals this dismissal. See Section II.C, infra.

The same day that it ruled on the jurisdiction issue, the court denied Meléndez's motion for reconsideration of the summary judgment order. See Meléndez-García v. Sánchez, No...

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