EGCR 4090ALC 93 3

Houston Judge Scolded (Again) by 5th Circuit For Handling of Employment Case

A Houston U.S. District Court Judge has now been reversed three different times by the 5th Circuit and admonished for his handling of those employment discrimination cases, according to a news article published by Reuters.
The Reversals
The 5th Circuit vacated a decision by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes to grant summary judgment in favor of ambulatory care center operator KS Management Services, LLC. The appeals court found that Judge Hughes abused his discretion when he refused to permit the plaintiff to conduct depositions in support of her age discrimination claim against the defendant.
According to the first paragraph in the 5th Circuit’s opinion, the most recent reversal is the third opinion in which the appellate court overturned Judge Hughes’ decision to deny discovery to a plaintiff in an employment discrimination lawsuit. The first was in McCoy v. Energy XXI GOM, LLC in 2017 and then in 2021 in Miller v. Sam Houston State University.
In addition to its appeal of the denial of discovery, plaintiff-Bailey’s attorneys also asked the 5th Circuit to reassign the matter to a new judge. While judge reassignments are extremely rare, the 5th Circuit has transferred at least five cases originally assigned to Judge Hughes to a different judge for remanded proceedings. Bailey’s attorneys argued that Judge Hughes’ constant and seemingly unreasonable denials of their client’s requests for adequate discovery were sufficient reasons to transfer the case to a different judge, even if overtly prejudicial statements about the case–as in other matters that were reassigned–had not occurred. The appeals court, however, disagreed, ruling that plaintiff did not meet her burden for a judge reassignment.
Defendant’s View
Counsel for KS Management Services, LLC noted to news media that Judge Hughes has broad discretion when it comes to making rules in his courtroom. The defendant’s attorney further noted that has appeared before Judge Hughes hundreds of times and he almost always calls for similar limited-discovery protocols as he did in the Bailey case. During litigation, however, KS Management’s attorneys took a less strict approach than even Judge Hughes.
Judge Hughes required both sides initially to produce certain documents related to the lawsuit as well as jointly produce an objective and factual chronology of plaintiff’s employment history with defendant. Once the limited discovery is provided, employers are able to move for summary judgment before the court. KS Management did so, arguing that Bailey was not fired because of her age but because she was mistake-prone at work–specifically in administering medication to
patients. Bailey, on the other hand, claimed these reasons were untrue and needed depositions to
prove her case. Judge Hughes, however, determined that Bailey was not entitled to any
additional discovery beyond the initial disclosures until after she was deposed–which never
occurred. Bailey’s attorneys filed motions to depose KS Management’s witnesses, which they
did not oppose. KS Management’s position was that Bailey would still lose on summary
judgment even if her lawyers were allowed to conduct depositions.

 

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