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McQuennie v. Carpenters Local Union 429

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 23, 2016




Plaintiff, Stephen William McQuennie, filed this action pro se against Carpenters Local Union 209 (“Local 209”), Carpenters Local Union 429 (“Local 429”), Southwest Carpenters Pension Trust (the “Trust”), Central South Carpenters Regional Council (the “Council”), and Jason B. Engels in his official capacity as Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Council (collectively, “Defendants”). Mr. McQuennie claims denial of pension benefits in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq. (“ERISA”). See Am. Compl. at 2, ECF No. 36-1. This ruling addresses a number of pending motions, concludes that Mr. McQuennie has not raised a genuine dispute of material fact and, therefore, grants Defendants’ motions for summary judgment and closes this case.

I. Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF No. 78)

Months after discovery commenced, and less than one month before dispositive motions were due, Mr. McQuennie moved for appointment of counsel. “There is no right to the appointment of counsel in civil cases.” United States v. Sash, 581 F.Supp.2d 647, 649 (S.D.N.Y. 2008). District courts have broad discretion in deciding whether to appoint counsel. Hodge v. Police Officers, 802 F.2d 58, 60 (2d Cir. 1986). The Court must first “determine whether the indigent’s position seems likely to be of substance.” Id. at 61; Cooper v. A. Sargenti Co., 877 F.2d 170, 174 (2d Cir. 1989) (likelihood of merit is “a threshold showing . . . in deciding whether to appoint counsel”). If the Court finds that this threshold requirement is satisfied, then the Court should consider additional factors. See Hodge, 802 F.2d at 61-62. Here, the Court concludes that Mr. McQuennie’s claims are not of substance or merit, and therefore denies his motion for appointment of counsel.

As discussed infra, Mr. McQuennie claims fail. Mr. McQuennie seeks to recover pension benefits, but his action may be maintained only against a covered plan, administrator, or trustee. Paneccasio v. Unisource Worldwide, Inc., 532 F.3d 101, 108 n.2 (2d Cir. 2008). Local 209, Local 429, the Council, and Jason B. Engels have shown that they are not plans, administrators, or trustees, and therefore cannot be held liable under Mr. McQuennie’s ERISA claims. The remaining Defendant against whom an ERISA claim could lie - the Trust - has shown that it denied Mr. McQuennie’s claim for benefits in 1992, and that his ERISA claim, brought over twenty-two years later, is time-barred, and that Mr. McQuennie failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The Court concludes that Mr. McQuennie’s showing of merit is insufficient to warrant an appointment of counsel. See Cooper, 877 F.2d at 174 (“Courts do not perform a useful service if they appoint a volunteer lawyer to a case which a private lawyer would not take if it were brought to his or her attention.”); Hodge, 802 F.2d at 60 (2d Cir. 1986) (“where ‘the plaintiff’s claims are so highly dubious that a judge cannot properly ask a member of the bar to assume this thankless burden, ’ appointment of counsel is properly denied.”) (quoting Miller v. Pleasure, 296 F.2d 283, 285 (2d Cir. 1961)).

II. Motion to Amend (ECF No. 110)

Mr. McQuennie moved, after the close of discovery, to amend his complaint for a third time. He seeks to add North Texas Carpenters Retirement Plan as a defendant. His motion is untimely; the deadline to join additional parties was August 14, 2015. Scheduling Order, ECF No. 61. Moreover, his proposed amended complaint does not contain any substantive allegations against the proposed new defendant, and does not contain any allegations against the other Defendants in this case. See Proposed Am. Compl., ECF No. 110-1. As discussed herein, Mr. McQuennie’s case lacks merit, and the Court finds that justice does not require granting Mr. McQuennie leave to amend his complaint for a third time to add a new defendant long after the deadline for doing so, after the close of discovery, and after summary judgment motions have been briefed. See Phelan v. Cambell, 507 F. App’x 14, 16 (2d Cir. 2013) (district court did not abuse discretion in denying pro se plaintiff’s motion to add new defendants after close of discovery; “[o]ne of the most important considerations in determining whether amendment would be prejudicial is the degree to which it would delay the final disposition of the action”) (quoting Krumme v. WestPoint Stevens Inc., 143 F.3d 71, 88 (2d Cir. 1998)).

III. Motion for Extension of Discovery Deadline (ECF No. 82)

Mr. McQuennie moved to “extend the period of discovery until all the discoverable evidence is gathered and presented to The Court.” ECF No. 82 ¶ 6. This motion must be denied.

A scheduling order “may be modified only for good cause and with the judge’s consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). “The burden of demonstrating good cause rests with the movant[, ]” and the good cause inquiry is focused primarily on “the diligence of the movant in attempting to comply with the existing scheduling order and the reasons advanced as justifying that order’s amendment.” Ritchie Risk-Linked Strategies Trading (Ireland), Ltd. v. Coventry First LLC, 282 F.R.D. 76, 79 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (citing Kassner v. 2nd Ave. Delicatessen, 496 F.3d 229, 244 (2d Cir. 2007) and Holmes v. Grubman, 568 F.3d 329, 334-35 (2d Cir. 2009)).

Mr. McQuennie’s motion indicates that, with additional discovery time, he would file motions to compel and motions for sanctions. ECF No. 82 ¶ 1. After Mr. McQuennie filed this motion, however, he filed a series of motions to compel, the Court held a discovery conference to resolve the issues presented by those motions, and determined that Defendants were unable to respond to his discovery requests because they did not possess the requested documents and information. See Order at ECF No. 109. Mr. McQuennie’s motion also suggests that he wants to investigate the closing of the North Texas Carpenters Retirement Plan in 1989, see ECF No. 82 ¶ 4, but the Court has ruled that Mr. McQuennie may not amend his complaint to add that entity as a defendant. There is no good cause to reopen or extend the deadline for discovery, and therefore the motion is denied.

IV. Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 79 and 80)

Defendants have moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 for summary judgment as to all claims. For the reasons that ...

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