Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Does a Magistrate Judge Have Authority to Deny a Motion to Amend a Complaint If Denial Effectively Dismisses Certain Claims (E.g., Because Statute of Limitations Has Expired)? Case Law Split

Duncan v. City of N.Y., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96214 (E.D.N.Y. July 15, 2014):

Plaintiff Shamaine Duncan ("Duncan") seeks leave to file a Fourth Amended Complaint in order to substitute the name of police officer Richard Dinkle ("Dinkle") for that of one of the "John Doe" defendants. See Docket Entry ("DE") 112 (motion). The deadline for the joinder of additional parties and amendment of pleadings has passed, and the statute of limitations for his claims alleging violations of his civil rights under federal law has already expired.  The defendants oppose the amendment on the ground that Duncan did not diligently pursue efforts to identify Dinkle in a timely manner, that earlier pleadings did not describe the "John Doe" defendants with sufficient detail to fairly apprise Dinkle that he was an intended defendant, and that allowing the amendment would prejudice them. DE 113 (opposition). For the reasons set forth below, I grant the motion.1

1   Because I conclude the motion should be granted, and because granting leave to amend does not dispose of any claim or defense in this action, I need not decide whether a magistrate judge has authority to deny leave to amend under the circumstances here -- a question as to which the case law of this circuit is split. Compare Jean-Laurent v. Wilkerson, 461 F. App'x 18, 25 (2d Cir. 2012) (remanding to district court to conduct de novo review of magistrate judge's denial of leave to amend which effectively dismissed state law claims) (citing Williams v. Beemiller, Inc., 527 F.3d 259, 266 (2d Cir. 2008)) with, e.g., Fielding v. Tollaksen, 510 F.3d 175, 178 (2d Cir. 2007) (characterizing a motion to amend as a "nondispositive" motion that a magistrate judge may decide).

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