Appellate Jurisdiction: Where Sanctions Order Entered after Final Judgment, Appeal of Final Judgment Doesn’t Capture Order — Strictly Enforcing Scheduling Order Deadlines ≠ Abuse of Discretion

Cagle v. United States, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 15564 (11th Cir. June 8, 2018):

PER CURIAM:

Andrea J. Cagle, proceeding pro se, appeals the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of the government and dismissing her complaint. She also appeals the district court's orders denying her motions to impose sanctions against the government, compel discovery, and appoint counsel. We first address Cagle's motions, and then proceed to the court's summary-judgment decision. Finding that the district court appropriately denied Cagle's motions and, because Cagle failed to meet the requirements of Florida law, that the court did not err in granting the government summary judgment, we affirm.

I

We have an obligation to satisfy ourselves of our own jurisdiction and may raise the issue [*2]  sua sponte. AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Nat'l Ass'n for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., 494 F.3d 1356, 1360 (11th Cir. 2007). We review jurisdictional issues de novo. Id. We review a district court's decision to deny sanctions for abuse of discretion. See Peer v. Lewis, 606 F.3d 1306, 1311 (11th Cir. 2010) (addressing sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11, 28 U.S.C. § 1927, and the court's inherent power). We will not consider issues that were not before the district court, subject to certain exceptions not relevant here. Access Now, Inc. v. Southwest Airlines Co., 385 F.3d 1324, 1331-32 (11th Cir. 2004).

As a general rule, we have jurisdiction only over judgments or orders that are specified in the notice of appeal. Osterneck v. E.T. Barwick Indus., Inc., 825 F.2d 1521, 1528 (11th Cir. 1987). We will allow appeals from orders not specified in the notice of appeal, however, so long as the omitted order was entered "prior to or contemporaneously with" the orders specified in the notice of appeal. McDougald v. Jenson, 786 F.2d 1465, 1474 (11th Cir. 1986).

Here, the only order specified in Cagle's notice of appeal is the final judgment. Because the final judgment was entered on August 4, 2017, while the order denying Cagle's motion for sanctions was entered on August 24, 2017, the latter order was not entered "prior to or contemporaneously with" the final judgment specified in Cagle's notice of appeal. See McDougald, 786 F.2d at 1474. Accordingly, this Court does not have jurisdiction to review the order denying Cagle's motion for sanctions. Moreover, although Cagle now argues that she was deprived of a proper mediation [*3]  due to the mediator's conduct, she did not clearly present that issue to the district court. Because the issue of the mediator's conduct was not before the district court, this Court will not consider it on appeal. See Access Now, Inc., 385 F.3d at 1331-32.

II

We review the denial of a motion to compel discovery for abuse of discretion. Sanderlin v. Seminole Tribe of Fla., 243 F.3d 1282, 1285 (11th Cir. 2001). We will reverse a district court's discovery ruling only if the court committed a clear error of judgment or applied the wrong legal standard. Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc., 662 F.3d 1292, 1307 (11th Cir. 2011). Additionally, we will not overturn a discovery ruling unless the ruling resulted in substantial harm to the appellant. Id.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b) grants the district court broad authority to control the scope of discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b). Under Rule 16(b), a district court must issue a scheduling order limiting the time to complete discovery. Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(3)(A). "[W]e have often held that a district court's decision to hold litigants to the clear terms of its scheduling orders is not an abuse of discretion." Josendis, 662 F.3d at 1307.

Here, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it decided to strictly enforce its scheduling order. The court's scheduling order indicated that the date of completion for discovery was the final date that discovery could be made. The order further stated that all discovery requests and [*4]  motions had to be filed so that the discovery requested would be due before the completion date. Pursuant to the court's last discovery-deadline extension, the completion date was February 21, 2017.

Because interrogatories and requests for admission are "discovery paper" within the meaning of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5, they are subject to its service requirements, which make service by mail permissible. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(a)(1)(C), 5(b)(2)(C). Further, because Rules 33 and 36 specify time periods, but do not provide a method of computing those time periods, they are subject to the rules articulated in Rule 6. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a), 33, 36. As a result, when Cagle mailed her interrogatories on January 20, 2017, and her request for admissions on January 21, 2017, the government's responses were due on February 23 and February 24, 2017, respectively. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(d), 33(b)(2), 36(a)(3). Because Cagle's discovery requests required responses after the completion date for discovery, she failed to comply with the terms of the court's scheduling order. The district court's decision to enforce the terms of its scheduling order and deny Cagle's motion to compel discovery did not constitute an abuse of discretion. Josendis, 662 F.3d at 1307.

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