M.D. v. Newport-Mesa Unified School District, No. 14-56443 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
A fifth-grade student and her mother filed suit against the school district and its employees because the student allegedly experienced retaliation after the mother complained to the school principal about the student's teacher. The district court dismissed the First Amendment retaliation claim without prejudice; plaintiffs failed to meet the filing deadline, and the school district filed a proposed judgment of dismissal; plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint (SAC) the following day; the district court then entered a final judgment dismissing the First Amended Complaint, citing plaintiff's failure to file the SAC within the time allowed; and plaintiffs moved for relief from judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1) based on excusable neglect. The district court found that counsel's neglect was not excusable and the district court, in the meantime, moved for attorney's fees under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), Cal. Gov't Code 6259(d). The district court denied the fees. Plaintiffs appeal both the district court’s judgment of dismissal and the order denying relief from judgment. Defendants cross-appeal a portion of the dismissal order and the order denying attorney’s fees. The court concluded that the district court’s decision cannot be supported by the record and thus it abused its discretion by denying plaintiffs relief from judgment under Rule 60(b)(1). The court also concluded that plaintiffs' CPRA claim was neither indisputably without merit nor prosecuted for an improper motive. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.