FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Pedro A. Delgado-Hernández, U.S.
C. Marion, with whom Law Office of Eric Marion was on brief,
Michelle Camacho-Nieves, Assistant Solicitor General of
Puerto Rico, with whom Margarita L. Mercado-Echegaray,
Solicitor General of Puerto Rico, was on brief, for appellee.
Lynch, Selya, and Lipez, Circuit Judges.
Wilmary Santos-Santos ("Santos"), an officer with
the Puerto Rico Police Department ("PRPD"), filed
this employment discrimination case against the Commonwealth
of Puerto Rico, the PRPD, and a number of her coworkers under
various federal and Puerto Rico statutes. Santos alleges that
she was transferred against her wishes to a different
department within the PRPD after she co-signed a sexual
harassment complaint against a coworker, acted as a witness
in a separate investigation of that coworker, and filed an
unrelated complaint regarding the misuse of police property
by her superiors. Santos sought compensatory and punitive
damages, as well as an injunction barring the PRPD from
district court granted summary judgment for the defendants on
all of Santos's claims in two rulings in August 2012 and
November 2014. On appeal, Santos attempts to challenge both
entries of summary judgment. Because Santos failed to adhere
to procedural requirements relating to the dispositions of a
magistrate judge as set forth by Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 72(b) and Puerto Rico Local Rule 72(d), we affirm
the district court's decisions without reaching the
merits of Santos's claims.
recount in detail the complicated procedural history of this
case because it is determinative of the appeal. Santos filed
this action in January 2011. While several discovery motions
were pending before the district court, the defendants moved
for summary judgment. Instead of filing a standard opposition
to the defendants' summary judgment motion, Santos,
citing Rule 56(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
filed a response asserting that she still required certain
documents that were among her discovery requests to
effectively counter the defendants' motion. In August
2012 the district court granted summary judgment in favor of
defendants on nearly all of Santos's claims,
finding that her attempted reliance on pending discovery
related only to her First Amendment claim -- which the court
dismissed for failing to state a claim upon which relief
could be granted under Garcetti v.
Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006). Only Santos's
retaliation claims under Title VII and Law 115 survived, and
the court instructed Santos to file her opposition to the
summary judgment motion on these issues.
Santos filed her opposition memorandum, the district court
dismissed her Title VII retaliation claims against individual
defendants Gregorio Merced-Vázquez, Reynaldo
Torres-Centeno, William Ruiz-Borrás, and Miguel
Santiago-Rivera, and her Law 115 claim against William
Ruiz-Borrás. At that point, the surviving claims
consisted of Santos's Title VII claims against the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the PRPD and her Law 115
claims against the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the PRPD,
Merced-Vázquez, Torres-Centeno, and Santiago-Rivera.
next filed a motion for reconsideration, asking the court to
dismiss the case in its entirety, which the court denied.
While the defendants' motion for reconsideration was
pending, Santos sought interlocutory review in this court of
the order dismissing her other claims. We concluded that we
did not have jurisdiction to hear her appeal at that time,
dismissed the interlocutory appeal without prejudice, and
returned the case to the district court.
thus proceeded as the case moved toward trial. In June 2014,
however, defendants filed a second motion for summary
judgment on the remaining claims in light of the Supreme
Court's decision in University of Texas Southwestern
Medical Center v. Nassar, 133 S.Ct.
2517 (2013). Santos filed her opposition, and the court
referred the matter to a magistrate judge, who recommended
that the motion be granted. Santos did not file an objection
to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation
within the fourteen-day deadline prescribed by Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 72(b) and Puerto Rico Local Rule 72(d). On
November 20, 2014, the district judge adopted the magistrate
judge's report and recommendation in full and entered
final judgment dismissing Santos's claims with prejudice.
In its dismissal order the court noted that "[a]bsent
objection . . . [a] district court ha[s] a right to assume
that [the affected party] agree[s] with the magistrate
judge's recommendation" and that the court
"needs only [to] satisfy itself by ascertaining that
there is no 'plain error' on the face of the
record." Santos-Santos v. P. R.
Police Dep't., 63 F.Supp.3d 181, 184 (D.P.R. 2014)
(quoting Lopez-Mulero v.
Velez-Colon, 490 F.Supp.2d 214, 217-18 (D.P.R.
same day that final judgment was entered, Santos responded by
filing a "Motion to Reconsider and Set Aside Memorandum
and Order as Well as Judgment." Santos complained that
her lawyer was out of the jurisdiction when the magistrate
judge posted his report and recommendation and, hence, did
not see that it had been issued until final judgment was
entered. She also asserted that because there was no docket
entry informing parties of the motion's referral, her
lawyer was never aware that it had been assigned to a
magistrate judge. Santos asked the court to set aside its
judgment dismissing her case and requested that she be given
an opportunity to object to the report and recommendation.
district court chose to view Santos's motion as a
"request for reconsideration, " but it responded by
cautioning Santos as follows in an electronic ...