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Chief Judge Stark grants motion to reopen case following administrative closure; denies motion to substitute and consolidate

Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark recently ruled on a motion filed by a plaintiff’s claimed successor-in-interest to reopen an administratively closed case, to substitute itself for the plaintiffs, and to consolidate the case with two related cases.  Inline Connection Corp. v. Verizon Internet Servs., Inc., Consol. C.A. No. 05-866 (D. Del. Sept. 28, 2016).  The case was administratively closed in 2009, and then in August 2013 the Clerk of Court removed the administrative closure notation from the docket and invoked its Standing Order Regarding Return of Sealed Documents.  More than two years later, in October 2015, United Access (which describes itself as the successor-in-interest to the plaintiffs in the case) filed the motion at issue.  The defendants argued that the case was terminated more than two years ago and, if it was not terminated, the plaintiffs should not be replaced by United Access because the presence of the plaintiffs is vital to the defendants’ asserted claims and defenses.  Chief Judge Stark found that the case was not terminated, though.  Although the defendants argued that they were entitled to assume the case was terminated when the Clerk of Court invoked the standing order regarding sealed documents, Chief Judge Stark explained that “a self-executing order may not mature into a final judgment without an order of dismissal.”  Id. at 6.  With respect to United Access’s motion to substitute itself for the plaintiffs, the Court found that substitution would not be appropriate because it was not even clear that the plaintiffs were aware of the motion.  The Court therefore found that it would be appropriate to join United Access as a plaintiff, but not to substitute it in place of the plaintiffs.  Finally, Chief Judge Stark found that consolidating this case with two related cases was not clearly warranted and would result in logistical challenges, and so would not be ordered at this time.  Instead, the parties (including the original plaintiffs) were directed to submit a joint status report proposing how the case should proceed.

Inline Connection Corp. v. Verizon Internet Servs., Inc., C.A. No. 05-866-LPS (D. Del. Sept. 28, 2016)

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