UNITED STATES OF AMERICA et al v. Academy Mortgage Corporation

Filing 271

ORDER by Judge Edward M. Chen Denying 257 Defendant's Motion for Relief From Non-Dispositive Pretrial Order of Magistrate Judge, and Granting 263 Relator's Administrative Motion for Relief From Amended Case Management and Pretrial Order. (emcsec, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/8/2021)

Download PDF
Case 3:16-cv-02120-EMC Document 271 Filed 09/08/21 Page 1 of 6 1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Plaintiffs, 8 9 10 11 ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM NONDISPOSITIVE PRETRIAL ORDER OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE, AND GRANTING RELATOR’S ADMINISTRATIVE MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM AMENDED CASE MANAGEMENT AND PRETRIAL ORDER v. ACADEMY MORTGAGE CORPORATIONN, Defendant. United States District Court Northern District of California Case No. 16-cv-02120-EMC 12 13 Docket Nos. 257, 263 14 15 16 I. INTRODUCTION 17 In this qui tam False Claims Act suit, Gwen Thrower (“Relator”) alleges that Academy 18 Mortgage Corporation (“Defendant”) falsely certified compliance with the U.S. Department of 19 Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) regulations, enabling it to obtain government 20 insurance on the mortgage loans underwritten by Defendant, and to make claims on those loans. 21 Pending before the Court are (1) Defendant’s motion for relief from Magistrate Judge 22 Sallie Kim’s August 6, 2021 order requiring Defendant to produce loan files in a data file that can 23 be loaded into Encompass or IHM, see Docket Nos. 255 (“Order”); 257 (“Mot. 1”); and (2) 24 Relator’s motion for administrative relief from this Court’s amended case management and 25 pretrial order, see Docket Nos. 180 (“Am. CMC Order”), 263 (“Mot. 2”). 26 27 28 For the following reasons, this Court DENIES Defendant’s motion and GRANTS Relator’s administrative motion. Case 3:16-cv-02120-EMC Document 271 Filed 09/08/21 Page 2 of 6 II. 1 NON-DISPOSITIVE PRETRIAL ORDER OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE 2 3 DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM A. Background 4 On February 18, 2021, the parties filed a joint discovery letter brief detailing their dispute 5 as to whether Defendant’s production of loan files in a static, single PDF meets the requirements 6 of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 (b)(2)(E)(ii). See Docket No. 209 (“Letter Brief 1”). For 7 each loan file, Defendant produced a single PDF averaging nearly 1,600 pages without slips or 8 bookmarks to separate the different documents. Id. at 2. Each PDF includes several loan 9 documents, such as the borrower’s paystubs, tax documents, credit reports, bank statements, and more. Id. On February 23, 2021, Judge Kim entered an Order allowing Relator to depose Ms. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Kaya Chavez, Defendant’s corporate representative with knowledge on how Defendant keeps the 12 loan files at issue. See Docket No. 210 (“February 23 Order”). On April 14, 2021, Relator 13 deposed Ms. Kaya Chavez. See Docket No. 246 (“Bexley Decl.”), Ex. A. 14 On July 2, 2021, the parties filed another joint discovery letter brief detailing their dispute 15 as to whether Defendant’s production of loan files in static, single PDFs meets the requirements of 16 Rule 34 and complies with Judge Kim’s February 23 Order. See Docket No. 245 (“Letter Brief 17 2”). Shortly after, on July 7, Judge Kim granted Relator’s request and ordered “Defendant to 18 produce the loan files in their entirety in native format.” See Docket No. 249 (“July 7 Order”). 19 On August 2, 2021, the parties filed a third joint discovery letter brief regarding 20 Defendant’s non-compliance with the July 7 Order, whereby Relator requested attorneys’ fees and 21 costs under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. See Docket No. 253 (“Letter Brief 3”) at 4. On 22 August 6, 2021, Judge Kim again ordered Defendant to produce the documents in native format 23 on or before August 21, 2021, by either (1) giving Relator access to Defendant’s Encompass and 24 IHM systems, or (2) as a data file that can be loaded onto Relator’s operating versions of 25 Encompass and IHM. See Order at 3. Judge Kim also ordered that monetary sanctions were 26 appropriate and instructed Relator to submit a declaration indicating the amount of attorneys’ fees 27 sought on or before September 3, 2021. Id. Shortly thereafter, Defendant filed the instant motion 28 seeking relief from Judge Kim’s August 6 Order. Mot. 1. 2 Case 3:16-cv-02120-EMC Document 271 Filed 09/08/21 Page 3 of 6 1 B. Standard of Review 2 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(A), a district court may “designate a magistrate judge to 3 hear and determine any pretrial matter pending before the court.” Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4 72(a) allows a party to file objections to the order. A district court considering objections to a 5 non-dispositive pretrial order must “modify or set aside any part of the order that is clear 6 erroneous or is contrary to law.” See 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(A) (“A judge of the court may 7 reconsider any pretrial matter under this subparagraph (A) where it has been shown that the 8 magistrate judge’s order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law.”); Osband v. Woodford, 290 F.3d 9 1036, 1041 (9th Cir. 2022) (“A district judge may reconsider a magistrate’s order in a pretrial matter if that order is ‘clearly erroneous or contrary to law.’” (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(A)); 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 see also, Grimes v. City & Cnty. Of San Francisco, 951, F.2d 236, 241 (9th Cir. 1991) (holding 12 that under the clearly erroneous standard, “[t]he reviewing court may not simply substitute its 13 judgment for that of the deciding court” (citing United States v. BNS, Inc., 858 F.2d 456. 464 (9th 14 Cir. 1988))). 15 C. Discussion 16 Judge Kim ordered Defendant to produce the documents at issue in native format either by 17 providing Relator access to Defendant’s Encompass and IHM systems, or as a data file that can be 18 loaded onto Relator’s operating versions of Encompass and IHM. See Order at 3. Defendant 19 contends that it can only produce these documents as PDFs. See Mot. 1 at 2-3. The question is 20 whether Judge Kim’s August 6 Order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law because Defendant’s 21 production of a single, static PDF for each loan file satisfies its discovery obligations under the 22 Federal Rules. 23 First, Defendant contends it complied with the July 7 Order because a single, static PDF is 24 the only native format that exists for the files at issue. Id. at 2. Relator submitted publicly 25 available information indicating the “data files” Judge Kim ordered Defendant to produce do 26 indeed exist. See Docket No. 261 (“Relator’s Response”) at 4-5. In fact, Encompass users 27 routinely export loan file data in the course of their business. Id. In any case, even if the 28 Encompass data files do not exist, Defendant should have complied with Judge Kim’s July 7 3 Case 3:16-cv-02120-EMC Document 271 Filed 09/08/21 Page 4 of 6 1 Order by giving Relator direct access to Encompass and IHM. See July 7 Order; Order at 3. 2 Second, Defendant contends giving Relator direct access to its Encompass and IHM 3 systems is unwarranted. See Mot. 1 at 5. But Defendant’s own corporate representative, Ms. 4 Chavez, admitted that providing Relator access to Defendant’s Encompass or IHM systems is a 5 viable option. See Bexley Decl., Ex. A at 156:14–21, 186:20–187:11. Lastly, Defendant contends it produced all the loan documents. See Mot. 1 at 4. Relator 6 challenges this characterization by pointing out that the single, static PDF Defendant produced for 8 each loan file omits “conversation logs, audit trails, and certain underwriting documents” that are 9 only available on Encompass. See Relator’s Response at 4. Ms. Chavez’s testimony confirms that 10 Defendant’s PDF production only contains documents in an Encompass “eFolder,” which includes 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 7 most, but not all, loan file documents. See Bexley Decl., Ex. A at 148:7–151:3. Relator is entitled 12 to review the entire loan documents to determine whether each loan file contains the FHA- 13 required information and whether each loan is eligible for FHA insurance. See Letter Brief 1 at 2. 14 Defendant’s production was therefore incomplete. Accordingly, Defendant’s motion for relief from Judge Kim’s August 6 non-dispositive 15 16 pretrial order is DENIED because the order is neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law. 17 Moreover, for the same reasons, Judge Kim’s order of monetary sanctions was proper. 18 III. RELATOR’S ADMINISTRATIVE MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM AMENDED 19 CASE MANAGEMENT AND PRETRIAL ORDER 20 Relator asks this Court for a six-month continuance of the trial setting and all pretrial 21 deadlines to complete discovery, including completing an underwriter review and deposing 22 Defendant’s underwriters. See Mot. 2 at 4. Despite several meet and confer efforts, Defendant 23 will only agree to a two-month continuance. Id. at 1-2. Trial courts have broad discretion to 24 manage their dockets and can modify their case management orders upon a showing of “good 25 cause,” which considers the moving party’s diligence and any prejudice that will result to the non- 26 moving party. Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 607, 609 (9th Cir. 1992). 27 Because Defendant does not argue that it will be prejudiced by a six-month delay, the only 28 question is whether there is good cause for it. 4 Case 3:16-cv-02120-EMC Document 271 Filed 09/08/21 Page 5 of 6 Relator has established there is good cause for a continuance because it has been diligent in 1 pursuing discovery. Relator served written discovery requests, conferred with Defendant, and 3 filed multiple joint discovery letter briefs to resolve the disputes. Defendant’s noncompliance 4 with the Federal Rules and with Judge Kim’s multiple orders has obstructed discovery, 5 specifically the production of the full loan files, causing delay. Without production of the loan 6 files in a usable format, Relator’s counsel cannot prepare to depose Defendant’s underwriters, nor 7 can they complete their own underwriting review. See Mot. 2 at 4. It is Defendant’s 8 noncompliance, not Relator’s lack of diligence, that has made it impossible for Relator to 9 complete non-expert discovery by the current deadline of September 23, 2021. See July 7 Order; 10 Order. Given the sheer volume of documents to be produced and the time it takes to review those 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 2 documents, a six-month continuance is appropriate. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Relator’s administrative motion for a six-month 12 13 continuance of the trial setting and all pretrial deadlines, as follows: 14 17 18 19 20 21 22 9/26/2022 Pretrial Conference 8/30/2022 Objections 8/16/2022 Joint pretrial statement 8/9/2022 Meet and Confer 7/19/2022 Last Day to Hear Dispositive Motions 6/16/2022 Last Day to File Dispositive Motions 5/12/2022 Expert Discovery Close 5/5/2022 4/14/2022 Expert Disclosure / Non-expert Discovery 16 Trial Rebuttal Expert Disclosure 15 3/24/2022 23 24 25 26 IV. CONCLUSION 27 For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Defendant’s motion for relief from 28 Magistrate Judge Kim’s August 6 non-dispositive order and GRANTS Relator’s administrative 5 Case 3:16-cv-02120-EMC Document 271 Filed 09/08/21 Page 6 of 6 1 motion for a six month-continuance of trial and pre-trial deadlines. Defendant shall comply with 2 Judge Kim’s order by September 24, 2021. Relator shall submit to Judge Kim its attorneys’ fees 3 declaration by September 27, 2021. Defendant’s challenge thereto as to amount shall be filed by 4 October 7, 2021. 5 This order disposes of Docket Nos. 257 and 263. 6 7 IT IS SO ORDERED. 8 9 Dated: September 8, 2021 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 ______________________________________ EDWARD M. CHEN United States District Judge 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.


Why Is My Information Online?