Schueneman v. Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. et al

Filing 133

ORDER Overruling Plaintiff's Objections to Magistrate Judge's July 21, 2017 Order [Doc. No. 123 ]. Signed by Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo on 8/21/2017. (All non-registered users served via U.S. Mail Service)(jjg)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 8 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA TODD SCHUENEMAN et al., Case No.: 3:10-CV-1959-CAB-BLM Plaintiffs, 9 10 v. 11 ORDER OVERRULING PLAINTIFFS’ OBJECTIONS TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S JULY 21, 2017 ORDER ARENA PHARMACEUTICALS, INC. et al., 12 Defendants. 13 [Doc. No. 123] 14 15 This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs’ objections to Magistrate Judge Major’s 16 July 21, 2017 discovery order. That order denied a motion to compel documents filed by 17 Plaintiffs and granted Defendants’ motion to compel the names, addresses and phone 18 numbers of the confidential informants cited in the complaint. Judge Major’s order was 19 well-reasoned and correct. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s objections are overruled. Plaintiffs’ Objections 20 I. 21 District court review of magistrate judge orders on non-dispositive motions is 22 limited. A district court judge may reconsider a magistrate judge’s ruling on a non- 23 dispositive motion only “where it has been shown that the magistrate’s order is clearly 24 erroneous or contrary to law.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); see also Fed. R. Civ. P 72(a). 25 “A magistrate judge’s legal conclusions are reviewable de novo to determine whether they 26 are “contrary to law” and findings of fact are subject to the “clearly erroneous” standard.” 27 Meeks v. Nunez, Case No. 13cv973-GPC(BGS), 2016 WL 2586681, *2 (S.D. Cal. May 4, 28 2016) (citing Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 268 F.R.D. 344, 348 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 22, 2010)). 1 3:10-CV-1959-CAB-BLM 1 “The ‘clearly erroneous’ standard applies to the magistrate judge’s factual 2 determinations and discretionary decisions . . . .” Computer Econ., Inc. v. Gartner Grp., 3 Inc., 50 F. Supp. 2d 980, 983 (S.D. Cal. May 25, 1999) (citations omitted). “Under this 4 standard, ‘the district court can overturn the magistrate judge’s ruling only if the district 5 court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.’” Id. 6 (quoting Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Indus. Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997)). 7 “The ‘contrary to law’ standard ‘allows independent, plenary review of purely legal 8 determinations by the Magistrate Judge.’” Jadwin v. Cnty of Kern, 767 F. Supp. 2d 1069, 9 1110 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 24, 2011) (citing FDIC v. Fidelity & Deposit Co. of Md, 196 F.R.D. 10 375, 378 (S.D. Cal. May 1, 2000)); see also Computer Econ., 50 F. Supp. 2d at 983. A 11 magistrate judge’s order “is contrary to law when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant 12 statutes, case law, or rules of procedure.” Jadwin, 767 F. Supp. 2d at 1110-11 (quoting 13 DeFazio v. Wallis, 459 F. Supp. 2d 159, 163 (E.D.N.Y Oct. 17, 2006)). 14 Here, Judge Major’s order was both factually and legally correct with respect to its 15 decision on both motions to compel. As explained in the discovery order, Plaintiffs’ 16 document requests sought irrelevant information that was disproportional to the needs of 17 the case. Meanwhile, the names and contact information for confidential informants who 18 were specifically identified by number and cited as a source for the allegations in the 19 complaint are not work product. Accordingly, because the order was neither clearly 20 erroneous nor contrary to law, Plaintiffs’ objections to the July 21, 2017 order are without 21 merit. Defendants’ Request for Fees 22 II. 23 Defendants seek their fees in connection with their motion to compel the names and 24 contact information of Plaintiffs’ confidential informants. Plaintiffs argue that fees and 25 costs are not warranted because they have a good faith basis for arguing that the 26 information sought by Defendants is work product. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 27 37(a)(5) specifies the circumstances under which a court is required to award fees and costs 28 in connection with a motion to compel: 2 3:10-CV-1959-CAB-BLM 1 (5) Payment of Expenses; Protective Orders. (A) If the Motion Is Granted (or Disclosure or Discovery Is Provided After Filing). If the motion is granted—or if the disclosure or requested discovery is provided after the motion was filed—the court must, after giving an opportunity to be heard, require the party or deponent whose conduct necessitated the motion, the party or attorney advising that conduct, or both to pay the movant’s reasonable expenses incurred in making the motion, including attorney’s fees. But the court must not order this payment if: 2 3 4 5 6 7 (i) the movant filed the motion before attempting in good faith to obtain the disclosure or discovery without court action; 8 (ii) the opposing party’s nondisclosure, response, or objection was substantially justified; or 9 10 (iii) other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust. 11 12 Because both parties concede that there is no binding authority on the issue of 13 whether the names of confidential informants are work product, Plaintiffs’ initial 14 opposition to Defendants’ motion to compel before Judge Major was substantially justified. 15 Cf. Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Ass'n v. California Dep't of Educ., No. 2:11-CV- 16 03471-KJM-AC, 2017 WL 3116818, at *5 (E.D. Cal. July 21, 2017) (“A request for 17 discovery is substantially justified under Rule 37 if reasonable people could differ on the 18 matter in dispute.”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). 19 Defendants are not entitled to their fees for filing their motion to compel before Judge 20 Major. Accordingly, 21 On the other hand, the lack of controlling authority makes Plaintiffs’ objections to 22 Judge Major’s order frivolous. “[A] magistrate judge’s order simply cannot be contrary to 23 law when the law itself is unsettled.” Kinkeade v. Beard, No. 215CV01375TLNCDK, 24 2017 WL 2813037, at *1 (E.D. Cal. June 29, 2017) (quoting Pall Corp. v. Entegris, Inc., 25 655 F. Supp. 2d 169, 172 (E.D.N.Y. 2008)); see also In re Bofi Holding, Inc. Sec. Litig., 26 No. 315CV02324GPCKSC, 2017 WL 3118769, at *5 (S.D. Cal. July 21, 2017) (“Lead 27 Plaintiff does not stand on solid ground when it asserts that the magistrate judge committed 28 legal error by declining to follow non-binding precedent in this circuit.”). Thus, although 3 3:10-CV-1959-CAB-BLM 1 Plaintiffs may have had a good faith basis to try to convince Judge Major of the merits of 2 their position as to the applicability of work product protection to the names of confidential 3 informants, they could not have had a good faith basis to argue that Judge Major’s rejection 4 of their argument was contrary to the law. Accordingly, because Plaintiffs do not argue 5 that any of the other exceptions listed at Rule 37(a)(5)(A)(i)-(iii) apply, Defendants are 6 entitled to their fees and costs in connection with their opposition to Plaintiffs’ objections 7 to Judge Major’s order concerning Defendants’ motion to compel. 8 III. 9 In light of foregoing, it is hereby ORDERED as follows: 10 11 Conclusion 1. Plaintiffs’ objections [Doc. No. 123] to Magistrate Judge Major’s July 21, 2017 Order are OVERRULED; 12 2. Plaintiffs shall provide Defendants with the names, addresses, and phone 13 numbers of their confidential informants as ordered by Judge Major no later than 14 August 24, 2017; 15 3. On or before August 28, 2017, Defendants shall file a declaration and/or any 16 other evidence concerning the amount of attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in 17 connection with the portions of their opposition to Plaintiffs’ objections [Doc. 18 No. 125] that relate to Plaintiffs’ objections to Judge Major’s order that Plaintiffs 19 identify their confidential witnesses. Plaintiffs may file a response objecting to 20 the reasonableness of the requested fees on or before September 5, 2017. Upon 21 receipt of Plaintiffs’ response or notice of non-opposition to the amount of the 22 fees, the Court will issue an order requiring Plaintiffs’ counsel to pay Defendants’ 23 reasonable fees in connection with their opposition brief. 24 25 It is SO ORDERED. Dated: August 21, 2017 26 27 28 4 3:10-CV-1959-CAB-BLM

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