HARRINGTON v. BERGEN COUNTY et al
OPINION/ORDER denying w/prejudice 99 Appeal Magistrate Judge Decision to District Court's denial (ECF No. 98) of Plaintiffs motion for reconsideration concerning Judge Waldors prior order (ECF No. 92), which denied Plaintiffs motion to compel certain discovery testimony. Signed by Judge Stanley R. Chesler on 10/3/17. (DD, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
BERGEN COUNTY, et al.,
Civil Action No. 14-5764 (SRC)
OPINION & ORDER
CHESLER, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff’s appeal (ECF No. 99) of Magistrate
Judge Waldor’s denial (ECF No. 98) of Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration concerning Judge
Waldor’s prior order (ECF No. 92), which denied Plaintiff’s motion to compel certain discovery
testimony. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff’s appeal is denied.
A. Standard of Review
United States magistrate judges may hear and determine non-dispositive pretrial matters
pending before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Typically, under Local Civil
Rule 72.1(c)(1)(A), district court judges may only reverse a magistrate judge’s determination of
pretrial matters if it is “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); L.Civ.R. 72.1(c)(1)(A).
Where the “appeal seeks review of a matter within the exclusive purview of the
Magistrate Judge, such as a discovery dispute” however, “an even more deferential standard, the
‘abuse of discretion standard’ must be applied.” Worthy v. City of Newark, 2008 WL 413309, at
*2 (D.N.J. Feb. 13, 2008) (quoting Port Auth. v. Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
7579, at *5 (D.N.J. March 29, 2001)); see also Cooper Hosp./Univ. Med. Ctr. v. Sullivan, 183
F.R.D. 119, 127 (D.N.J.1998). The deferential abuse of discretion standard is “particularly
appropriate”—as in the case at bar—“where the magistrate judge managed the case from the
outset, and thus has a thorough knowledge of the proceedings.” Phillips v. Greben, 2006 WL
3069475, at *4 (D.N.J. Oct.27, 2006). An abuse of discretion occurs “when the judicial action is
arbitrary, fanciful or unreasonable, which is another way of saying that discretion is abused only
where no reasonable man would take the view adopted.” Leap Sys., Inc. v. Moneytrax, Inc., No.
05–1521, 2010 WL 2232715, at *3 (D.N.J. June 1, 2010) (internal quotations and citations
omitted). As the party filing the notice of appeal, Plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that
the magistrate judge’s decision violates this standard of review. Exxon Corp. v. Halcon
Shipping Co., Ltd., 156 F.R.D. 589, 591 (D.N.J.1994).
In denying Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration, the Judge Waldor noted that a party
moving for reconsideration must demonstrate: “1) an intervening change in the controlling law;
2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court issued its order; or 3)
the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.” Banda v.
Burlington County, 263 F. App’x 182, 183 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Max’s Seafood Café v.
Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999)). Reconsideration is not warranted by “mere
disagreement” with the court’s decision, nor by a mere “recapitulation of the cases and
arguments considered by the court before rendering its original decision.” G-69 v. Degnan, 748
F. Supp. 274, 275 (D.N.J. 1990) (internal citation omitted).
In light of the reconsideration factors outlined in Banda, Magistrate Judge Waldor found
that Plaintiff failed to meet its heavy burden to demonstrate that reconsideration was warranted.
Plaintiff had not advanced new grounds for reconsideration, but instead merely restated
arguments that were previously submitted in its discovery motion. Magistrate Judge Waldor
found the speculative and burdensome discovery request to violate the relevancy and
proportionality requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. With respect to the Banda
factors, Judge Waldor concluded that Plaintiff failed to provide legal authority supporting its
contention that the Court committed a clear error of law or fact, and that Plaintiff failed to
support its motion with relevant case law or a timeline addressing Defendants’ contention that no
new evidence had materialized.
In her appeal of the denial for reconsideration, Plaintiff reiterated her contention that it
“was a plain error of law for a Magistrate Judge, during fact Discovery, to make a de facto
evidentiary admissibility ruling that is solely within the jurisdiction of the District Judge.”
(Appeal, ECF No. 99-1, at 1.)
After careful consideration of Magistrate Judge Waldor’s Order, as well as the parties'
briefing on appeal, this Court concludes that Judge Waldor did not abuse her discretion in
denying Plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery. It was not arbitrary, fanciful or unreasonable for
Judge Waldor to conclude that the relevancy and proportionality requirements in Rule 26
precluded a burdensome and speculative inquiry into a single, unrelated case that preceded the
filing of the present case by nine years. Further, it was not unreasonable for Judge Waldor to
conclude, based on the Banda factors, that Plaintiff had failed to identify clear error of law or
fact, or support its motion with relevant case law or legal authority.
While Judge Waldor’s denial of Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration will not be
reversed under the deferential abuse of discretion standard, it also would not be reversed under
de novo review. Rule 26 imposes relevancy and proportionality limits regarding the scope of
Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter
that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to
the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at
stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties’ relative
access to relevant information, the parties’ resources, the
importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether
the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its
likely benefit. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).
It is not clear whether this speculative discovery request for testimony concerning an unrelated
criminal investigation that occurred nearly nine years ago meets the test for relevancy outlined in
Federal Rule of Evidence 401. Even assuming that this discovery testimony were relevant,
however, the request nonetheless fails the proportionality requirement in Rule 26. Plaintiff’s
discovery request does pertain to the incidents that occurred in September 2012. The benefit of
granting this discovery request is likely minimal, given the amount of time that has transpired
and the marginal nexus between the criminal investigation of the physician and the dispute at
bar. This speculative benefit does not outweigh the burden to the parties and to the court’s
resources, and thus is not permitted discovery under Rule 26.
For all of the forgoing reasons,
IT IS on this 3rd day of October, 2017,
ORDERED that Plaintiff’s appeal (ECF No. 99) of the denial of the motion for
reconsideration is DENIED with prejudice.
___s/ Stanley R. Chesler____
STANLEY R. CHESLER
United States District Judge
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