Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Scope of Review of Magistrate Judge Orders under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) — Monetary Sanctions Issued Pursuant to Rule 30(g)

From Edmonds v. Seavey, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66012 (S.D.N.Y. July 19, 2009):

Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), "a judge may designate a magistrate judge to hear and determine any pretrial matter pending before the court," with the exception of certain enumerated dispositive motions. A magistrate's order relating to a non-dispositive pretrial matter may be disturbed only if it is "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." Thomas E. Hoar, Inc. v. Sara Lee Corp., 900 F.2d 522, 525 (2d Cir. 1990) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a)). Matters concerning discovery are considered non-dispositive, and are subject to this deferential standard of review. See id. A finding is "clearly erroneous" when "although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Gualandi v. Adams, 385 F.3d 236, 240 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)); see also Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U.S. 234, 242 (2001) (citation omitted). A showing that "reasonable minds may differ on the wisdom of granting the defendant's motion" is not sufficient to overturn a magistrate judge's decision. Cagle v. Cooper Cos., Inc., 91 Civ. 7828 (HB), 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13214, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 1996). "An order is 'contrary to law' when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law or rules of procedure." In re Rivastigmine Patent Litig., 239 F.R.D. 351, 356 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (citation omitted). Thus, "magistrate judges are afforded broad discretion in resolving non-dispositive disputes and reversal is appropriate only if their discretion is abused." American Stock Exch., LLC v. Mopex, Inc., 215 F.R.D. 87,90 (S.D.N.Y. 2002); Aurora Loan Servs. v. Posner & Assocs., P.C., 499 F. Supp. 2d 475, 477 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) ("Pursuant to this highly deferential standard of review, magistrate[] [judges] are afforded broad discretion in resolving discovery disputes."). Accordingly, "the party seeking to overturn a magistrate judge's decision carries a heavy burden." Schaffer v. CC Investments, 205 F.R.D. 158, 159-60 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).

[Footnote 1] Plaintiff argues that de novo review of Judge Francis's orders is warranted here. In support, Plaintiff relies on two cases out of the Seventh Circuit, neither of which is applicable here. First, in Robinson v. Maentanis, No. 97-2730, 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 3662, at *8 (7th Cir. Feb. 26, 1998), the court found that it was not error for the district court to grant the defendant's motion to vacate the default judgment entered against her by the magistrate judge because, among other reasons, § 636(b)(1)(A) "does not prevent a judge from ruling on a motion that is distinct, albeit related, to a motion previously adjudicated by a magistrate judge." Id. In this case, Plaintiff's objections relate not to a separate related motion, but to Judge Francis's orders relating to particular motions of the parties. Second, in Harlyn Sales Corp. Profit Sharing Plan v. Investment Portfolios-Gov't Plus Fund, 142 F.R.D. 671, 673 (N.D. III. 1992), the court applied the de novo standard of review because both parties addressed the Rule 11 sanctions motion in question as though it were a dispositive motion to be reviewed under Federal Rule 72(b), rather than as a non-dispositive motion under Rule 72(a). Here, there has been no such waiver of the issue of the standard of review. Accordingly, none of Plaintiff's authority convinces this Court that the de novo standard of review should apply here instead of the well-established "clearly erroneous or contrary to law" standard.

Share this article:


Recent Posts