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Swenson v. Siskiyou County


June 24, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank C. Damrell, Jr. United States District Judge


This matter is before the court on pro se plaintiff Stanley Swenson's ("plaintiff") motions for reconsideration by the district judge of the magistrate judge's orders of April 21 and 27, 2010.*fn1 In the April 21, 2010 order, the magistrate judge denied plaintiff's motion to compel production of documents, and accordingly, his motion for discovery sanctions. (Docket #61.) In the April 27, 2010, the court granted defendants' motion for discovery sanctions, awarding defendants $590.00 in sanctions, based on plaintiff's failure to timely respond to defendants' interrogatories. (Docket #63.)

Because the magistrate judge's instant orders raise nondispositive pre-trial issues, review is governed by the "clearly erroneous or contrary to law" standard set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). E.D. Cal. L.R. 303(f). Thereunder, a magistrate judge's order cannot be set aside or modified unless the findings of fact are clearly erroneous or the conclusions are contrary to law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); Grimes v. San Francisco, 951 F.2d 236, 239-40 (9th Cir. 1991). In moving for reconsideration, a party must set forth facts or law of a "strongly convincing nature to induce the court to reverse" the magistrate judge's decision. Jones v. Sweeney, 2008 WL 3892111, *1 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 21, 2008). Specifically, as to discovery matters, magistrate judges are given broad discretion and their decisions on such matters should not be overruled absent a showing of clear abuse of discretion. Id. Ultimately, a finding is "clearly erroneous" or "contrary to law" when the reviewing court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. Jadwin v. County of Kern, 2008 WL 4217742, *1 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 11, 2008).

Having carefully reviewed the magistrate judge's orders and plaintiff's motions for reconsideration thereof, the court finds the magistrate judge's orders resolving the parties' discovery disputes supported by the record and by proper analysis. First, as to the April 21 order, the magistrate judge properly denied plaintiff's motion to compel as the subject documents were either irrelevant to the remaining substantive due process and takings claims or were privileged as attorney/client communications or work product. On the instant motions, plaintiff does not provide any new facts or law demonstrating an error in the magistrate judge's decisions. Indeed, plaintiff simply rehashes arguments made to the magistrate judge--arguments which were persuasively rejected by the magistrate judge. Reliance Ins. Co. v. Doctors Co., 299 F. Supp. 2d 1131, 1154 (D. Hawaii 2003) (holding "Reiteration of arguments originally made in support of, or in opposition to, a motion . . . do not provide a valid basis for reconsideration."). Plaintiff has not demonstrated the relevance of the at-issue documents to his claims for relief, and he has not established a basis for application of the fraud/crime exception to the attorney client privilege. Moreover, even assuming defendants violated plaintiff's due process rights, that violation of law does not eviscerate the attorney/client relationship for the reasons described by the magistrate judge. (Docket #61 at 6-8.) Finally, as plaintiff was not the prevailing party on the motion, the magistrate judge correctly denied his request for discovery sanctions.

As to the April 27 order, plaintiff did not file a written response to defendants' motion to compel responses to interrogatories and request for sanctions. While he did appear at the hearing on the motion, the magistrate judge was not required to hear plaintiff's arguments pursuant to the local rules. E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(c) (providing that an opposing party will not be entitled to be heard at oral argument if an opposition has not been timely filed). The magistrate judge did hear plaintiff's arguments, however, and acknowledged in his order that plaintiff had provided responses to the interrogatories a few days prior to the hearing. Nevertheless, the magistrate judge properly granted sanctions against plaintiff for his failure to timely respond to the discovery. Plaintiff's failure to timely respond necessitated defendants' motion to compel, and an award of sanctions, in the amount of the costs incurred in bringing the motion, is clearly authorized by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(5). Plaintiff offers no justification for his failure to timely respond to defendants' discovery, and as such, the award of sanctions was warranted.

Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's motions for reconsideration of the magistrate judge's orders of April 21 and 27, 2010 are DENIED.


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