United States District Court, S.D. California
BETTY GUZMAN, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
BRIDGEPOINT EDUCATION, INC., et al., Defendants.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO SET ASIDE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S MARCH 18, 2014 ORDER [ECF No. 70]
CYNTHIA BASHANT, District Judge.
On January 12, 2011, Plaintiff Betty Guzman commenced this putative class action against Defendants Bridgepoint Education, Inc. ("Bridgepoint"), Ashford University ("Ashford"), and University of the Rockies, asserting claims for violations of California's Unfair Trade Practices Act, False Advertising Act, and Consumer Legal Remedies Act, among others. These claims arise from the allegations that Defendants disseminated false and misleading information regarding, among other things, the true costs of attendance, the transferability of credits, the quality of the education, and the prospects of post-graduation employment. Plaintiff now moves for this Court to set aside the magistrate judge's March 18, 2014 order. Defendants oppose.
The Court finds this motion suitable for determination on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L.R. 7.1(d.1). For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion.
I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND
On September 23, 2013, United States Magistrate Judge William V. Gallo issued an order regulating discovery that was expressly limited to class-certification issues only. (CMC Order 1:19-23.) March 31, 2014 was the deadline for completion of all class-certification-related discovery. ( Id. at 2:17-19.) The court defined "completed" to mean that "all discovery under Rules 30-36 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure must be initiated a sufficient period of time in advance of the cut-off date, so that it may be completed by the cut-off date, taking into account the times for services, notice, and response as set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." ( Id. at 2:20-23 (emphasis in original).) The court added that "[a]ll disputes concerning discovery shall be brought to the attention of the Magistrate Judge no later than thirty (30) days following the date upon which the event giving rise to the discovery dispute occurred." ( Id. at 2:23-25.) Judge Gallo's Chambers Rules state that "[f]or written discovery, the event giving rise to the discovery dispute is the date of service of the response." (Pl.'s Mot. Ex. 25.)
A. Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories
On August 5, 2013, Plaintiff served Defendants with her First Set of Interrogatories. Thereafter, the parties agreed to extend the deadline for Defendants to respond by 30 days to October 9, 2013. Defendants served responses to the interrogatories on October 9, 2013. In their response, Defendants objected to Interrogatory No. 7 on several grounds.
On October 29, 2013, Plaintiff sent a meet-and-confer letter addressing certain perceived deficiencies in the responses. (Pl.'s Mot. Ex. 6.) In the letter, Plaintiff requested that Defendants cure the identified deficiencies by November 1, 2013, and sought to schedule an in-person meet-and-confer conference during the week of November 4, 2013. ( Id. )
"Mindful of the magistrate judge's 30-day deadline to raise discovery disputes, and out of an abundance of caution, [Plaintiff] sought and obtained Defendants' consent to make a joint motion for extension of time to file a joint statement for determination of discovery disputes, " which the parties subsequently filed on November 8, 2013. (Kolesnikov Decl. ¶ 12.) To justify the extension, the parties stated in their joint motion that "following a mutual extension of time to respond [to the discovery requests], " the parties "ha[d] been working diligently to resolve the above-mentioned disputes, " "ha[d] exchanged meet-and-confer letters regarding the disputes, " and "[were] reviewing the respective letters regarding the disputes and have discussed meeting in person very soon in an attempt to resolve the disputes[.]" (ECF No. 64.)
On November 12, 2013, the magistrate judge denied the parties' joint motion for an extension of time. (ECF No. 65.) That order stated the following:
Counsel waited until the date a Joint Statement of Discovery Disputes was due to file the Joint Motion and have not yet met and conferred in person regarding the discovery disputes.
Counsel have essentially treated the granting of the Joint Motion as a forgone conclusion, the Court's approval being a mere formality in the process. However, the Court is not a mere rubber stamp, and the Court would be justified in denying the Joint Motion because it was received on the date the Joint Statement was due.
( Id. (emphasis in original).)
On November 15, 2013, Defendants responded to Plaintiff's meet-and-confer letter. (Pl.'s Mot. Ex. 8.) The parties subsequently agreed to continue to meet and confer in order to resolve their disagreements. (Young Decl. ¶ 4.) On November 22, 2013, counsel for the parties met in person to discuss the issues raised in the October 29, 2013 letter. ( Id. ¶ 5; Kolesnikov Decl. ¶ 17.) During the conference, the parties agreed to review certain responses and determine whether supplementing the responses was necessary. (Young Decl. ¶ 5; Kolesnikov Decl. ¶ 17.)
Defendants served supplemental responses to Plaintiff's interrogatories on February 3, 2014. (Pl.'s Mot. Es. 20-23.) However, Defendants maintain that they "did not supplement their response to Interrogatory No. 7." (Defs.' Opp'n 3:15-17.) Interrogatory No. 7 requests that Defendants "[i]dentify all enrollment advisors at BRIDGEPOINT or ASHFORD who were disciplined, demoted, or otherwise received negative performance reviews during the Relevant Period because of the number of students they enrolled." (Pl.'s Mot. Ex. 2.)
B. Plaintiff's First Set of Requests for Production
On November 22, 2013, Plaintiff served Defendants with her First Set of Requests for Production ("RFPs"). On December 23, 2013, Defendants served responses to the RFPs. Defendants objected to RFP No. 11 and RFP No. 16. (Pl.'s Mot. Exs. 14-15.) RFP No. 11 requests "[a]ll DOCUMENTS CONCERNING the discipline, demotion, or termination of any of BRIDGEPOINT's enrollment advisors during the RELEVANT PERIOD, including, but not limited to, the names of those individuals, the dates when they were disciplined, demoted, or terminated, and the reasons for the discipline, demotion, or termination"; RFP No. 16 requests "[a]ll DOCUMENTS CONCERNING all complaints from students and graduates during the RELEVANT PERIOD received by BRIDGEPOINT." (Pl.'s Mot. Ex. 12.)
On January 23, 2014, Plaintiff sent a meet-and-confer letter to Defendants requesting that Defendants cure certain perceived deficiencies in Defendants' responses. (Pl.'s Mot. Ex. 18.) Plaintiff also sought to schedule an in-person meet-and-confer conference for February 3, 2014. (Kolesnikov Decl. ¶ 25.)
On January 27, 2014, Defendants responded to Plaintiff's letter, and maintained their objections as previously stated. (Pl.'s Mot. Ex. 19.) At Plaintiff's request, the parties met and conferred in person on February 3, 2014, where Defendants reiterated their objections. (Young Decl. ¶¶ 8-9.) Defendants initially produced documents in response to Plaintiff's RFPs on February 24, 2014. ( Id. ¶ 11.)
Despite the meet-and-confer efforts, the parties were unable to resolve the discovery disputes without court intervention. As a result, Plaintiff submitted to the magistrate judge a Joint Statement for Determination of Discovery Disputes,  specifically requesting an order compelling further ...