United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' REQUEST FOR
RECONSIDERATION (DOC. NO. 49)
seek reconsideration of the assigned magistrate judge's
order of March 9, 2016, granting plaintiffs' motion to
withdraw deemed admissions. (Doc. Nos. 35, 45.) For the
reasons discussed below, the court denies defendants'
request for reconsideration.
matter has a tangled procedural history. Plaintiffs filed
their original complaint on June 14, 2015, and then filed a
first amended complaint ("FAC") three days later.
(Doc Nos. 1, 7.) On July 10, 2015, defendants filed a joint
motion to dismiss/motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Doc.
No. 11.) On August 20, 2015, this motion was taken under
submission for decision by the previously assigned District
Judge. However, on February 29, 2016, this case was
reassigned to the undersigned. Shortly thereafter the motion
was reset for hearing because no decision had yet been
rendered at the time of the reassignment.
court's delay in issuing a decision on defendants'
motion to dismiss/motion for judgment on the pleadings,
however, did not stop the matter from proceeding. On July 27,
2015, the assigned magistrate judge ordered the parties to
submit a joint status report. (Doc. No. 16.) The parties
complied and filed a Rule 26(f) report on August 14, 2015;
however, the report did not contain an agreed upon discovery
schedule, and a scheduling order was never issued by the
court. (Doc. No. 22.) Nonetheless, defendants set about
pursuing discovery and mailed requests for admissions to
plaintiffs' counsel on November 25, 2015. Plaintiffs
failed to timely respond- depositing their responses in the
mail on December 29, 2015, a day late-and defendants filed
notices of deemed admissions on January 27, 2016. (Doc. Nos.
subsequently filed a response to defendants' notice of
deemed admissions, including an alternative request for
relief under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 6(b)(1)(B) and
36(b). (Doc. No. 31.) The assigned magistrate judge informed
plaintiffs it would not act on their request for relief
because they had failed to properly notice the motion
pursuant to Local Rule 251. (Doc. No. 32.) Instead, on
February 7, 2016, plaintiffs filed a motion to withdraw the
deemed admissions-the motion that is at the center of
defendants' current request. (Doc. No. 33.) Defendants
filed an opposition (Doc. No. 34), to which plaintiffs filed
a reply (Doc. No. 35), and the assigned magistrate judge
order the parties to meet and confer and file a timely Joint
Statement re Discovery Disagreement pursuant to Local Rule
251. (Doc. No. 36.)
parties filed their Joint Statement on March 4, 2016. (Doc.
No. 42.) Prior to the filing of the document and as noted
above, the matter was transferred from the Sacramento
Division of the Eastern District of California to the Fresno
Division. (Doc. No. 37.) Additionally, defendants filed a
motion for summary judgment on March 3, 2016. (Doc. No. 38.)
The motion to dismiss/motion for judgment on the pleadings
and the motion for summary judgment were all reset for
hearing and oral argument was heard by the undersigned on May
3, 2016. (Doc. No. 56.)
March 9, 2016, the assigned magistrate judge granted
plaintiffs' motion to withdraw deemed admissions. (Doc.
No. 45.) Defendants filed the current request for
reconsideration on March 23, 2016. (Doc. No. 49.) To date, no
discovery and scheduling order has yet to have been issued in
Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a) states non-dispositive pretrial
matters may be decided by a magistrate judge, subject to
reconsideration by the district judge. See also
Local Rule 303(c). The district judge shall, upon
reconsideration, modify or set aside any part of the
magistrate judge's order which is "found to be
clearly erroneous or contrary to law." Local Rule
303(f); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).
Discovery motions are non-dispositive pretrial motions within
the scope of Rule 72(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A),
and thus subject to the "clearly erroneous or contrary
to law" standard of review. Rockwell Intern., Inc.
v. Pos-A-Traction Indus., Inc., 712 F.2d 1324, 1325 (9th
Cir. 1983). The magistrate judge's factual determinations
are reviewed for clear error, and the magistrate judge's
legal conclusions are reviewed to determine whether they are
contrary to law. United States v. McConney, 728 F.2d
1195, 1200-01 (9th Cir. 1984) overruled on other grounds
by Estate of Merchant v. CIR, 947 F.2d 1390 (9th Cir.
1991). "[R]eview under the ‘clearly erroneous'
standard is significantly deferential, requiring a
‘definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed.'" Concrete Pipe & Prods. v. Constr.
Laborers Pension Trust, 508 U.S. 602, 623 (1993)
(quoting United States v. United States Gypsum Co.,
333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)). "A magistrate judge's
decision is ‘contrary to law' if it applies an
incorrect legal standard, fails to consider an element of
applicable standard, or fails to apply or misapplies relevant
statutes, case law, or rules of procedure." Martin
v. Loadholt, No. 1:10-cv-00156-LJO-MJS, 2014 WL 3563312,
at *1 (E.D. Cal. July 18, 2014) (internal quotations and
the assigned magistrate judge granted plaintiffs' motion
to withdraw deemed admissions on two grounds. First, the
magistrate judge held the withdrawal of the admissions would
promote the presentation of the merits of the action because,
contrary to defendants' expressed belief, defendants had
failed to show the deemed admissions were identical to facts
stated in plaintiffs' complaint, discovery responses, or
readily obtainable police reports. (Doc. No. 45 at 4.) In the
same vein, the magistrate judge noted the existence of a
public policy favoring resolution of civil rights cases on
their merits. (Id. at 4-5 (citing Hernandez v.
City of El Monte, 138 F.3d 393, 401 (9th Cir. 1998)).
Second, the magistrate judge noted withdrawal of the
admissions would not inflict any prejudice upon defendants.
(Id. at 5.) The magistrate judge labeled
defendants' claim of prejudice "manufactured, "
noting it was based primarily on the impact withdrawal would
have on the motion for summary judgment defendants had filed
just before the parties submitted the Joint Statement
regarding the discovery dispute. (Id.) The
magistrate judge also noted withdrawal would not upset the
litigation of the action because "[n]o Rule 26 discovery
plan ha[d] been established, no deadlines for the completion
of discovery ha[d] been set and no trial ha[d] been
their request for reconsideration, defendants group the
deemed admissions into three classes. The first class,
according to defendants, consists of deemed admissions
consistent with facts stated in plaintiffs' complaint or
discovery responses. The second class, per defendants,
consists of deemed admissions consistent with information
contained in readily obtainable police reports. The third
class consists of deemed admissions dealing with ultimate
issues of fact. According to defendants, the magistrate judge
committed clear error in withdrawing the first two classes of
deemed admissions because they were consistent with facts
pled and information already provided by plaintiffs or
otherwise contained in police reports. Defendants also argue
withdrawal of all three classes constitutes clear error
because the magistrate judge failed to conduct a proper
court holds the magistrate judge's decision to withdraw
the first and second class of deemed admissions was not
clearly erroneous. First, defendants' allegation that the
magistrate judge "fail[ed] to review the cited
evidence" is incorrect. (Doc. No. 49 at 17.) Indeed, as
the magistrate judge stated in her order:
. . . [d]efendants have not shown how these deemed admissions
are consistent with facts pled by Plaintiffs, facts included
in Plaintiffs' discovery responses or facts available in
police report evidence. [Citation omitted.] Absent such a
showing, the Court will not parse through the cited
pleadings, discovery responses or police reports to verify