Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Moralez v. Perdue

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 24, 2017

GLORIA PALACIOS MORALEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE ERVIN PERDUE III[1], Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER (Doc. 430)

          BARBARA A. McAULIFFE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Currently before the Court is a motion for protective order filed by Defendant George Ervin Perdue III, Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (“Defendant”) to preclude Plaintiff Gloria Palacios Moralez (“Plaintiff”) from obtaining further discovery in this action. (Doc. 430.) The parties filed a Joint Statement Re: Discovery Disagreement on May 11, 2017. (Doc. 432.) The matter was heard on May 18, 2017, before Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe. Plaintiff's counsel Brandon Nagy, Phillip Fraas and Michael Tucci appeared by telephone. Defendant's counsel Joseph Freuh also appeared by telephone.

         For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion for protective order precluding Plaintiff from obtaining further discovery in this action shall be granted.

         I. Background

         This action proceeds against the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) on Plaintiff's claim for violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”) based on alleged discrimination in connection with the denial of crop disaster benefits in 1993.

         Plaintiff is a female farmer of Hispanic descent who owned land near Fresno, California. In 1993, Plaintiff suffered a loss of about 70 percent of her raisin grape crop, which she believed was caused by adverse weather conditions or by the effects of infection of the crop by phomopsis, a grape vine fungus, and Pierce's Disease, a bacterium that attacks grape vines, or both weather and disease. Plaintiff applied for disaster payments from the Farm Service Agency (“FSA”) or its predecessor agency, Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Service (“ASCS”). Plaintiff asserts that she met the eligibility requirements, but the USDA denied the payments based on her Hispanic racial/national origin identity and because she is a woman. Plaintiff believes that a number of white male farmers in Fresno County who were similarly-situated received the 1993 crop disaster payments. Plaintiff contends that there are no non-discriminatory explanations for the differential treatment, and that the USDA's failure to provide her with disaster payments while providing such benefits to similarly-situated while male farmers constitutes unlawful discrimination based on race/national origin and sex in violation of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706.

         Plaintiff recently indicated her intent to depose high-ranking USDA officials in an attempt to show that the agency's stated reasons for denying disaster relief were false, and the real reasons were Plaintiff's race and sex. These officials reportedly include the current and former County Executive Directors of the San Joaquin and Fresno County FSA and the Farm Program Chief and Executive Director of FSA's California State Office. Based on Plaintiff's expressed intent, Defendant now seeks a protective order precluding further discovery, arguing that the focal point of the court's inquiry on Plaintiff's APA claim should be the administrative record already in existence.

         According to the joint statement of discovery disagreement, Plaintiff also desires discovery regarding the discrimination complaint she filed, which was investigated by the USDA's Civil Rights Operations (“CRO”). Plaintiff does not identify any other purportedly “limited discovery” she is seeking.

         II. Legal Standard

         Judicial review of agency action under the APA is generally limited to review of the administrative record. 5 U.S.C. 706 (“In making . . . determinations, the court shall review the whole record or those parts of it cited by a party….”). “The task to the reviewing court is to apply the appropriate APA standard of review . . . to the agency decision based on the record the agency presents to the reviewing court.” Florida Power & Light Co. v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 743-44 (1985). “[T]he focal point for judicial review should be the administrative record already in existence, not some new record made initially in the reviewing court.” Id. (citation omitted).

         However, the Ninth Circuit has determined that certain circumstances may justify expanding review beyond the record or permitting discovery. Animal Defense Council v. Hodel, 840 F.2d 1432, 1436 (9th Cir. 1988). District courts are permitted to admit extra-record evidence in the following limited circumstances:

(1) if admission is necessary to determine “whether the agency has considered all relevant factors and has explained its decision, ”
(2) if “the agency has relied on documents not in the record, ”
(3) “when supplementing the record is necessary to explain technical terms or complex ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.