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In re Packaged Seafood Products Antitrust Litigation

United States District Court, S.D. California

February 23, 2018



          Hon. Janis L. Sammartino, United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court is Bumble Bee Foods, LLC's Objection to Magistrate Judge Dembin's January 3, 2018 Order, (“Obj., ” ECF No. 791). Plaintiffs have filed a Response to the Objections, (“Resp., ” ECF No. 842). After a careful consideration of the Parties' submissions, the record in this matter, and the applicable law, the Court OVERRULES Bumble Bee's Objection.


         The relevant facts, as presented by Bumble Bee, are as follows. Plaintiffs filed a suit against various defendants, including Bumble Bee, in August 2015 “after the commencement of the grand jury investigation into the packaged seafood product industry by the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) had become publicly known.” (Obj. 4.) The DOJ intervened in the case and the Parties stipulated to stay discovery. (Id.) Under the stipulation regarding the third stay, Plaintiffs may not obtain discovery “that refers or relates to the criminal grand jury investigation being conducted by the United States concerning packaged seafood.” (Id. at 4-5 (citing ECF No. 477 ¶2).)

         In August 2017, Bumble Bee pled guilty to a single-count violation of the Sherman Act and the sentencing memoranda “were filed in partially redacted form, upon motions by both parties and findings of good cause” by Judge Edward Chen. (Id. at 5.) Bumble Bee states “pages 2 through 5 [and one sentence on page 19] of the government's sentencing memorandum-which discuss the factual basis for Bumble Bee's plea in greater detail than the publicly available plea agreement-were redacted in the public filing on DOJ's motion ‘to protect the secrecy of [the grand jury] investigation.'” (Id. (citing ECF No. 18 at 2).)

         On December 22, 2017, Plaintiffs and Bumble Bee filed a Joint Motion for Determination of Discovery Dispute regarding Interrogatory No. 1, (ECF No. 758). On January 3, 2018, Magistrate Judge Mitchell Dembin issued an order that requires Bumble Bee to fully respond to Interrogatory No. 1. (“Discovery Order, ” ECF No. 772.) This interrogatory asks Bumble Bee to:

Identify and describe the nature of all joint ventures, alliances, agreements, initiatives, or business relationships between or among You and any other Defendant or Defendants or any other manufacturer of PSPs, identify persons with knowledge with respect to each, and the time period during which each existed.

         (See Id. at 2.) Bumble Bee argued it could not “comply [with this interrogatory] without violating two court orders: a sealing order issued in a criminal case regarding Bumble Bee tuna; and a stipulation limiting discovery entered in the instant case.” (Id. at 2-3.) Judge Dembin stated he “does not see how responding to Interrogatory No. 1 conflicts with the Sealing Order in the criminal case” and “does not see a conflict between the Stipulation and responding to Interrogatory No. 1.” (Id. at 3-4.) Bumble Bee then filed an objection to Judge Dembin's Order.


         A party may object to a non-dispositive pretrial order of a magistrate judge within fourteen days after service of the order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). The magistrate judge's order will be upheld unless it is “clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” Id.; see 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). The “clearly erroneous” standard of review applies to factual findings and discretionary decisions made concerning nondispositive pretrial discovery. See F.D.I.C. v. Fid. & Deposit Co. of Md., 196 F.R.D. 375, 378 (S.D. Cal. 2000). The “clearly erroneous” standard is “significantly deferential, requiring a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Concrete Pipe & Prods. of Cal., Inc., v. Constr. Laborers Pension Tr. of S. Cal., 508 U.S. 602, 623 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted).


         I. Bumble Bee's Objection Regarding the Sealed Sentencing Memoranda

         In his Order, Judge Dembin found the Sealing Order does not conflict with Interrogatory No. 1. He reasoned,

That Order protects certain statements in specific documents. If the interrogatory asked “What information was used to create the second sentence of Paragraph 3 of page 19 of the sentencing memoranda?” or “Describe your communications with the United States in creating the joint sentencing memoranda, ” there would be a conflict. The Sealing Order does not preclude Bumble Bee from providing information about its agreements with other ...

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