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La Jolla Spa MD, Inc. v. Avidas Pharmaceuticals, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. California

October 10, 2019

LA JOLLA SPA MD, INC, Plaintiff,
v.
AVIDAS PHARMACEUTICALS, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER RE: OBJECTION TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S SANCTIONS ORDER [DOC. NO. 105]

          Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge

         Defense Counsel Julie Chovanes (“Defense Counsel”) for Avidas Pharmaceuticals, LLC (“Defendant”) filed an objection to Magistrate Judge William V. Gallo's Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions. Doc. No. 93.[1] La Jolla Spa MD, Inc. (“Plaintiff”) filed an opposition to the objection. Doc. No. 107. Defense Counsel did not file a reply.[2] For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds the objection untimely and declines to rule on the merits of Defense Counsel's objection to the Magistrate Judge's order.

         Background

          Defense Counsel objects to a sanctions order issued by the Magistrate Judge on August 30, 2019. The underlying dispute centers on the deposition of Margaret Gardner on May 3, 2019, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Doc. No. 103 at 3-4. The Magistrate Judge found that Defense Counsel went beyond the bounds of professionalism and “continuously interrupted, lodged frivolous objections, improperly instructed Gardner to not answer questions, and extensively argued with [Plaintiff's Counsel] Ryan.” Id. at 2, 4.

         After a hearing on Friday, August 16, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued an Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions. Doc. No. 103. The Magistrate Judge ordered as follows:

         Plaintiff's motion for sanctions is GRANTED, and Chovanes is sanctioned for the conduct, reasons, and under the authority set forth above. Accordingly:

         1. Without reimbursement from Defendant, Chovanes is sanctioned in the amount of $28, 502.03 payable to Ryan's trust account on or before September 17, 2019.

         2. Chovanes shall self-report to the State Bar of Pennsylvania on or before September 24, 2019. The reporting shall consist of a copy of this Order, the full transcript of the Gardner deposition, the full transcript of the August 16, 2019 sanctions hearing, and the 128 video clips submitted as part of Plaintiff's sanctions motion. On or before October 1, 2019, Chovanes shall file a declaration under oath that confirms compliance with this Order and that all documents and video clips were submitted to the State Bar of Pennsylvania.

         3. Chovanes shall henceforth attach a copy of this Order as an exhibit to any pro hac vice application for admission to practice before the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. This requirement shall have no expiration date and shall remain in effect in perpetuity.

         Doc. No. 103 at 47. The Magistrate Judge found sanctions appropriate based on the power conferred by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(d)(2), 28 U.S.C. § 1927, and the inherent power of federal courts to levy sanctions. Id. at 7-10, 20, 40-44. Defense Counsel filed her Rule 72(a) objection on Monday, September 16, 2019. Doc. No. 105. Defense Counsel argues that the Magistrate Judge failed to consider a recent Supreme Court case, which would have rendered the sanctions improper. See Doc. No. 105 at 2-4. Additionally, Defense Counsel claims that the Magistrate Judge's previous discovery orders made her conduct permissible. See Doc. No. 105 at 4-6.

         Legal Standard

         A district judge's review of a magistrate judge's order on a nondispositive motion is limited. “[A] party may serve and file objections to the order within 14 days after being served with a copy. A party may not assign as error a defect in the order not timely objected to. The district judge in the case must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a) (emphasis added); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) (“A judge of the court may reconsider any pretrial matter under this subparagraph (A) where it has been shown that the magistrate judge's order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law.”); Grimes v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, 951 F.2d 236, 240 (9th Cir. 1991) (“The district court shall defer to the magistrate's orders unless they are clearly erroneous or contrary to law.”). Under Rule 72, the reviewing district judge may not supplant his or her own judgment in place of the deciding magistrate judge. Grimes, 951 F.2d at 241.

         The decision whether to impose sanctions is a nondispositive matter. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Civ. Loc. R. 72.1(b); see also Grimes, 951 F.2d at 241 (noting that discovery sanctions are nondispositive and thus magistrate judges may “may impose prospective sanctions pursuant to Rule 37 where such sanctions are necessary to enforce compliance with a valid discovery order”); Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., 888 F.Supp.2d 976, 985-89 (N.D. Cal. 2012) (holding that a magistrate judge has the inherent power to issue spoliation sanctions); Keithley ...


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