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Beard v. City of Southfield

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 3, 2016

TONY DEWAYNE BEARD, JR., a legally incapacitated person, by and through JOHNETTE FORD, his legal guardian, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SOUTHFIELD, et. al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING IN PART THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S SEPTEMBER 13, 2016 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [146] AND GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SANCTIONS [99]

          Nancy G. Edmunds United States District Judge.

         Defendants have moved for sanctions against Plaintiff's counsel, Johnny Hawkins, and Plaintiff's guardian, Johnette Ford, and Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford has provided the Court a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") on Defendants' motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Court ADOPTS IN PART the R&R, GRANTS IN PART Defendants' motion, and orders the following sanctions: (1) Hawkins must reimburse Defendants half the reasonable expenses they incurred in litigating the motion; (2) Plaintiff's claim for deliberate indifference is stricken; and (3) Ford cannot testify in Plaintiff's case in chief.

         I. Background

         The R&R provides an extensive factual background, and the Court, having reviewed the record de novo, adopts that background here. (See Dkt. 146, at 3-17.) To summarize, Hawkins and Ford abused discovery procedures, and Defendants seek a variety of sanctions, including dismissal. Hawkins' misconduct included but was not limited to: (1) violating the certification requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(g); (2) raising a frivolous privilege objection; (3) filing a misleading response to a motion to compel; (4) failing to present materials at a deposition; and (5) failing to reveal that Ford withheld documents from production until pressed by the Court. (See id.) Ford's misconduct included: (1) lying during her deposition; (2) testifying while high on medication; (3) altering documents; (4) destroying documents; (5) and withholding documents from both Hawkins and the Court. (See id.)

         Hawkins has objected that he did not receive a full and fair opportunity to defend himself on Defendants' motion for sanctions, so a brief history of the recent proceedings follows. Before the Magistrate Judge issued the R&R, she held two evidentiary hearings on Defendants' motion. The first hearing, conducted on June 1, 2016, covered the conduct of Hawkins (Dkt. 133), while the second, conducted on August 3, 2016, related to Ford.[1](Dkt. 145.) At the outset of the August hearing on Ford's conduct, the Magistrate Judge, having reviewed the evidence from the June hearing about Hawkins, ruled orally that Hawkins must pay half of Defendants' reasonable costs. (Dkt. 145, at 13-20.) The Magistrate Judge then commenced hearing evidence against Ford.

         The Magistrate Judge has since recognized that she "was mistaken" in issuing an oral ruling because Defendants' motion requests dismissal, necessitating review by this Court. (Dkt. 146, at 14-15; see also 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1).) Accordingly, in September, she prepared the R&R adopted in part here. The R&R, which accounts for the evidence presented at both hearings, ultimately recommends the same financial sanction for Hawkins that the Magistrate Judge announced orally at the second hearing. (Dkt. 146, at 31.)

         The R&R also concludes that: (1) Hawkins' conduct was sanctionable pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26 and 37; and (2) Hawkins and Ford should both be sanctioned under the Court's inherent authority. (Id. at 2.) It further recommends the following sanctions: (1) ordering Hawkins to reimburse Defendants for half of the reasonable expenses they incurred litigating their motion for sanctions; (2) ordering that Ford be replaced as guardian; (3) ordering that Plaintiff's claim for deliberate indifference be stricken; (4) ordering that Ford cannot testify in Beard's case in chief; and (5) denying Defendants' request for dismissal. (Id. at 31.)

         Hawkins, Ford, and Defendants have all filed objections to the R&R. (Dkt. 147-48, 152.) For the reasons that follow, the Court adopts in part the Magistrate Judge's R&R and orders the following sanctions: (1) Hawkins must reimburse Defendants half the reasonable expenses they incurred in litigating the motion; (2) Plaintiff's claim for deliberate indifference is stricken; and (3) Ford cannot testify in Plaintiff's case in chief. The Court does not order dismissal.

         II. Applicable Law

         A. Standard of Review

         When a party objects to portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the Court reviews such portions de novo. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). However, only specific objections that pinpoint a source of error are entitled to de novo review. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). General objections, or those that merely challenge the magistrate judge's ultimate determinations, have "the same effects as would a failure to object." Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991). That is, such objections are invalid, and the Court must treat them as if they were waived. See Bellmore-Byrne v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2016 WL 5219541, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 22, 2016) (citing id.). Furthermore, de novo review applies "only to matters involving disputed facts, " not arguments regarding the appropriate legal standard. Mira, 806 F.2d at 637 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         III. Analysis

         A. Hawkins' Objections

         Hawkins enumerates fifteen objections; however, the Court can discern only six distinct objections, and it overrules ...


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