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Duby v. Shirley May's Place, LLC

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

November 3, 2017

JASON DUBY, Plaintiff,

          Elizabeth A. Stafford, United States Magistrate Judge.


          Paul D. Borman, United States District Judge.

         In this action, Plaintiff Jason Duby sues his mother, Denise Walsh, and her now-defunct business, Shirley May's Place, LLC, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206 (“FLSA”) and Michigan's Workforce Opportunity Wage Act, Mich. Comp. Laws § 408.414 (“Wage Act”).

         The day before his June 20, 2017 deposition, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Protective Order in which he argued that many of the discovery requests that had been propagated by Defendants sought irrelevant information, and were therefore intended solely as a means of harassment or embarrassment. (ECF No. 35.) At the deposition the next day, Plaintiff's counsel refused to allow her client to answer any question pertaining to any of the topics identified in the Motion for Protective Order. Defendants then filed a Motion to Compel (ECF No. 46), seeking an order requiring Plaintiff to respond to the discovery requests he had challenged in his motion, requesting that the court compel another deposition during which Plaintiff would be required to answer the questions he had been instructed not to answer, and seeking an award of costs and attorney's fees incurred in preparing the Motion to Compel.

         On September 8, 2017, Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford issued an Order (ECF No. 55) denying Plaintiffs Motion for Protective Order, and granting in part and denying in part Defendants' Motion to Compel. Specifically, the Magistrate Judge ordered Plaintiff to supplement his discovery responses to answer the requests he had refused to answer (subject to a few limitations), ordered Plaintiff to appear for a continued deposition, and imposed monetary sanctions on Plaintiffs counsel for her conduct at the June 20, 2017 deposition.

         Now before the Court are Plaintiffs objections to the Magistrate Judge's Order. Finding no merit in them, the Court will overrule the objections and affirm the September 8, 2017 Order of the Magistrate Judge.


         28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a) both provide that a district judge must modify or set aside any portion of a magistrate judge's non-dispositive pretrial order found to be "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). The United States Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals have stated that “a finding is ‘clearly erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948) (explaining the clearly erroneous standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a)); Hagaman v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, 958 F.2d 684, 690 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting U.S. Gypsum Co.); see also United States v. Mandycz, 200 F.R.D. 353, 356 (E.D. Mich. 2001) (explaining the standard under Rule 72(a)).

         This standard does not empower a reviewing court to reverse a Magistrate Judge's finding because it would have decided the matter differently. Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, ___N.C. ___, 470 U.S. 564, 573 (1985) (interpreting the clearly erroneous standard in Rule 52(a)). The Sixth Circuit has noted that: “[t]he question is not whether the finding is the best or only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence, or whether it is the one which the reviewing court would draw. Rather, the test is whether there is evidence in the record to support the lower court's finding, and whether its construction of that evidence is a reasonable one.” Heights Cmty. Cong. v. Hilltop Realty, Inc., 774 F.2d 135, 140 (6th Cir. 1985).

         “The ‘clearly erroneous' standard applies only to the magistrate judge's factual findings; his legal conclusions are reviewed under the plenary ‘contrary to law' standard. . . . Therefore, [the reviewing court] must exercise independent judgment with respect to the magistrate judge's conclusions of law.” Haworth, Inc. v. Herman Miller, Inc., 162 F.R.D. 289, 291 (W.D. Mich. 1995) (citing Gandee v. Glaser, 785 F.Supp. 684, 686 (S.D. Ohio 1992)). “‘An order is contrary to law when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of procedure.'” Mattox v. Edelman, No. 12-13762, 2014 WL 4829583, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 29, 2014) (quoting Ford Motor Co. v. United States, No. 08-12960, 2009 WL 2922875, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 9, 2009)).


         Plaintiff makes three objections to the Magistrate Judge's order. Two concern specific discovery requests that the Magistrate Judge ordered Plaintiff to answer, and one concerns the Magistrate Judge's imposition of monetary sanctions against Plaintiffs counsel. The Court will address each objection in turn.

         A. Discovery of Plaintiffs financial information

         In the September 8, 2017 Order, the Magistrate Judge ordered Plaintiff to “list each and every bank and credit account in his name or accessed by him, and produce a complete copy of records showing deposits to or payments from such accounts, from October 2013 to March 2016, when his employment at the Shirley May's Place ended.” (ECF No. 55 at 8-9, Pg ID 3158-59.) Such discovery, the Magistrate Judge held, “is relevant to defenses that [Plaintiff] did not have an employment relationship ...

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