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Raub v. Moon Lake Property Owners' Association

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

November 13, 2017

DAVID RAUB and WILLIAM RAUB, Plaintiffs,
v.
MOON LAKE PROPERTY OWNERS' ASSOCIATION, OSCODA COUNTY, GREENWOOD TOWNSHIP, THOMAS McCAULEY, LINDA ARGUE, JIM HERVILLA, FRED LINDSEY, LARRY MATHIAS, and TIM WHITING, Defendants.

          ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTIONS, ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS AND DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION

          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON, United States District Judge

         On May 2, 2017, Defendants Greenwood Township, James Hervilla, Fred Lindsey, Larry Mathias, and Thomas McCauley (as Greenwood Township Trustee) filed a motion for attorney fees and costs. ECF No. 112. On May 11, 2017, Defendants Linda Argue, Thomas McCauley, and Moon Lake Property Owner's association filed a motion for attorney fees and costs. ECF No. 117. On May 16, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a motion for attorney fees and costs. ECF No. 124.

         The matters were referred to Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris. ECF No. 113, 118, 126. On June 26, 2017, Judge Morris issued a report recommending that Defendants' motions for attorney fees and costs, ECF Nos. 112 and 117, be granted, and that Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs' counsel be held jointly and severally liable for the payment of (a) $102, 174.80 to Defendants Greenwood Township, Fred Lindsey, Thomas McCauley as Greenwood Township Trustee, Jim Havrilla, and Larry Mathias, and (b) $111, 491.07 to Defendants Linda Argue, Thomas McCauley, and Moon Lake Property Owners' Association. ECF No. 142. Judge Morris's report also recommended that Plaintiffs' motion for attorney fees and costs be denied. Id. Plaintiffs timely objected to the report and recommendation. ECF No. 143. For the reasons that follow, the objections will be overruled, the report and recommendation will be adopted, Defendants' motions for attorney fees and costs will be granted, and Plaintiffs' motion for attorney fees and costs will be denied.

         I.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, a party may object to and seek review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2). Objections must be stated with specificity. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 151 (1985) (citation omitted). If objections are made, “[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). De novo review requires at least a review of the evidence before the magistrate judge; the Court may not act solely on the basis of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. See Hill v. Duriron Co., 656 F.2d 1208, 1215 (6th Cir. 1981). After reviewing the evidence, the Court is free to accept, reject, or modify the findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge. See Lardie v. Birkett, 221 F.Supp.2d 806, 807 (E.D. Mich. 2002).

         Only those objections that are specific are entitled to a de novo review under the statute. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). “The parties have the duty to pinpoint those portions of the magistrate's report that the district court must specially consider.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented, does not sufficiently identify alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge. See VanDiver v. Martin, 304 F.Supp.2d 934, 937 (E.D. Mich. 2004). An “objection” that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge's determination, “without explaining the source of the error, ” is not considered a valid objection. Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991). Without specific objections, “[t]he functions of the district court are effectively duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrate's Act.” Id.

         II.

         Plaintiffs raise three objections to the report and recommendation. Each will be addressed in turn.

         A.

         First, Plaintiffs object on the ground that “It is unfair to award $215, 000 in attorney fees without oral argument.” Obj. at 2-3, ECF No. 143. The specific provision of the report and recommendation objected to is Part I, PG. ID 4085, wherein Judge Morris concluded that “[e]ach motion is therefore ready for determination.” Id. at 2. Plaintiffs submit that serious prejudice will arise if an opportunity for oral argument is not afforded. Plaintiffs quote Central Distrib. Of Beer v. Conn, which underscores the value of oral argument. 5 F.3d 181 (6th Cir. 1993). Plaintiff also cites to Matthews v. Eldridge for the proposition that the “Constitution guarantees Plaintiffs a meaningful opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time.” Obj. at 3; Matthews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976).

         Plaintiffs have had a meaningful opportunity to be heard. Plaintiffs were afforded an opportunity to respond to Defendants' motions for attorney fees, were granted an extension of time to respond to the motions, and responded to both motions. See ECF Nos. 123, 132. Plaintiffs also filed their own motion for attorney fees, and replied to Defendants' response to said motion. See ECF Nos. 124, 139. Judge Morris reviewed the briefing and issued a report and recommendation. ECF No. 142. Plaintiffs then had an opportunity to make specific objections to Judge Morris's proposed findings. Rather than objecting to specific proposed findings, Plaintiffs request an opportunity for oral argument. However, Plaintiffs have not identified any factual or legal issues that would need to be explored during oral argument. Accordingly, the objection will be overruled.

         Plaintiffs' first objection also appears to challenge the authority of a U.S. District Court to refer motions for attorney fees to a Magistrate Judge. Plaintiff notes that 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1) provides for the referral of pretrial matters to Magistrate Judges, and seems to infer from this provision that “it may well be that these post-trial motions may not properly be the subject of referral to a Magistrate Judge in the first place.” Obj. at 2. To the contrary, rule 54(d)(2)(D) provides that the Court “may refer a motion for attorney's fees to a magistrate judge under Rule 72(b) as if it were a dispositive pretrial matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(2)(D).

         Accordingly, Plaintiffs' first ...


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