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Siser North America, Inc. v. World Paper, Inc.

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

July 20, 2018

SISER NORTH AMERICA, INC. ET AL, Plaintiffs,
v.
WORLD PAPER INC. ET AL, Defendants,
v.
MICHAEL L. FEINSTEIN, Respondent.

          ORDER AFFIRMING MAGISTRATE JUDGE ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD'S ORDER FOR ATTORNEY MICHAEL L. FEINSTEIN TO REIMBURSE PLAINTIFFS $76, 925.53 (#64) AND OVERRULING RESPONDENT MICHAEL L. FEINSTEIN'S AMENDED OBJECTIONS (#71)

          GERSHWIN A. DRAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         On March 23, 2018, Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford issued an Order and Opinion granting Plaintiffs Motion to Compel, deeming Admitted Requests to Admit, Striking the other Discovery Responses, and ordering Florida attorney Michael L. Feinstein to pay sanctions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 37. Dkt. No. 44, (PageID 786). On May 4, 2018, the Magistrate Judge ordered Michael L. Feinstein ("Mr. Feinstein") to reimburse Plaintiffs $76, 925.53. Dkt. No. 64, (PageID 1275). Mr. Feinstein's Objections to the May 4, 2018 Order are now before the Court. Dkt. No. 71, (PageID 2201). The Court has reviewed the Magistrate Judge's Order, as well as the parties' pleadings on the matter, and finds that an additional hearing will not aid in the resolution of this matter. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). For the following reasons, the Court affirms Magistrate Judge Stafford's May 4, 2018 Order and overrules Mr. Feinstein's Objections to that Order.

         II. Background

         This civil action arose in December of 2016 when Plaintiffs Siser North America, Inc. and Siser S.R.L. ("Plaintiffs") filed their Complaint alleging that Defendants World Paper, Inc., Herika G., Ekaterina Kostioukina, Jerosa Designs LLC[1], HG World Group, Inc., DOES #1-10, and Hernan Gonzalez ("Defendants") illegally advertised and sold inferior counterfeit heat-transfer products on websites such as Amazon and eBay under one or more of Plaintiffs' trademarks - namely, "Cadflex," "Reflectall," "Easyweed," and "Siser." At that time, Plaintiffs were represented by attorneys Barbara L. Mandell ("Ms. Mandell") and Michael B. Stewart ("Mr. Stewart") of Fishman Stewart PLLC, whereas Defendants were represented by attorneys Franklin M. Smith ("Mr. Smith") of Dickinson Wright PLLC ("Dickinson Wright") and Mr. Feinstein[2]. Following a scheduling conference with this Court, a jury trial was set for November 2018.

         On October 6, 2017, Plaintiff Siser North America, Inc. filed a Motion to Compel, requesting an order to determine the sufficiency of Defendants' answers to requests to admit, to compel the Defendants to answer interrogatories in good faith, to produce requested documents, to comply with Plaintiffs' third party subpoenas, and to compel the appearance of Defendants' "alleged lead counsel." Dkt. No. 23, (PageID 208). On October 11, Judge Drain referred the Plaintiffs Motion to Compel to be heard and determined by Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Dkt. No. 24, (PageID 331).

         Following the Defendants' response and Plaintiffs reply, the Court scheduled a hearing and ordered the parties to meet and confer in order to file a joint list of unresolved issues. Dkt. Nos. 26, 28, 29 (PageID 333, 365, 412). On January 8, 2018, the parties filed a joint list of unresolved issues laid out in 84 pages. (PageID 419). On February 12, 2018, Magistrate Judge Stafford ordered an evidentiary hearing on Plaintiffs Motion to Compel and for Defendants to show cause why they should not be sanctioned under Rule 37(a)(5) and the Court's inherent authority. Dkt. No. 34, (PageID 508). The evidentiary hearing took place on March 9, 2018 before Magistrate Judge Stafford. See Transcript of Evidentiary Hearing at Dkt. No. 42, (PageID 671). On March 23, 2018, Magistrate Judge Stafford issued an Order and Opinion granting Plaintiffs Motion to Compel, deeming Admitted Requests to Admit, Striking the other Discovery Responses, and ordering Mr. Feinstein to pay sanctions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 37. Dkt. No. 44, (PageID 786). Plaintiffs then submitted a Bill of Costs with a supporting affidavit outlining the fees incurred as a result of the discovery issues raised in the Motion to Compel. Dkt. No. 49, (PageID 872). Based on this submission, Magistrate Judge Stafford on May 4, 2018 ordered Mr. Feinstein to reimburse Plaintiffs $76, 925.53. Dkt. No. 64, (PageID 1253). Mr. Feinstein missed the 14-day deadline to object to Magistrate Judge Stafford's March 23, 2018 Order and Opinion, and on May 7, 2018 the undersigned denied Mr. Feinstein's Motion to Extend the Deadline. Dkt. No. 68, (PageID 1265). On May 18, 2018, Mr. Feinstein filed Objections to the Magistrate Judge's May 4 Order, which he subsequently amended that same day. Dkt. No. 71, (PageID 2201). The Court now reviews Mr. Feinstein's Amended Objections pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         III. Standard of Review

         A party has 14 days to object to a magistrate judge's proposed findings on designated pretrial matters. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). A U.S. district court judge may reconsider a designated pretrial matter only if the magistrate judge's findings are clearly erroneous or contrary to law. Id. 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." Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573 (1985) (citing United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)). Under this standard, a reviewing court cannot simply reverse a decision because it would have weighed the evidence differently as the finder of fact. Id. at 574 (citing United States v. Yellow Cab Co., 338 U.S. 338, 342 (1949)).

         IV. Analysis

         Mr. Feinstein makes two main objections to Magistrate Judge Stafford's findings: the first challenges the underlying reasons for why the Rule 37 sanctions were imposed, and the second challenges the amount of attorneys' fees and costs he was ordered to pay. Obj. at 9. The Court will address each objection and its subparts in turn.

         a. Objection #1

         Mr. Feinstein first obj ects to the underlying reasons for why he was sanctioned to pay the Plaintiffs' fees. Dkt. No. 71, (PageID 2209). But Mr. Feinstein missed his deadline to object to the Magistrate Judge's March 23? 2018 Order and Opinion outlining these reasons, and was not granted an extension to do so. Dkt. No. 68, (PageID 1265). By attempting to object to the Magistrate Judge's March 23, 2018 Order and Opinion in his objection to her May 4, 2018 Order, Mr. Feinstein is attempting to insubordinately skirt this Court's authority and procedure. As such, the Court is under no obligation to consider Mr. Feinstein's first objection. Nonetheless, even if the Court were to do so, Mr. Feinstein's first objection is still without merit.

         Mr. Feinstein claims that it was Plaintiffs counsel, Mr. Stewart, who hindered the parties' meet and confer on February 16, 2018 since Mr. Smith and Dickinson Wright were authorized to provide representation for the Plaintiffs in this meeting, even though Mr. Feinstein had not yet been admitted to practice in this Court. Dkt. No. 71, (PageID 2209-10). Mr. Feinstein goes on to claim that Mr. Smith is to ...


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