United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
PEGGY SHUMPERT, individually and as the Administrator of the Estate of Antwun Shumpert, Sr., THE ESTATE OF ANTWUN SHUMPERT, SR., and CHARLES FOSTER PLAINTIFFS
CITY OF TUPELO, MISSISSIPPI, MAYOR JASON SHELTON, CHIEF BART AGUIRRE, and OFFICER TYLER COOK DEFENDANTS
SHARION AYCOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are the Plaintiffs' objections to
various Magistrate Judge's orders in this case regarding
certain discovery issues. The Magistrate Judge imposed
sanctions against Plaintiffs' counsel individually.
See Orders [85, 118, 126, 155]. The Magistrate Judge
also denied Plaintiffs counsel's cross-motion for
sanctions against the Defendants. See Order .
First, the Plaintiffs object to and request a stay of the
Magistrate Judge's imposition of sanctions. See
Objections [127, 129]; Motion to Stay . Second, the
Plaintiffs request that the Court reverse the Magistrate
Judge's denial of sanctions against the Defendants.
See Objections . The parties fully briefed
these objections, and they are now ripe for review.
magistrate judge may rule directly on a non-dispositive
pretrial motion. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). When
objections are raised to such a ruling, a district court must
consider them and “modify or set aside any part of the
order that is clearly erroneous or contrary to law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); Castillo v. Frank, 70 F.3d 382,
385 (5th Cir. 1995). Under this deferential standard, a
magistrate judge's decision must be affirmed unless
“on the entire evidence [the court] is left with a
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed.” United States v. United States
Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395, 68 S.Ct. 525, 92
L.Ed. 746 (1948). The imposition of discovery sanctions is
non-dispositive and thus subject to the “clearly
erroneous or contrary to law” standard of review set
forth in 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Rule 72(a).
See Merritt v. International Bhd. of Boilermakers,
649 F.2d 1013, 1018 (5th Cir. 1981).
Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiffs' counsel committed
various discovery violations including: failing to respond
adequately to discovery requests, serving responses late,
failing to respond to interrogatories, and failing to respond
to Defense Counsel's inquiries. The Magistrate Judge also
found that these violations necessitated the filing of two
motions to compel by the Defendants. The Magistrate Judge
imposed sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
37(a)(5)(A) to compensate the Defendants for the preparation
of the motions to compel.
objections to the Magistrate Judge's orders,
Plaintiffs' counsel does not cite any error in the
Magistrate Judge's decision, but instead argues that the
sanctions are unwarranted because the Defendants also
committed discovery violations by failing to comply with the
Case Management Order . Specifically Plaintiffs'
counsel argues that the Case Management Order requires the
parties to request a telephonic conference with the
Magistrate Judge in an effort to resolve discovery disputes
before filing motions to compel, and the Defendants failed to
do so with regard to the relevant disputes.
Magistrate Judge correctly found, any failure by the
Defendants to comply with the Case Management Order is not a
discovery violation actionable under Rule 37 because the case
management order is not “an order to provide or permit
discovery.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2)(A).
In turn, the Magistrate Judge declined to impose sanctions
for the Defendants' failure under the applicable Rule 16.
Although the Plaintiffs counsel's objection makes clear
that he disagrees with the Magistrate Judge's decision,
he cites no authority, and raises no clear error in the
Magistrate Judge's decision. Nor does Plaintiffs'
counsel raise any clear error in the Magistrate Judge's
decision that the amount of the sanctions imposed is
reasonable. Importantly, Plaintiffs' counsel does not
bring forth any evidence whatsoever in opposition to the
Magistrate Judge's decision that the discovery violations
were directly attributable to Plaintiffs counsel's gross
carelessness and that his conduct was sufficiently egregious
to warrant sanctions.
record in this case demonstrates a clear pattern of willful,
if not intentional, discovery violations by Plaintiffs'
counsel. Such behavior is clearly sanctionable under the
applicable rules. Finding no error in the Magistrate
Judge's decision to impose sanctions in this case, the
Court affirms the Magistrate Judge's decisions, and
overrules Plaintiffs counsel's objections. Because the
Magistrate Judge delayed the disbursal of the sanctions until
final judgment is entered in this case, there is no reason to
impose a stay, and Plaintiffs counsel's request for a
stay is also denied. See Order .
the Court affirms the Magistrate Judge's decision to not
impose sanctions against the Defendants under Rule 16.
Although the Defendants failed to strictly comply with the
Case Management Order, they did make several attempts to
confer with Plaintiffs' counsel. As the Magistrate Judge
correctly found, the Defendants' noncompliance with the
Case Management Order was substantially justified, and in any
event, Plaintiffs' counsel failed to bring forth any
clear error committed by the Magistrate Judge relevant to
of the reasons explained above, the Magistrate Judge's
Orders: [85, 118, 126, 155] are AFFIRMED. Plaintiffs'
Motions and Objections [127, 129, 159] are OVERRULED and