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Denton v. Suter

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

June 12, 2017

PETER DENTON, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
RUDOLF SUTER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs Peter Denton and Harvest Investors, L.P. have filed a Motion to Award Fees for Compliance with Discovery and Contempt Orders [Dkt. No. 190], which has been referred to the undersigned United States magistrate judge for determination under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). See Dkt. No. 46.

         The parties met and conferred on this motion and continue to disagree. At the Court's direction, see Dkt. No. 199, Defendant Rudolf Suter filed his response, Dkt. No. 203, and Plaintiffs filed their reply, Dkt. Nos. 204. Although Plaintiffs have requested a hearing on this motion, the Court finds that there is no need for one.

         For the reasons and to the extent explained below, the Court DENIES without prejudice Plaintiffs Peter Denton and Harvest Investor L.P.'s Motion to Award Fees for Compliance with Discovery and Contempt Orders [Dkt. No. 190].

         Background

         Plaintiffs each obtained judgments against Mr. Suter for over $1, 000, 000.00.

         Plaintiffs subsequently served Mr. Suter post-judgment discovery requests as part of their attempt to collect on their judgments.

         Mr. Suter did not fully respond to Plaintiffs' discovery requests, even after the Court ordered him to do so. See Dkt. No. 173 (citing this failure to hold Mr. Suter in contempt). He, instead, left the country.

         United States District Judge David C. Godbey entered an order finding Mr. Suter to be “in civil contempt of this Court.” Id. at 6. He specifically ordered that “Defendant shall be coercively incarcerated until” certain conditions are met. See Id. at 6-7 (listing the conditions that must be met).

         Mr. Suter returned to the United States several months later and was arrested based on Judge Godbey's Order of Civil Contempt and Coercive Incarceration [Dkt. No. 173] (the “Contempt Order”) and the corresponding warrant for his arrest. See Dkt. Nos. 174 & 175 at 1-2. He also now faces criminal charges in a separate proceeding pending in this court as Case No. 3:17-cr-46-N (N.D. Tex.).

         In their Motion to Award Fees for Compliance with Discovery and Contempt Order, Plaintiffs seek attorneys' fees for the time that they have spent on this case since Mr. Suter's arrest in December 12, 2016. They specifically ask for fees for the “approximately 75 hours” they have spent trying to “enforc[e] the Orders compelling [Mr.] Suter to obey the discovery rules, the discovery process and the Order of Contempt.” Dkt. No. 190 at 2.

         Plaintiffs' counsel spent at least part of the 75 hours at issue preparing four motions that would be filed before this Court: Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce Attorneys' Fees Award [Dkt. No. 182], Motion for Ongoing Discovery [Dkt. No. 184], Motion to Compel Enforcement of Turnover Order in Aid of Satisfaction of Judgments [Dkt. No. 187], and this Motion for Attorney Fees for Compliance with Discovery [Dkt. No. 190]. The undersigned denied two of these motions, see Dkt. Nos. 206 & 207, and recommended that Judge Godbey deny another, see Dkt. No. 205.

         Plaintiffs' counsel also appear to have spent part of the 75 hours at issue on other activities. See Dkt. No. 190 at 2 (Plaintiffs describing the “approximately 75 hours of attorney and legal assist time” at issue as time spent “investigating the situation, responding to lawyers in New York, preparing court ordered responses, filing motions, conducting legal research, reviewing [Mr. Suter's] testimony[, ] and preparing a logical way for [Mr.] Suter to cure his discovery violations and comply with his ongoing obligations”).

         Plaintiffs contend that “there are multiple bases for this Honorable Court to order [Mr.] Suter to pay for the fees [they] ha[ve] incurred as a result of [Mr.] Suter's non-compliance with the Orders of this Honorable Court.” Id. According to Plaintiffs, these include ...


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