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Tikabo v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

September 18, 2017

Luul Yikalo Tikabo, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
United States of America, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GRAY H. MILLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the court is a memorandum and recommendation (“M&R”) filed by Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson. Dkt. 30. The Magistrate Judge considered defendant United States' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 21). Id. Plaintiffs, Luul Yikalo Tikabo and sole proprietorship Selam Grocery (collectively, “Tikabo ”), timely objected to the M&R. Dkt. 31. The United States did not object. Having considered the M&R, the motion, Tikabo's objections, and other relevant materials in the record, the court is of the opinion that Tikabo's objections should be OVERRULED and that the M&R should be ADOPTED IN FULL.

         I. Background

         Tikabo filed this action seeking review of a final decision by the Food and Nutrition Service (“FNS”) of the United States Department of Agriculture. Dkt. 1. FNS permanently disqualified Tikabo from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) for illegal food stamp trafficking. Dkts. 1, 21 at 2-3. The United States moved for summary judgment on grounds that the disqualification was not arbitrary and capricious as a matter of law. Dkt. 21. The Magistrate Judge agreed. Dkt. 30. Tikabo asks the court to reject the M&R in full. Dkt. 31 at 3.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Magistrate Judge

         For dispositive matters, the court “determine[s] de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). “The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Id. “When no timely objection is filed, the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), Advisory Comm. Note (1983). For non-dispositive matters, the court may set aside the magistrate judge's order only to the extent that it is “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a).

         B. Motion for Summary Judgment

         A court shall grant summary judgment if a “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed R. Civ. P. 56(a). “[A] fact is genuinely in dispute only if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Fordoche, Inc. v. Texaco, Inc., 463 F.3d 388, 392 (5th Cir. 2006). The moving party bears the initial burden on demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986). If the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Fed R. Civ. P. 56(e). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Envtl. Conservation Org. v. City of Dallas, 529 F.3d 519, 524 (5th Cir. 2008).

         III. Objections

         Tikabo objects to: (1) the evidentiary burden applied; (2) the United States' evidence; (3) the filing of the M&R before discovery ended; (4) the recommended denial of Tikabo's Rule 56(d) motion; and (5) the Magistrate Judge's wording. Dkts. 31, 31-2.

         A.Evidentiary Burden

         1. Legal Standard

         Courts review SNAP disqualification challenges under a de novo standard of review. 7 U.S.C.§ 2023(a)(13); Redmond v. United States, 507 F.2d 1007, 1010 (5th Cir. 1975). Courts may also review the propriety of a sanction, but under a different standard of review: “arbitrary and capricious.” 7 U.S.C. § 2023(a)(13); Goodman v. United States, 518 F.2d 505, 509, 512 (5th Cir. ...


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