United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. FITZWATER3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
discovery matter related to a lawsuit pending in the Southern
District of New York, non-parties Sam Gilliland, Tom Klein,
Kyle Moore, and Greg Webb (collectively,
“movants”) object to the magistrate judge's
order denying their motion to quash deposition subpoenas and
denying in part their alternative motion for protective
orders. Concluding that movants have failed to demonstrate
that the magistrate judge abused her discretion in denying
the motion to quash and denying in part the alternative
motion for protective orders, the court AFFIRMS the
magistrate judge's order.
discovery dispute arises in connection with a lawsuit brought
against Sabre Corporation (“Sabre”) and others in
the Southern District of New York (the
“Gordon” suit). The plaintiffs in
Gordon served subpoenas on movants, all of whom are
former Sabre employees. Movants moved to quash the subpoenas
on the ground that movants had already been deposed in other
lawsuits against Sabre regarding the “same alleged
misconduct, ” i.e., the alleged conspiracy on which the
Gordon suit is based, and that it “therefore
[was] neither reasonable nor necessary for Plaintiffs to
force Movants to be questioned a third time on the same
alleged misconduct.” Mot. 17. The court referred the
motion to the magistrate judge for determination.
a hearing, the magistrate judge denied the motion to quash,
holding that there was no legal reason why the
Gordon plaintiffs should not be given an opportunity
to depose witnesses who the magistrate judge determined
“clearly may have relevant information to their claims,
even though other parties who [the plaintiffs are] not
connected to may have brought similar claims before.”
Dec. 22, 2017 Hrg. Tr. 36. The magistrate judge granted
“to a very limited extent” movants'
alternative motion for protective orders, and she ordered
“that the witnesses are not required to simply confirm
their previous testimony or deposition testimony through the
depositions.” Id. at 37; see also Id.
(stating that the witnesses “will not be called upon to
simply confirm that what they've already testified to is
accurate or true.”).
object to the magistrate's ruling on several grounds,
contending that she erred in refusing to take into account
Judge Failla's decision on plaintiffs' motion to
compel José Tazón's deposition; in failing
to consider plaintiffs' lack of need for movants'
depositions; and in refusing to limit the length and scope of
movants' depositions to subjects on which they have not
previously been deposed.
the magistrate judge's order involves a nondispositive
matter (a discovery ruling), defendants' objections are
governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a), which provides, in pertinent
part: “[t]he district judge . . . must . . . modify or
set aside any part of the [magistrate judge's] order that
is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.”
Id. “When a party appeals a magistrate
judge's order, [it] must demonstrate how the order is
reversible under the applicable standard of review-de
novo for error of law, clear error for fact findings, or
abuse of discretion for discretionary matters.”
Jefferson-Pilot Life Ins. Co. v. Bellows, 2003 WL
21501904, at *1 (N.D. Tex. June 24, 2003) (Fitzwater, J.).
“The clearly erroneous standard applies to the factual
components of the magistrate judge's decision.”
Lahr v. Fulbright & Jaworski, L.L.P., 164 F.R.D.
204, 208 (N.D. Tex. 1996) (Fitzwater, J.) (quoting Smith
v. Smith, 154 F.R.D. 661, 665 (N.D. Tex. 1994)
(Fitzwater, J.)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“The district court may not disturb a factual finding
of the magistrate judge unless, although there is evidence to
support it, the reviewing court is left with the definite and
firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.”
Id. (quoting Smith, 154 F.R.D. at 665)
(internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). “If a
magistrate judge's account of the evidence is plausible
in light of the record viewed in its entirety, a district
judge may not reverse it.” Id. (quoting
Smith, 154 F.R.D. at 665) (internal quotation marks
omitted). The legal conclusions of the magistrate judge are
reviewed de novo, and the district judge
“reverses if the magistrate judge erred in some respect
in her legal conclusions.” Id. (citing
Smith, 154 F.R.D. at 665). “[T]he abuse of
discretion standard governs review of that vast area of . . .
choice that remains to the [magistrate judge] who has
properly applied the law to fact findings that are not
clearly erroneous.” Id. (quoting
Smith, 154 F.R.D. at 665) (alteration and ellipsis
in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).
court reviews the magistrate judge's discovery decision
under the abuse of discretion standard, and it does not
substitute its own judgment for that of the magistrate judge.
See Nunn v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2010 WL
2044477, at *4 (N.D. Tex. May 24, 2010) (Fitzwater, C.J.)
(“And in matters of discretion-and discovery decisions
are usually quintessential examples of the exercise of
discretion-district judges do not substitute their own
judgment for that of the magistrate judge.”); see
also Hoffman v. L & M Arts, 2013 WL 655014, at *2
(N.D. Tex. Feb. 21, 2013) (Fitzwater, C.J.) (reviewing
discovery decision for abuse of discretion).
magistrate judge acted well within her discretion in denying
movants' motion to quash and denying in part their
alternative motion for protective orders. Although the
explanation for her decision is relatively brief-it was made
orally during the parties' December 22, 2017
hearing-there is no indication that in deciding movants'
motions the magistrate judge considered an improper factor or
failed to consider the parties' arguments as presented in
their briefs and during the hearing. In fact, she not only
provided a justification for her decision, but she also
indicated that she had considered, and disagreed with, the
decision of the district judge who is presiding in the
[t]he difference here from when the witnesses were deposed is
that they have testified and they have been deposed and so
there may be information that's come from trial and other
documents and other evidence that's gathered that's
different from that pretrial, pre-deposition when they were
first deposed and when they were first questioned and
cross-examined at trial. . . . I respect Judge Failla.
Obviously, [she] has more information about this case than I
do. . . . But, I mean, basically, there is no legal basis to
deny them their opportunity to depose witnesses who may have
relevant information in their case simply because you
unfortunately have had to defend similar claims previously.
Dec. 22, 2017 Hrg. Tr. 36-37.
the magistrate judge's decision on a motion to quash and
for protective orders represents a “quintessential
example of the exercise of discretion, ” the court
will not substitute its own judgment for that of the
magistrate judge, even if it would have decided the motion
differently had it been doing so originally. Nunn,
2010 WL 2044477, at *4. As this court stated in
Nunn, “[p]arties who seek review of . . .
discovery rulings must therefore recognize and satisfy their
obligation to demonstrate reversible error in the magistrate