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Gordon v. Amadeus IT Group S.A.

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

March 27, 2018

DANIEL GORDON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
AMADEUS IT GROUP S.A., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SIDNEY A. FITZWATER3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this 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.[1]

         I

         This 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.

         Following 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.”).[2]

         Movants 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.

         II

         Because 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).

         The 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).

         III

         The 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 Gordon suit:

[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.

         Because 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 judge's ...


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