United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
THEODORE E. OKECHUKU, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is third-party Association of Nigerian Lawyers in
America, Inc. (ANLA)'s Objection to the Magistrate
Judge's Order (Doc. 19) on ANLA's motion for leave to
file an amicus curiae brief out-of-time and to exceed page
limit (Doc. 13), and an application for admission pro hac
vice (doc. 16) filed by ANLA's counsel, Michael
Okechuku. The Magistrate Judge's Order (the Order) denied
the motion for leave to file an amicus curiae brief, thereby
finding the application for admission pro hac vice
moot and denying the application. See Doc. 18,
Order, 1-3. For the following reasons, the Court
OVERRULES ANLA's Objection (doc. 19) and
AFFIRMS the Order (doc. 13).
Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a) provides that a “district
judge . . . must consider timely objections” to a
magistrate judge's order on a nondispositive matter
“and modify or set aside any part of the order that is
clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(a). Rule 72(a)'s “‘clearly erroneous'
standard applies to the factual components of the magistrate
judge's decision.” Lahr v. Fulbright &
Jaworski, LLP, 164 F.R.D. 204, 208 (N.D. Tex. 1996)
(quoting Smith v. Smith, 154 F.R.D. 661, 665 (N.D.
Tex. 1994)). The Rule's “contrary to law”
language, on the other hand, applies to the magistrate's
legal conclusions, meaning these conclusions “are
reviewable de novo, and the district judge reverses
if the magistrate judge erred in some respect in his legal
conclusions.” Arters v. Univision Radio Broad. TX,
LP, 2009 WL 1212285, at *2 (N.D. Tex. May 12, 2009)
(internal alteration and quotation marks omitted) (quoting
Lahr, 164 F.R.D. at 208) (internal citation
omitted). Under either standard, “[a] party who seeks
to overturn a magistrate judge's order disposing of a
discovery matter shoulders a heavy burden.”
Hamilton v. First Am. Title Ins. Co., 2010 WL
791421, at *4 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 8, 2010) (collecting cases).
main objection is that Magistrate Judge Rutherford improperly
concluded that ANLA had no unique information or perspective
to offer the Court beyond what the lawyers already on the
case could provide. Doc. 19, ANLA's Obj., 7; see
also Doc. 18, Order, 2. ANLA describes many ways in
which it believes it offers a unique perspective, all of
which pertain to alleged constitutional infirmities in
Petitioner's sentence that Petitioner's counsel
failed to raise. Doc. 19, ANLA's Obj., 7-11. ANLA also
believes that Magistrate Judge Rutherford improperly viewed
amicus curiae experience “as a prerequisite
for conferring or granting amicus curiae
status.” Id. at 12 (citing Doc. 18, Order, 2
Magistrate Judge Rutherford aptly noted, however,
“[t]he extent, if any, to which an amicus
curiae should be permitted to participate in a pending
action is solely within the broad discretion of the district
court.” Doc. 18, Order, 2 (quoting Sierra Club v.
Fed. Emerg. Mgmt. Agency, 2007 WL 3472851, at *1 (S.D.
Nov. 14, 2007)) (quoting Waste Mgmt. of Pa., Inc. v. City
of York, 162 F.R.D. 34, 36 (M.D. Pa. 1995)).
Additionally, the case law upon which ANLA relies are circuit
court cases which discuss amicus curiae
participation at the appellate level. See In re Halo
Wireless, Inc., 684 F.3d 581, 596 (5th Cir. 2012);
Ryan v. CFTC, 125 F.3d 1062, 1063 (7th Cir.
1997). And the rules of civil procedure ANLA cites
are rules of appellate and Supreme Court practice.
See Doc. 19, ANLA's Obj., 6. ANLA has not
pointed this Court to any authority that requires a district
court to grant amicus curiae participation.
In contrast, a district court has total discretion in this
context. Sierra Club, 2007 WL 3472851, at *1. Thus,
Judge Rutherford did not clearly err when she denied
ANLA's motion. Accordingly, ANLA's Objection (Doc.
19) is DENIED.
a district court were required to grant amicus
curiae participation if the amicus had unique
information that the parties' lawyers could not provide,
Judge Rutherford's conclusion that ANLA does not provide
such information, doc. 18, Order, 2, was not clearly
erroneous. Although the parties' attorneys have not
focused on alleged constitutional issues, ANLA has not shown
that these attorneys are incapable of raising these issues.
See Ryan, 125 F.3d at 1063 (explaining that
amicus curiae briefs should be allowed if
“amicus has unique information or perspective that can
help the court beyond the help that the lawyers for the
parties are able to provide”) (emphasis
the Court concludes that Judge Rutherford's footnote that
ANLA does not have experience as amicus curiae,
id. at 2 n.1, was not a basis for her decision,
contrary to what ANLA might believe. See Doc. 19,
ANLA's Obj., 12. Judge Rutherford was merely casting
doubt on ANLA's contention in its motion for leave to
file that this amicus curiae brief was a part of its
sustained “effort to grow its public advocacy role . .
. .” See Doc. 18, Order, 2 n.1 (quoting Doc.
13, Mot. for Leave, 3). Because Judge Rutherford did not rely
on ANLA's inexperience in denying its motion, this
footnote cannot be a basis for overruling the Order.
because Judge Rutherford did not clearly err in denying
ANLA's motion for leave to file an amicus curiae
brief, she also did not clearly err in denying admission
pro hac vice of ANLA's counsel on the grounds of
mootness. Doc. 19, Order, 2-3.
foregoing reasons, ANLA's Objections (doc. 19) are hereby
OVERRULED. The Magistrate Judge's Order
(doc. 18) is hereby AFFIRMED.