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Walker v. City of New York

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 30, 2018

MICHAEL WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, GREGORY GORDON, and MICHAEL SMITH, Defendants.

          DECISION & ORDER

          HON. WILLIAM F. KUNTZ, II, United States District Judge.

         Michael Walker ("Plaintiff) brings this action against the City of New York and New York City Police Department ("NYPD") Officers Gregory Gordon and Michael Smith (collectively, "Defendants") for damages resulting from alleged unconstitutional policies and actions arising out of an alleged excessive use of force incident which occurred on February 2, 2013. Complaint, ECF No. 1.

         On July 7, 2017, the date on which Magistrate Judge Kuo directed all parties to complete discovery and certify that disclosure was completed, Plaintiff moved to compel unresolved discovery, including a request that Judge Kuo reconsider the Court's prior order barring discovery related to a Confidential Informant ("CI"). Pl.'s Motion to Compel, ECF No. 53.

         On July 27, 2017, Magistrate Judge Kuo heard argument on Plaintiffs motion by telephone conference, wherein Magistrate Judge Kuo ruled on Plaintiffs discovery motions and granted Defendants' request to bifurcate discovery with respect to the Monell[1]claim pending resolution of the individual claims. Transcript ("Tr."), ECF No. 64; see also July 27, 2017 Minute Order ("Kuo MO").

         On August 9, 2017, Plaintiff filed a timely objection to Judge Kuo's July 27, 2017 rulings. Pl.'s Objections, ECF No. 59. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a), Plaintiff seeks the District Court's review of the following: (1) Denial of Plaintiff s request to hold the deposition of a CI; (2) Denial of Plaintiff s request to compel defendant Gordon to produce his Facebook postings; (3) Grant of Defendants' request to bifurcate and stay discovery with respect to the Monell claim; and (4) Denial of Plaintiff s request to compel discovery of documents pertaining to defendant Gordon's misconduct hearing for insubordination. Id. On September 20, 2017, Defendants filed a response in opposition to Plaintiffs objections. Defs.' Response, ECF No. 66. After a careful review of Magistrate Judge Kuo's July 27, 2017 order in light of Plaintiff s objections, this Court finds that Plaintiffs objections are without merit and affirms Judge Kuo's July 27, 2017 order in its entirety.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         I. Objections to a Magistrate Judge's Order

         District Courts are empowered to "designate a magistrate judge to hear and decide a pretrial matter that is 'not dispositive of a party's claim or defense.'" Arista Records, LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110, 116 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a)) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A)). If a party timely objects to the magistrate judge's decision on the non-dispositive matter, "[t]he district judge in the case must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or contrary to law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Pretrial discovery motions are considered nondispositive and are reviewed for clear error. City of New York v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 13-CV-9173, 2017 WL 633445, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 14, 2017) (Ramos, J.) (citations omitted). "A ruling is 'clearly erroneous' where, 'although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court... is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.'" Gruss v. Zwirn, 9-CV-644, 2013 WL 3481350, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. July 10, 2013) (Gardephe, J.) (quoting United States v. Chowdhury, 639 F.3d 583, 585 (2d Cir. 2011) (citing Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (1985))). "An order is 'contrary to law' when it 'fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law or rules of procedure."' Id. (citations omitted). "This is a highly deferential standard, and '[t]he party seeking to overturn a magistrate judge's decision thus carries a heavy burden.'" FedEx Ground Package Sys., 2017 WL 633445, at *3 (citations omitted); see also Gruss, 2013 WL 3481350, at *5 ("Magistrate judges are given broad latitude in resolving discovery disputes... ." (citation omitted)); Auto. Club of New York, Inc. v. The Port Auth. of New York & New Jersey, 1 l-CV-6746, 2015 WL 3404111, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 27, 2015) (Eaton, J.) ("A magistrate judge's resolution of a discovery dispute deserves substantial deference." (citation omitted)).

         II. Scope of Discovery

         The scope of discovery permitted under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is set forth in Rule 26(b)(1):

Scope in General. Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

         Information is relevant if: "(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Fed.R.Evid. 401. Relevance is a matter of degree, and the standard is applied more liberally in discovery than it is at trial. See Refco Grp. Ltd. v. Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P., 13-CV-1654, 2014 WL 5420225, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 24, 2014) (Pitman, M.J.) ("It is well established that relevance for the purpose of discovery is broader in scope than relevance for the purpose of the trial itself." (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)). On the other hand, proportionality focuses on the "marginal utility of the discovery sought" and requires a balancing of the multiple factors set forth in Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Vaigasi v. Solow Mgmt. Corp., 1 l-CV-5088, 2016 WL 616386, at *14 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 16, 2016) (Pitman, M.J.). "Proportionality and relevance are 'conjoined' concepts; the greater the relevance of the information in issue, the less likely its discovery will be found to be disproportionate." Id. (citation omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Denial of Plaintiffs Request to Conduct ...


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