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Johnson v. Life Insurance Co. of North America

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 31, 2017

DESIREE JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA, Defendant.

          ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS

          WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Rule 72(a) Objection (“Objection”) (ECF No. 50) to the Magistrate Judge's rulings on certain discovery issues (ECF No. 42). Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Supplement the Administrative Record Under ERISA (“Motion to Supplement”) (ECF No. 54). For the reasons explained below, the Objection is overruled and the Motion to Supplement is denied.

         I. RULE 72(a) OBJECTION (ECF No. 50)

         A. Legal Standard

         “Discovery is a nondispositive matter . . . .” Hutchinson v. Pfeil, 105 F.3d 562, 566 (10th Cir. 1997). When reviewing an objection to a magistrate judge's nondispositive ruling, the Court must adopt the ruling unless it finds that the ruling is “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Hutchinson, 105 F.3d at 566; Ariza v. U.S. West Commc'ns, Inc., 167 F.R.D. 131, 133 (D. Colo. 1996). The clearly erroneous standard “requires that the reviewing court affirm unless it on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Ocelot Oil Corp. v. Sparrow Indus., 847 F.2d 1458, 1464 (10th Cir. 1988). The “contrary to law” standard permits “plenary review as to matters of law, ” 12 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 3069 (2d ed., Apr. 2016 update), but the Court will set aside a Magistrate Judge's order only if it applied the wrong legal standard or applied the appropriate legal standard incorrectly, see Wyoming v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 239 F.Supp.2d 1219, 1236 (D. Wyo. 2002).

         B. Analysis

         Plaintiff served interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admission on Defendant, some of which Defendant objected to, leading to a motion to compel from Plaintiff. (ECF No. 29.) On August 30, 2016, the Magistrate Judge held a three-hour hearing to resolve the many disputes raised by the motion to compel. (See ECF No. 42.) Plaintiff now objects apparently to every ruling from the Magistrate Judge that did not go her way. Plaintiff's objection suffers from at least two fatal flaws.

         First, the Magistrate Judge made all of his rulings on the record in open court, yet Plaintiff has not provided the Court with a transcript of the hearing. Plaintiff instead offers a table with one-sentence summaries of those rulings. (ECF No. 50 at 4-8.) Many of the summaries are a single word, “Denied, ” with no explanation. Others contain a very brief explanation, e.g., “ruled as ‘argumentative' and compound.” (Id. at 6.) But in either event, the Court lacks all context, discussion, and-most importantly- the Magistrate Judge's actual words. The Court cannot properly review any rulings on this record, which Plaintiff has failed to supply. Cf. Rios v. Bigler, 67 F.3d 1543, 1553 (10th Cir. 1995) (“It is not this court's burden to hunt down the pertinent materials. Rather, it is Plaintiff's responsibility as the appellant to provide us with a proper record on appeal.”).

         Second, as noted above, the standard of review is “clearly erroneous or . . . contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Plaintiff nowhere argues that any specific ruling amounts to clear error, or was made contrary to law. See, e.g., Horton v. Doe, 2011 WL 6217115, at *3 (D. Colo. Dec. 14, 2011) (Rule 72(a) objections must be specific to enable proper review). Instead, as part of the same table summarizing the Magistrate Judge's rulings, Plaintiff includes a column briefly describing her argument in favor of each discovery request, and these arguments frequently comprise only vague assertions such as “[c]larity is needed” or “[t]hese facts are easy to furnish and will be helpful.” (ECF No. 50 at 5.) This does not satisfy Plaintiff's obligation to present a specific Rule 72(a) objection.

         For these reasons, Plaintiff's Objection will be overruled.

         II. MOTION TO SUPPLEMENT THE RECORD (ECF No. 54)

         A. Preliminary Matters

         Plaintiff requests that the Court add three categories of documents to the administrative record. As to two of these categories, the Court can dispose of Plaintiff's request fairly quickly.

         The first category of documents is the materials Plaintiff successfully obtained through discovery. Defendant has no objection to Plaintiff citing or otherwise relying on these materials in her merits briefs, but believes that the materials should not be a part of the administrative record. (ECF No. 58 at 9.) The Court agrees. Plaintiff may make these discovery materials part of the district court record, but they are not ...


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