United States District Court, D. Minnesota
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
LEO I. BRISBOIS, Magistrate Judge.
This matter came before the Court upon Plaintiffs' Motion for an Order to Show Cause, [Docket No. 29], and upon the Court's Order to Show Cause, [Docket No. 33]. A hearing on the Motion was held on January 30, 2014, at which both parties were represented by counsel. (See Minute Entry [Docket No. 39]). For the reasons discussed below, the Court recommends that Plaintiffs' Motion for an Order to Show Cause, [Docket No. 29], be GRANTED; that Defendant be found in contempt and ordered to pay a fine to the Court which fine may be expunged by his timely compliance with this Court's prior Order to Compel [Docket No. 27].
On February 22, 2013, Plaintiffs brought this suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act alleging that Andrew Jutila, doing business as AJ's Companies and Andrew Jutila Companies ("Defendant") had breached its collective bargaining agreement by failing to provide a complete set of payroll and employment records for the period of September 1, 2010, through December 31, 2011 (the "audit period"). (Compl. [Docket No. 1]). Plaintiffs seek an Order compelling Defendant to (1) provide a complete set of payroll and employment records for the audit period; (2) pay liquidated damages on any unpaid benefit contributions found to be due; and (3) pay the attorneys' fees and costs Plaintiffs incurred in bringing this action. (Id.). Defendant filed his Answer on April 22, 2013. [Docket No. 10]. A pretrial conference was held on July 11, 2013, (Minute Entry [Docket No. 15]), and this Court issued its Pretrial Scheduling Order on July 15, 2013. [Docket No. 16].
On October 4, 2013, Plaintiffs made a Motion to Compel Discovery Responses, [Docket No. 17], in which they alleged that Defendant had neither served his Rule 26(a)(1) disclosures, nor responded to Plaintiffs' discovery requests. (Mem. Supp. Mot. Compel [Docket No. 19]). A hearing on the Motion was scheduled for December 5, 2013, (Notice of Hearing [Docket No. 18]), and was subsequently rescheduled for December 4, 2013. (Text-only Order [Docket No. 24]). However, pursuant to the parties' Stipulation, [Docket No. 25], the hearing was cancelled, (Text-only Order [Docket No. 28]), and the Motion was granted, with Defendant given until December 13, 2013, to respond to Plaintiffs' discovery requests. (Order to Compel [Docket No. 27]).
Plaintiffs made their present Motion to Show Cause, [Docket No. 29], on December 30, 2013, alleging that Defendant failed to comply with the Court's previous Order to Compel. On that same day, this Court issued the Order to Show Cause, [Docket No. 33], requiring Defendant to appear for a hearing on January 30, 2014, and show cause why he should not be held in contempt for his failure to comply with the prior Order to Compel, [Docket No. 27].
This Court has the authority to hold a party in contempt. 28 U.S.C. § 636(e)(1) ("A United States magistrate judge... shall have within the territorial jurisdiction prescribed by the appointment of such magistrate judge the power to exercise contempt authority as set forth in this subsection"); Chicago Truck Drivers Union Pension Fund v. Bhd. Labor Leasing , 207 F.3d 500, 504 (8th Cir. 2000) ("In a proceeding before a magistrate judge, disobedience of a lawful order shall constitute a contempt of the district court for the district wherein the magistrate is sitting") (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(e)) (internal quotation omitted). "The court may hold a party violating a discovery order in contempt of court." Edeh v. Carruthers, Civ. No. 10-2860 (RJK/JSM), 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118210, at *6 (D. Minn. Sept. 20, 2011) (Mayeron, M.J.), adopted by 2011 U.S. Dist. Lexis 117054 (D. Minn. Oct. 11, 2011) (Kyle, J.).
"Civil... contempt is a sanction to enforce compliance with an order of the court or to compensate for losses or damages sustained by reason of noncompliance." McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co. , 336 U.S. 187, 191 (1949); Chicago Truck Drivers , 207 F.3d at 505 ("Civil contempt may be employed either to coerce the defendant into compliance with a court order or to compensate the complainant for losses sustained, or both."). "Before a party can be held in contempt for violating a court order, he must have actual knowledge of the order and the order must be sufficiently specific to be enforceable." Hazen v. Reagan , 16 F.3d 921, 924 (8th Cir. 1994) (quotation omitted). When imposing a coercive sanction, "the court has broad discretion to design a remedy that will bring about compliance." United States v. Open Access Tech. Int'l, Inc. , 527 F.Supp.2d 910, 913 (D. Minn. 2007) (Davis, J.) (quoting Paramedics Electromedicina Comercial, Ltda. V. GE Med. Sys. , 369 F.3d 645, 657 (2d Cir. 2004)). "One of the overarching goals of a court's contempt power is to ensure that litigants do not anoint themselves with the power to adjudge the validity of orders to which they are subject." Chicago Truck Drivers , 207 F.3d at 504 (citing United States v. United Mine Workers , 330 U.S. 258, 290 n.56 (1947)).
Based upon the evidence in the record, the Court makes the following recommend findings of fact and conclusions of law.
A. Proposed Findings of Fact
The Court makes the following proposed findings of fact by clear and convincing evidence:
1. This Court's Pretrial Scheduling Order required Defendant to make his Rule 26(a)(1) disclosures on or before July 25, 2013. (Pretrial Scheduling Order [Docket No. 16], at 2). Defendant has not done so. (Aff. Lawrie [Docket No. 31] (hereinafter "2d Aff. Lawrie"), at ¶ 4).
2. Plaintiffs served discovery requests on Defendant on August 13, 2013. (Aff. Lawrie, [Docket No. 20] (hereinafter, "1st Aff. Lawrie"), at ¶ 3). Those discovery requests consisted of Interrogatories, (1st Aff. Lawrie, Ex. A [Docket No. 20-1], at 2-8), and Requests for Production of Documents, (1st Aff. Lawrie, Ex. B [Docket No. 20-1], at 10-16). Upon receiving no response, Plaintiffs followed up by Letter on September 30, 2013. (1st Aff. Lawrie, Ex. D [Docket No. 20-1], ...