United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Tenner Murphy, by his guardians Kay and Richard Murphy; Marrie Bottelson; Dionne Swanson; and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
Emily Johnson Piper in her Capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Defendant.
DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court upon Defendant's appeal of
Magistrate Judge Becky R. Thorson's October 4, 2017 Order
and Opinion on Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Regarding
Temporal Scope and Terms for Searching Electronically Stored
Information (ESI) (“Order”) (Doc. No. 102).
Plaintiffs filed a response to Defendant's objections on
November 1, 2017. (Doc. No. 118.)
Court must modify or set aside any portion of the Magistrate
Judge's order found to be clearly erroneous or contrary
to law. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); Local Rule 72.2(a). This is an
“extremely deferential” standard. Reko v.
Creative Promotions, Inc., 70 F.Supp.2d 1005, 1007 (D.
Minn. 1999). “A finding is ‘clearly
erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it,
the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed.” Chakales v. Comm'r of Internal
Revenue, 79 F.3d 726, 728 (8th Cir. 1996) (quoting
Chase v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, 926 F.2d
737, 740 (8th Cir. 1991)). “A magistrate judge's
ruling is contrary to law when it either fails to apply or
misapplies pertinent statutes, case law or rules of
procedure.” Coons v. BNSF Ry. Co., Civ. No.
15-4282, __ F.Supp.3d __, 2017 WL 3382311, at *5 (D. Minn.
Aug. 7, 2017) (citing Edeh v. Midland Credit Mgmt.,
Inc., 748 F.Supp.2d 1030, 1043 (D. Minn. 2010)).
The Magistrate Judge's Order and Defendant's
October 4, 2017 Order, Magistrate Judge Thorson addressed
disputes between Plaintiffs and Defendant regarding (1)
search terms for conducting electronic discovery and (2) the
temporal scope applicable to particular discovery requests.
Defendant objects to the Order as it relates to both issues,
and Plaintiffs argue that Defendant has not met her burden to
prevail on these objections. The Court summarizes the
Magistrate Judge's conclusions and Defendant's
objections to the Order, below.
Magistrate Judge Thorson considered the proper search terms
to be applied to Plaintiffs' discovery
requests. The Magistrate Judge considered
Defendant's argument that utilizing Plaintiffs'
search terms would result in an undue burden but determined
that Defendant had not met her burden to preclude discovery
on this basis. In particular, the Magistrate Judge discussed
Defendant's lack of specificity regarding the claimed
burden and noted that “[g]iven the issues in this case,
it is not surprising that nearly 100, 000 documents could be
discoverable.” (Doc. No. 102 at 4.) Thus, the
Magistrate Judge “order[ed] the parties to adopt the
Plaintiffs' proposed search terms.” (Id.)
argues that the Magistrate Judge's Order is contrary to
law because she failed to adequately analyze proportionality
and relevance with respect to the search terms dispute. In
addition, Defendant asserts that the Magistrate Judge clearly
erred in concluding that Defendant had not established an
undue burden because “[i]t is overburdensome on its
face to review tens of thousands of electronic
records.” (Doc. No. 109 at 4.) Defendant emphasizes
that her proposed search terms would yield approximately 17,
000 documents whereas Plaintiffs' proposed terms which
were adopted by the Magistrate Judge yield more than 70, 000
documents. Discovery, Defendant urges, should not be used to
permit parties to conduct “a ‘fishing
expedition.'” (Id. (quoting Carlson
Cos. v. Sperry & Hutchinson Co., 374 F.Supp. 1080,
1089 (D. Minn. 1973)).)
contrast, Plaintiffs assert that the Magistrate Judge
properly determined that Plaintiffs' search terms should
be utilized in light of the relevance of the proposed terms
and the corresponding burden to Defendant. Plaintiffs
emphasize that their proposed search terms are necessary to
avoid missing relevant documents. Plaintiffs suggest that
“it is to be expected that a large number of relevant
documents will be in DHS's possession” in light of
the statewide scope of this class action litigation. (Doc.
No. 118 at 11-12.) Plaintiffs contest Defendant's
arguments that the requested discovery is facially
overburdensome or will result in a fishing expedition.
Finally, Plaintiffs contend that the Magistrate Judge
correctly found that Defendant had not established the
alleged undue burden.
Magistrate Judge Thorson evaluated the appropriate temporal
scope pertaining to Plaintiffs' written discovery
requests. The Magistrate Judge was “persuaded
that Plaintiffs' temporal limits are appropriate”
because the requested discovery was both relevant and
proportional. (Doc. No. 102 at 6-7.) Specifically, the
Magistrate Judge concluded that “Plaintiffs have
explained why the temporal scope should reach back to 2009
for Document Requests 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, and
16.” (Id. at 7.) The Magistrate Judge
acknowledged Defendant's argument that information from
2009 is not relevant in an official-capacity suit seeking
prospective relief, but determined that
“Defendant's argument . . . does not rebut
Plaintiff's showing that responsive documents created
between 2009 and the lawsuit are relevant to the underlying
claims and defense in order to establish that Plaintiffs are
entitled to the relief sought.” (Id. at 7-8.)
The Magistrate Judge further concluded that Defendant ...