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Murphy v. Piper

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 18, 2018

Tenner Murphy, by his guardians Kay and Richard Murphy; Marrie Bottelson; Dionne Swanson; and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
Emily Johnson Piper in her Capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Defendant.

          ORDER

          DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendant's appeal (Doc. No. 203) of Magistrate Judge Becky R. Thorson's February 21, 2018 Order on Plaintiffs' Motion Pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2) (Doc. No. 189). Plaintiffs filed a response to Defendant's objections on March 21, 2018. (Doc. No. 206.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Legal Standard

         The 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., 268 F.Supp.3d 983, 991 (D. Minn. 2017) (citing Edeh v. Midland Credit Mgmt., Inc., 748 F.Supp.2d 1030, 1043 (D. Minn. 2010)).

         II. The Magistrate Judge's Order and Defendant's Objections

         On January 25, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Motion Pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2), seeking to compel Defendant to fully respond to an interrogatory that Plaintiffs had initially prepared on February 21, 2017. (See Doc. Nos. 175, 177; see also Doc. No. 70 (“Burke Aff.”) ¶ 2, Ex. A at 8, 13.) Specifically, Plaintiffs took issue with Defendant's response to Interrogatory No. 6(c), a subpart of the following interrogatory:

INTERROGATORY NO. 6: For each lead agency, identify:
a. Current compliance with the Person-Centered, Informed Choice, and Transition Protocol, available at: http://mn.gov/dhs-stat-images/pcpprotocol.pdf;
b. The number of individuals who have moved from a corporate foster care facility into an alternative to foster care; and
c. For each person identified in part b of this interrogatory, explain and describe in detail how the transition and move occurred.

         (Burke Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. A at 8.) In their Rule 37(b)(2) Motion, Plaintiffs also sought a contempt finding against Defendant and attorney fees. (Doc. No. 175.) Defendant opposed Plaintiffs' motion. (Doc. Nos. 180-85.)

         On February 21, 2018, the Magistrate Judge granted Plaintiffs' Rule 37(b)(2) motion in part, compelling a supplemental response to Interrogatory No. 6(c), but otherwise denying without prejudice Plaintiffs' requested relief. (Doc. No. 189 at 14-17.) Specifically, the Magistrate Judge determined that Defendants' supplemental response to Interrogatory No. 6(c) was inadequate. The Magistrate Judge explained that Defendant's supplemental interrogatory response, along with the supporting documents filed in opposition to Plaintiffs' motion, demonstrated “that Defendant has responsive information that was not included in her supplemental response.” (Id. at 11.) Even though Defendant admitted to having responsive information within her own databases, the Magistrate Judge explained, “[s]he simply chose not to search them because she contends the search (1) would be too burdensome ...


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