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Briks v. Smith, Strege, Fredericksen, Butts, & Clark, Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 15, 2019

James Briks and Jerome Briks, Plaintiffs,
v.
Smith, Strege, Fredericksen, Butts, & Clark, Ltd and Richard E.T. Smith, Defendants.

          ORDER

          WILHELMINA M. WRIGHT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' objections to the June 6, 2019 combined Order and Report and Recommendation (R&R) of United States Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois. (Dkts. 50, 51.) For the reasons addressed below, the R&R is rejected, and the Order is affirmed in all other respects.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiffs James Briks and Jerome Briks commenced this lawsuit on January 8, 2019, against the law firm of Smith, Strege, Fredericksen, Butts, & Clark, Ltd and one of the firm's lawyers, Richard E.T. Smith. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants' actions violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution when Defendants established a trust for Plaintiffs' brother and improperly placed certain property in it.

         On February 8, 2019, Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), (6). Plaintiffs subsequently filed a “Notice” on February 19, 2019, which contained an exhibit labeled “Amended Complaint.” In the June 6, 2019 Order and R&R, the magistrate judge recommended granting Defendants' motion to dismiss the January 8, 2019 complaint and ruled on several nondispositive issues raised by the parties.

         ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs object to the magistrate judge's recommendation to grant the motion to dismiss and appeal the remainder of the magistrate judge's order.

         I. Objection to the R&R

         When a plaintiff timely objects to an R&R, the district court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which the objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); LR 72.2(b)(3). The district court also may review an R&R “sua sponte or at the request of a party, under a de novo or any other standard.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985) (observing that the “district judge has jurisdiction over the case at all times” and “retains full authority to decide whether to refer a case to the magistrate, to review the magistrate's report, and to enter judgment”).

         On February 19, 2019, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, which was within the 21-day period during which a plaintiff may file an amendment as a matter of course. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B) (providing a 21-day deadline for a party to amend its pleading after service of a Rule 12(b) motion). Although Plaintiffs filed the amended complaint as an exhibit to a document labeled “Notice, ” pro se filings are liberally construed. See Williams v. Carter, 10 F.3d 563, 567 (8th Cir. 1993) (“Pleadings and other documents filed by pro se litigants should be treated with a degree of indulgence . . . .”). As such, the February 19, 2019 amended complaint is the operative complaint in this matter. For this reason, the Court rejects the R&R's recommendation to grant Defendants' motion to dismiss the January 8, 2019 complaint. Instead, Defendants' motion to dismiss the January 8, 2019 complaint is denied as moot.

         II. Appeal of the Magistrate Judge's Order

         Plaintiffs appeal the magistrate judge's rulings on three nondispositive issues: the striking of Plaintiffs' second, unsolicited memorandum of law, the termination of Plaintiffs' Motion to Show Cause, and the denial of Plaintiffs' motion for sanctions.

         When a plaintiff appeals a magistrate judge's order on nondispositive issues, the district court applies an “extremely deferential” standard of review. Scott v. United States, 552 F.Supp.2d 917, 919 (D. Minn. 2008). The district court will modify or set aside such a ruling only if it is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); LR 72.2(a)(3); Ferguson v. United States, 484 F.3d 1068, 1076 (8th Cir. 2007). A ruling is clearly erroneous when, after reviewing the evidence in its entirety, the court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. Wells Fargo & Co. v. United States, 750 F.Supp.2d 1049, 1050 (D. Minn. 2010). A nondispositive ruling is contrary to law when it “fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law or rules of procedure.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         A. Plaintiffs' ...


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