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Mille Lacs Band of Objibwe v. County of Mille Lacs

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 22, 2019

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, a federally recognized Indian Tribe; Sara Rice, in her official capacity as the Mille Lacs Band Chief of Police; and Derrick Naumann, in his official capacity as Sergeant of the Mille Lacs Police Department, Plaintiffs,
v.
County of Mille Lacs, Minnesota; Joseph Walsh, individually and in his official capacity as County Attorney for Mille Lacs County; and Don Lorge, individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff of Mille Lacs County, Defendants.

          Charles N. Nauen, Arielle Wagner, and David J. Zoll, Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP, Beth Ann Baldwin, Marc D. Slonim, and Wyatt Golding, Ziontz Chestnut, for Plaintiffs

          Courtney E. Carter and Randy V. Thompson, Nolan, Thompson, Leighton & Tataryn, for Defendant County of Mille Lacs, Minnesota

          Scott M. Flaherty and Scott G. Knudson, Briggs & Morgan, for Defendant Joseph Walsh

          Brett D. Kelley, Douglas A. Kelley, and Steven E. Wolter, Kelley, Wolter & Scott, P.A., for Defendant Don Lorge.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' OBJECTION TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S LETTER ORDER OF JULY 19, 2019

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Objection [Doc. No. 73] filed by Defendants County Attorney Joseph Walsh and Sheriff Don Lorge to the July 19, 2019 Letter Order [Doc. No. 72] (“the Order”) of Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois. In the Order, the magistrate judge denied Defendants' letter request (see Defs.' June 20, 2019 Letter [Doc. No. 68]) for leave to file dispositive motions prior to the September 30, 2019 close of fact discovery. For the reasons set forth below, the Court overrules the Defendants' Objection and affirms the Order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In brief, this case concerns the boundaries of the Mille Lacs Indian Reservation and the law enforcement authority of the Mille Lacs Band within those boundaries.[1]Because the objections in question concern a procedural matter, the Court confines its discussion to the facts necessary to explain its ruling.

         The pretrial scheduling order in this case provides a deadline of September 30, 2019 for the parties to complete fact discovery. (Am. Pretrial Sched. Order [Doc. No. 60] ¶ I.) In addition, it requires the parties to contact the undersigned judge's chambers no later than May 1, 2020 to schedule a hearing for dispositive motions. (Id. ¶ X.)

         In a June 20, 2019 letter to Magistrate Judge Brisbois, Defendants Walsh and Lorge requested leave to file dispositive motions prior to the September 30, 2019 close of fact discovery. (Defs.' June 20, 2019 Letter at 1-3.) They sought to move for summary judgment on the following issues: (1) various forms of immunity, including prosecutorial immunity, Eleventh Amendment immunity, and qualified immunity; (2) lack of subject matter jurisdiction; (3) Younger abstention; and (4) that official-capacity claims against Walsh and Lorge are redundant as a matter of law because claims against Defendant Mille Lacs County also bind both Walsh and Lorge. (Id. at 1.) Walsh and Lorge argued that no discovery remains as to these issues, (id.), and judicial efficiency favors the early resolution of these issues. (Id. at 2-3.) They further asserted that the “needless burden to the taxpayers of Mille Lacs County” resulting from “[t]he addition of the county attorney and [county] sheriff” as defendants in the case warrants prompt resolution. (Id. at 2.)

         Plaintiffs opposed the request on several grounds, and instead proposed that any early dispositive motions be filed immediately after the close of fact discovery. (Pls.' July 3, 2019 Letter [Doc. No. 70] at 1.) They first noted that several of the dispositive issues that Walsh and Lorge seek to raise are intertwined with Plaintiffs' proposed summary judgment cross motions on certain of Defendants' affirmative defenses.[2] (Id.) And, Plaintiffs argued, at least some of the defenses for which Walsh and Lorge seek early dispositive motion practice are dependent on facts that have been a focus of fact discovery, which remains underway. (Id. at 1-2.) Thus, even if Defendants filed their early dispositive motions, Plaintiffs asserted that they would likely seek an extension of time in which to respond until the completion of fact discovery. (Id.)

         In addition, they asserted that they would be hard-pressed to file and respond to early summary judgment motions in this short timeframe. (Id.) They would need time to review Defendants' responses to contention interrogatories prior to preparing their cross motion, (id. at 2), and they were otherwise occupied with expert witnesses in order to meet the September 1, 2019 expert report deadline. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs further noted that Walsh and Lorge did not move to dismiss on any of the legal grounds for which they now claim early dispositive motion practice is warranted. (Id. at 2-3.) Finally, as a practical matter, Plaintiffs argued that given the timeframes necessary to schedule a hearing and brief dispositive motions, it appeared unlikely that the Court could rule on their motions before the completion of fact discovery in any event. (Id.)

         Magistrate Judge Brisbois agreed with Plaintiffs that given the “short window of time remaining” in fact discovery, there were no material efficiencies to be gained, and no inordinate burdens to be avoided by any party were he to permit the filing of early dispositive motions. (Order at 2.) Moreover, he noted that allowing the completion of fact discovery will avoid the possibility of any Rule 56(d) motions filed by Plaintiffs, by which they might otherwise ...


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