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Deeds v. Aranas

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 23, 2017

ROMEO ARANAS et al., Defendants.


          ROBERT C. JONES United States District Judge.

         This is a prisoner civil rights case. Now pending before the Court is an objection to the Magistrate Judge's order granting a stay of discovery pending determination of Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 76.) For the reasons given herein, the Court overrules the objection.


         Plaintiff Richard Deeds is a prisoner in custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (“NDOC”) at Warm Springs Correctional Center (“WSCC”). On November 9, 2015, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against ten defendants, alleging various constitutional violations during the time he was housed at Ely State Prison (“ESP”). Plaintiff alleges he was denied adequate medical care, was refused a diet appropriate for his particular medical needs, was denied necessary medication, was wrongfully denied parole, and was forced to endure excessive noise, inadequate heat, a lack of outdoor exercise and cleaning supplies, and strip searches. As detailed in the Court's order screening the Complaint, most of the claims and defendants have been dismissed. (See Screening Order, ECF No. 13.) Furthermore, Plaintiff has failed to take advantage of multiple opportunities to amend his Complaint. Accordingly, the only claims still remaining in this case are: (1) Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference against Defendants Michael Koehn and Romeo Aranas for the alleged failure to provide adequate food, and (2) Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference against Defendant Renee Baker based on Plaintiff's complaints of excessive noise.

         On March 17, 2017, Defendants Koehn, Aranas, and Baker (“Defendants”) filed a motion for summary judgment. (Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 55.) Then on March 23, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to stay discovery pending a ruling on their summary judgment motion. (Mot. Stay, ECF No. 63.) The Magistrate Judge granted the motion to stay discovery. (Min. Order, ECF No. 73.) Plaintiff now asks the Court to set aside the stay under Rule 72(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Pl.'s Obj., ECF No. 76.)


         Rule 72(a) permits a district court judge to modify or set aside a magistrate judge's non-dispositive ruling that is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); see also Local R. IB 3-1(a). “A finding is ‘clearly erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing body on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Concrete Pipe & Prod. of Cal., Inc. v. Constr. Laborers Pension Tr. for S. Cal., 508 U.S. 602, 622 (1993). “A decision is ‘contrary to law' if it applies an incorrect legal standard or fails to consider an element of the applicable standard.” Conant v. McCoffey, No. C 97-0139 FMS, 1998 WL 164946, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 16, 1998) (citing Hunt v. National Broadcasting Co., 872 F.2d 289, 292 (9th Cir. 1989)). Rule 72(a) institutes an abuse-of-discretion-type standard of review, under which the reviewing court must give significant deference to the initial decision, and may not simply substitute its judgment for that of the deciding court. See Grimes v. City and Cnty. of S.F., 951 F.2d 236, 241 (9th Cir. 1991) (citing United States v. BNS Inc., 858 F.2d 456, 464 (9th Cir. 1988)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that Defendants' motion to stay discovery was granted by way of summary minute order, so in considering Plaintiff's objection the Court is left without the benefit of the Magistrate Judge's analysis and reasoning. This will require a closer look at the motion to stay and more thorough consideration of the record. See Holland v. Island Creek Corp., 885 F.Supp. 4, 6 (D.D.C. 1995) (citations omitted) (“[W]here, as here, the decision under review does not offer a reasoned explanation for its decision, and merely adopts one party's arguments in their entirety, it is incumbent on the Court to check the adopted findings against the record with particular, even painstaking, care.”).

         Also, although Plaintiff has two remaining claims, he has only raised a Rule 72(a) objection with respect to his ability to conduct discovery on the claim of Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference based on a failure to provide adequate food. Plaintiff's objection does not discuss nor even mention a need for further discovery on his excessive noise claim. Therefore, because Plaintiff has not raised the issue, the Court will not address whether the Magistrate Judge abused her discretion in granting a stay of discovery with respect to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim based on excessive noise.

         a. The Basis for Defendants' Motion to Stay Discovery

         In support of the motion to stay discovery, Defendants argued, first, that their summary judgment motion is potentially dispositive of Plaintiff's whole case. They assert that Plaintiff's institutional grievances illustrate that Aranas did not personally participate in the conduct of which Plaintiff complains. They further assert that Plaintiff's medical records show that Koehn ordered Plaintiff a diet that was tailored to his medical condition, and therefore Koehn and Aranas did not fail to provide Plaintiff with adequate food. Second, Defendants argued that they submitted, with their summary judgment motion, all of Plaintiff's grievances and medical records for the time period relevant to his Complaint. Therefore, no additional relevant documentation could be uncovered through further discovery. Lastly, Defendants argued that a discovery stay was warranted because there is a “strong likelihood” that the summary judgment motion will be resolved in their favor.

         Plaintiff opposed the motion to stay discovery, making essentially two arguments. First, Plaintiff asserted the general right of litigants to conduct discovery. (Resp. 2-3, ECF No. 67.) His main argument, however, was that Defendants asserted that all relevant grievances and medical records were submitted with their summary judgment motion, but actually omitted relevant documents. To support his argument, Plaintiff attached a number of grievances and ...

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