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Jones v. Skolnik

United States District Court, D. Nevada

August 25, 2017

CHRISTOPHER JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
HOWARD SKOLNIK, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          LARRY R. HICKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court is Plaintiff Christopher Jones’ objections to the Magistrate Judge’s Minute Order on December 12, 2016. ECF No. 552. In the at-issue order, the Magistrate Judge found that Defendants Jeremiah Schultz, Brian Williams, and Greg Cox (collectively, “Defendants”) complied with the Magistrate Judge’s two previous orders: ECF No. 507 and ECF No. 540. Minute Order, ECF No. 550. The Magistrate Judge also denied Jones’ motion for reconsideration of the denial of Jones’ earlier motion to compel. Id. The court now overrules Jones’ objections and affirms the Magistrate Judge’s order in its entirety for the reasons discussed below. The court also sets a thirty-day deadline to file dispositive motions from the date of entry of this order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Jones obtained the Magistrate Judge’s permission to reissue a subpoena duces tecum. See ECF No. 487. Jones then caused the subpoena to be served on Sheriff Lombardo of Clark County, Nevada, at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. ECF No. 506, Ex. 1. The subpoena commanded the production of contact information from the ex-felon registry for four potential witnesses to Jones’ claims: (1) Kevin Smith; (2) Michael Washington; (3) Jose Alcocer; and (4) Isidro Lemus-Leon. Id. However, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department objected to the subpoena and refused to produce the requested information, citing Nevada Revised Statute (“N.R.S”) § 179C.170. Id. at Ex. 2.

         N.R.S. Chapter 179C requires certain convicted persons to register with the sheriff or chief of police by filing a written statement. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 179C.100(4). The statement must contain particular information, including the convicted person’s address. Id. The statute prohibits the sheriff or the chief of police from opening the written statements for inspection by the public. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 179C.170(1). However, the statute permits copies of the statements to be provided to “the head of any department of the State of Nevada engaged in the enforcement of any criminal law of [Nevada].” Nev. Rev. Stat. § 179C.170(2)(c). Despite N.R.S. § 179C.170(1) prohibiting public inspection of the written statements, Jones moved to compel Sheriff Lombardo’s compliance with the subpoena. ECF No. 506. Sheriff Lombardo opposed Jones’ motion. ECF No. 510.

         A few days after Jones filed his motion to compel, the Magistrate Judge ordered the Nevada Attorney General’s Office “to direct an investigator to review the ex-felon registry for the last known addresses for Kevin Smith and Michael Washington”-the first two witnesses named in the subpoena directed to Sheriff Lombardo. See Minutes of Proceedings, ECF No. 507. In a subsequent order, the Magistrate Judge also ordered the Nevada Attorney General’s Office to “direct an investigator to review the ex-felon registry and provide [the last known addresses] for Jose Alcocer and Isidro Lemus-Leon”-the last two witnesses named in the subpoena directed to Sheriff Lombardo. Minute Order, ECF No. 540. Based on the Magistrate Judge’s directives to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office in both orders, the Magistrate Judge denied Jones’ motion to compel Sheriff Lombardo’s compliance with the subpoena as moot. Id.

         Defendants filed a notice of compliance for both of the Magistrate Judge’s orders. ECF Nos. 511, 542. To comply with the first and the second order, an employee of the Nevada Attorney General’s Office accessed the requested information through the National Crime Information Center database and the Lexis Advance database, respectively. ECF No. 511, Ex. A; ECF No. 542, Ex. A. From these searches, Defendants provided the last-known contact information for the four potential witnesses to Jones. ECF No. 511, Ex. B; ECF No. 542, Ex. B; ECF No. 543, Ex. 1; ECF No. 543, Ex. 3. Jones used the information provided by the Defendants to contact the witnesses via U.S. mail, but Jones’ letters to Kevin Smith and to Isidro Lemus-Leon were returned. ECF No. 543, Ex. 2; ECF No. 543, Ex. 4.[1]

         Jones then filed ECF No. 543, which included a notice of Defendants’ non-compliance with the Magistrate Judge’s two orders and a motion for reconsideration of the Magistrate Judge’s denial of Jones’ motion to compel Sheriff Lombardo’s compliance with the subpoena. ECF No. 543. Defendants responded to Jones’ filing, arguing that they complied with the Magistrate Judge’s orders by providing the last-known contact information from a registry available to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office. ECF No. 546. Defendants claimed that N.R.S. § 179C.170 prohibits access to the ex-felon registry-even access by the Nevada Attorney General for private needs in civil matters rather than for criminal purposes. Id. Jones, however, emphasized that the requested information had not been obtained from the ex-felon registry as required by the language in the Magistrate Judge’s orders. Id. at 4–5. The Magistrate Judge issued a minute order on December 12, 2016, finding Defendants in compliance with both orders and denying Jones’ motion for reconsideration. Minute Order, ECF No. 550.

         Jones now objects to the Magistrate Judge’s order. ECF No. 552. Defendants oppose Jones’ objections. ECF No. 556.

         Jones also moves for clarification regarding the scheduling order for dispositive motions. ECF No. 70. The Magistrate Judge stayed dispositive motions pending the resolution of Defendant Howard Skolnik’s appeal. ECF No. 507, ¶ 5. The Ninth Circuit decided Skolnik’s appeal on December 16, 2016, dismissing him from this case. Jones v. Skolnik, 671 F. App’x 560 (9th Cir. 2016), cert denied, No. 16-9134, 2017 WL 2080932 (U.S. June 19, 2017); ECF No. 551. This court entered a mandate adhering to the Ninth Circuit’s decision on March 15, 2017. ECF No. 569. Discovery closed on May 5, 2016. See Minutes of Proceedings, ECF No. 465. Based on the foregoing, Defendants agree that a scheduling order addressing the dispositive motion deadline is needed. ECF No. 571.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A magistrate judge may decide non-dispositive pretrial matters. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). The magistrate judge’s order generally operates as a final determination. LR IB 1–3. But if a party timely objects to the magistrate judge’s order, a district court judge must review the order and “set aside any part […] that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); LR IB 3–1(a). “Clear error occurs when ‘the reviewing court on the entire record is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.’” Smith v. Clark Cty. Sch. Dist., 727 F.3d 950, 950 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting United States v. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)). “An order is contrary to law when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of procedure.” Jadwin v. Cty. of Kern, 767 F. Supp. 2d 1069, 1110-11 (E.D. Cal. 2011) (quoting DeFazio v. Wallis, 459 F. Supp. 2d 159, 163 (E.D.N.Y. 2006)). However, in reviewing the order, the court applies the deferential abuse-of-discretion standard; the magistrate judge’s order will be reversed only if the magistrate judge abused her broad discretion. Columbia Pictures, Inc. v. Bunnell, 245 F.R.D. 443, 446 (C.D. Cal. 2007); see also Premium Serv. Corp. v. Sperry & Hutchinson Co., 511 F.2d 225, 229 (9th Cir. 1975) (holding a judge abuses her discretion only when her decision is contrary to law or clear error based on the evidence).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Jones objects to the Magistrate Judge’s order on two bases. ECF No. 552 at 2. First, Jones argues the Magistrate Judge clearly erred when finding Defendants in compliance with the two previous orders. ECF No. 552 at 2–3. Second, Jones argues the Magistrate Judge ruled contrary to law by denying the unopposed motion for reconsideration of Jones’ motion to compel Sheriff Lombardo’s compliance with the subpoena. ECF ...


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