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Anderson v. Nevada Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 14, 2018

JOSEPH M. ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NEVADA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          ROBERT C. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a prisoner civil rights case. Now pending before the Court are two motions for reconsideration, (ECF Nos. 60, 80), and a motion for clarification of a prior order, (ECF No. 78).

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff sued Defendants in state court under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, alleging violations of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, retaliation in violation of the First Amendment, and a civil rights conspiracy. The Court permitted certain claims to proceed and gave leave to amend certain other claims. Upon amendment, the Court permitted RLUIPA, First Amendment retaliation, Equal Protection Clause, and civil rights conspiracy claims to proceed but dismissed a due process claim with prejudice.

         On March 31, 2017, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion argued, first, that Plaintiff had failed to exhaust administrative remedies as to the claims against all Defendants other than Ray East, Jonathan Ball, and Jethro Parks; second, that the statute of limitations had run on the claims against East and Ball; and third, that the First Amendment retaliation claim against Parks failed on the merits. Subsequently, Defendants moved for a stay of discovery pending the Court's ruling on their summary judgment motion. (Mot. Stay, ECF No. 41.) Following a motion hearing, Magistrate Judge William G. Cobb granted the stay.

         According to the hearing minutes, Judge Cobb initially observed that the summary judgment motion primarily focused on the exhaustion of administrative remedies, while discovery propounded by Plaintiff “focus[ed] on the merits of the case rather than the specific subject of exhaustion.” (Hr'g Mins. 2, ECF No. 46.) Judge Cobb then conveyed that he would nonetheless “allow Plaintiff to undertake discovery so long as the discovery is targeted to the topic of exhaustion and defendant Parks. Discovery as to the general merits of the case will not be allowed.” (Id.) Next, Judge Cobb reviewed several of Plaintiff's discovery requests and, finding some of them to be appropriate, ordered Defendants to provide supplemental responses to certain specified requests. Judge Cobb concluded, however, that none of Plaintiff's proposed discovery “address[ed] the matter of Defendants' motion for summary [judgment] regarding exhaustion or statute of limitations.” (Id.) For that reason, Judge Cobb granted the stay of discovery, with the exception that Defendants must provide the aforementioned supplemental responses no later than June 23, 2017. (Id.) On June 29 and July 3, Plaintiff filed objections to Judge Cobb's order staying discovery under Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). (Objs., ECF Nos. 47, 48.) On July 27, the Court overruled Plaintiff's objections and affirmed Judge Cobb's order granting the stay. (Order, ECF No. 59.)

         On August 17, 2017, Judge Cobb entered his report and recommendation (R. & R.) that summary judgment be granted for Defendants, except that the motion should be denied as to the retaliation claim against Defendant Parks. (ECF No. 66.) Plaintiff and Defendants both filed objections to the R. & R. (ECF Nos. 69, 70.) Of course, Plaintiff argued that summary judgment should not be granted on any claim, while Defendants argued that summary judgment was additionally appropriate on the retaliation claim against Parks. On September 20, the Court accepted and adopted the R. & R. in full, after noting that it had conducted a de novo review and had considered all relevant matters of record. (Order, ECF No. 76.) Judgment was then entered for Defendants consistent with the Court's order. (ECF No. 77.)

         The only claim now remaining in this case is the First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Parks.

         II. ANALYSIS

         a. Defendants' Motion to Reconsider (ECF No. 60)

         First, citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(a), Defendants ask the Court to correct mistakes in its order overruling Plaintiff's objections to Judge Cobb's order granting a stay of discovery. Defendants argue that some of the language in the Court's order mischaracterized Judge Cobb's ruling and the procedural history leading up to it. Because the Court has ruled on the summary judgment motion and the stay is no longer in effect, this motion is likely moot. However, the Court also notes that the legal effect of its order was merely to overrule Plaintiff's objections and uphold the magistrate judge's order. See D. Nev. Local. R. IB 3-1(b) (“The district judge may affirm, reverse, or modify, in whole or in part, the magistrate judge's order.”) Nothing in the Court's dicta should be construed to alter Judge Cobb's underlying order, which was affirmed in full without modification.

         Accordingly, this motion is denied.

         b. Defendants' Motion for Clarification (ECF No. 78)

         Next, Defendants ask the Court to clarify its order accepting and adopting the R. & R. and granting partial summary judgment. Defendants note that the order specifies that the Court “fully considered” Plaintiff's objections to the R. & R., but does not so specify with respect to Defendants' objection. (See Order, ECF No. 76.) The Court will grant the motion to offer the following clarification: All relevant matters of ...


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