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Magee v. McMillian

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

May 3, 2017

JOE D. MAGEE, ET AL.
v.
PHIL MCMILLIAN, ET AL.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE HORNSBY

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Magistrate Appeal from a Memorandum Order issued by Magistrate Judge Mark Hornsby on January 4, 2017. See Record Documents 57 & 60.[1]The appeal challenges Magistrate Judge Hornsby's decision denying Plaintiffs' Motions to Compel Discovery and granting Defendant BHP Billiton Petroleum Properties (NA), LP's (“BHP”) Motion for Protective Order. See Record Document 60.

         Decisions by a magistrate judge as to discovery issues are non-dispositive matters. Such actions are not listed in 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) as one of the dispositive motions (often referred to as the “excepted motions”) that a magistrate judge may not conclusively decide. Magistrate Judge Hornsby's order is not a recommendation to the district court, which normally requires de novo review under Rule 72. Rather, it is an order from the magistrate judge on non-dispositive discovery matters that requires the district court to uphold the ruling unless it is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); see also Castillo v. Frank, 70 F.3d 382, 385 (5th Cir. 1995).

         This case involves a lease dispute regarding the payment of royalties. Magistrate Judge Hornsby's Memorandum Order of January 4, 2017 related to Plaintiffs' six sets of written discovery, which eventually resulted in three discovery motions being filed: Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel; BHP's Motion for Protective Order; and Plaintiffs' Supplemental Motion to Compel Discovery. The discovery related to royalty payments made to the Talleys, the legal suspense account, BHP's legal team, and royalty distribution statements. Ultimately, Magistrate Judge Hornsby denied Plaintiffs' motions and granted BHP's request for a protective order. More specifically, he ruled:

Discovery Regarding the Talleys
Plaintiffs argue that the documentation relied upon by Defendant in paying royalties to the Talleys is relevant to whether Defendant acted in good faith with regard to Plaintiffs. . . .
The information sought by Plaintiffs is irrelevant. The Talleys are not [a] party to this lawsuit, and Defendant's dealings with the Talleys are not at issue. Furthermore, requesting “all communications” between the Talleys and Defendant regarding royalty payments far exceeds the scope of allowable discovery in this matter.
Discovery Regarding the Legal Suspense Account
Plaintiffs also seek discovery regarding Defendant's placement of the disputed royalty payments into a special suspense account. Apparently, Plaintiffs contend that if Defendant had access to the disputed funds, Defendant owes interest from an earlier date.
Defendant represents to the court that the legal suspense account is simply a balance sheet account. Defendant further represents that it did not have use of the disputed funds. . . .
Whether Plaintiffs are ultimately entitled to interest and, if so, when interest started to accrue, is ultimately a question to be decided based on the lease agreement. For the purpose of discovery, Defendant has adequately explained the basic use and operation of the legal suspense account. Plaintiffs' repeated and duplicative requests for “all documents” concerning the suspense account are overly broad.
Discovery Related to Defendant's Legal Team
Plaintiffs seek discovery regarding the members of Defendant's legal team who performed services regarding ownership status or in determining who should be paid royalties. In response, Defendant identified the members of the legal team but objected to providing any additional information based on the attorney-client privilege. Defendant is correct. Communications among the members of the legal team and Defendant's representatives are clearly privileged. Moreover, asking ...

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