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Jane E. Adkins, et al v. John B. Sogliuzzo

September 15, 2011

JANE E. ADKINS, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JOHN B. SOGLIUZZO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wigenton, District Judge.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Before the Court is plaintiffs‟ Jane E. Adkins and Charles Adkins ("Plaintiffs") appeal of the following orders by United States Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo: 1) May 20, 2011 order granting defendant John B. Sogliuzzo ("Sogliuzzo") a protective order for post-July 2009 records held by Bank of America and Hilltop Community Bank ("May 20, 2011 Order"); and 2) June 29, 2011 order denying in part the Plaintiffs‟ renewed motion to compel defendant Gaye Torrance ("Torrance") to produce financial documents for her personal and business financial accounts ("June 29, 2011 Order"). These appeals are decided without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.

For the reasons stated below this Court DENIES Plaintiffs‟ appeals and AFFIRMS Magistrate Judge Arleo‟s May 20, 2011 Order and June 29, 2011 Order.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A brief summary of the procedural history relevant to this matter will be provided. On March 12, 2009, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Sogliuzzo, Torrance, and several other named defendants. (Compl., Mar. 12, 2009.) On April 2, 2009, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, and on September 25, 2009, Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint with thirty-six counts alleging, among other things, breach of fiduciary duty, attorney malpractice, fraudulent conveyance, misappropriation, theft, undue influence and mismanagement of funds from the estates of Mary T. Grimley and Jane P. Sogliuzzo ("Second Amended Complaint" or "Am. Compl."). (Am. Compl., Sep. 25, 2009.)

Motion to Quash or for a Protective Order

On April 15, 2011, Sogliuzzo filed a motion to quash the subpoenas served upon Hilltop Community Bank and Bank of America seeking Sogliuzzo‟s financial records beyond July 2009, or in the alternative, for a protective order to prevent the disclosure of the records sought ("Motion to Quash"). (Def.‟s Mot. to Quash, Apr. 15, 2011.) On May 16, 2011, a hearing was held before Magistrate Judge Arleo. On May 20, 2011, Judge Arleo issued the May 20, 2011 Order granting Sogliuzzo‟s request for a protective order, barring Plaintiffs‟ access to financial information post-July 2009 from the two financial institutions, for good cause shown and the reasons set forth on the record at the May 16, 2011 hearing. (May 20, 2011 Order, at 1.) On June 7, 2011, Plaintiffs filed their motion appealing the May 20, 2011 Order. (Pls.‟ Br., Jun. 7, 2011.)

Renewed Motion to Compel

On June 7, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a renewed motion to compel Torrance to produce personal and business financial records ("Renewed Motion to Compel"). (Pls. Mot. to Compel, at 3, June 7, 2011.) On June 29, 2011, following a hearing, Magistrate Judge Arleo issued the June 29, 2011 Order denying Plaintiffs‟ Renewed Motion to Compel, but directing Torrance to produce to Plaintiffs‟ counsel redacted bank statements for all accounts in her name that reflect cash deposits of $1,000.00 or more from January 1, 2002 through February 4, 2008. (June 29, 2011 Order, at 1.) On July 14, 2011, Plaintiffs filed the motion appealing the June 29, 2011 Order. (Pls.‟ Br., July 14, 2011.) Specifically, Plaintiffs want Torrance to produce: "a) identification of all income for the period 2000 through 2006; b) bank statements for personal and business accounts for the period of 2000 through 2006; and (c) joint and business income tax returns for the period 2000 through 2006." (Pls.‟ Br. 4.)

LEGAL STANDARD

A United States Magistrate Judge may hear non-dispositive motions under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a). A Magistrate Judge‟s disposition on a non-dispositive motion may be modified or set aside if the ruling was "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Haines v. Liggett Grp. Inc., 975 F.2d 81, 83 (3d Cir. 1992). A ruling is clearly erroneous "when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Dome Petroleum Ltd. v. Emp'rs Mut. Liab. Ins. Co., 131 F.R.D. 63, 65 (D.N.J. 1990) (quoting United States v. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364 (1948)) (internal quotations omitted). "A district judge‟s simple disagreement with the magistrate judge‟s findings is insufficient to meet the clearly erroneous standard of review." Andrews v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 191 F.R.D. 59, 68 (D.N.J. 2000). On the other hand, an order is contrary to law "when the magistrate judge has misinterpreted or misapplied the applicable law." Doe v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 237 F.R.D. 545, 548 (D.N.J. 2006).

DISCUSSION

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 defines the methods, scope, limits, and process of discovery. As stated by Rule 26(b), the scope of discovery extends to, "any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party‟s claim or defense." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Rule 26(b) also states that, "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." Id. Further, a court must limit the extent of discovery otherwise allowed by Rule 26 if it determines that, "the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(iii). "Discovery, like all matters of procedure, has ultimate and necessary boundaries. Discovery of matter[s] not "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence‟ is not within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1)." Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. et al. v. Irving Sanders et al., 437 U.S. 340, 351-352 (1978) (internal citation omitted). As the Third Circuit stated in Bayer AG v. Betachem, "[a]lthough the scope of discovery under the Federal Rules is unquestionably broad, this ...


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