United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JACKIE ALEXANDER, administrator ad prosequendum of the Estate of DAWUD ALEXANDER, Plaintiff,
MIGUEL HOLGUIN, et al., Defendants.
L. LINARES Cheif Judge, United States District Court
matter tomes before the Court by way of Defendant Miguel
Holguin's Appeal of Magistrate Judge Joseph A.
Dickson's Letter Order granting in part and denying in
part Plaintiff Jackie Alexander's Motion to Compel
Discovery Responses, pursuant to Rule 72.1(c)(1)(A) of the
Local Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 105). Plaintiff has
filed an Opposition to the Appeal (ECF No. 111), to which
Defendant has replied. (ECF No. 112). The Court has
considered the parties' submissions and decides this
matter without oral argument pursuant to Rule 78 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court denies Defendant's Appeal and affirms
Magistrate Judge Dickson's Letter Order.
Alexander brings this action as administrator ad
prosequendum of the Estate of Dawud Alexander
("Decedent"). (ECF No. 1 ("Compl.") at
1). Plaintiff is a resident of Essex County, as was Decedent.
(Id. ¶¶ 4-5). Defendant Holguin is a New
Jersey State Police detective. (Id. ¶6).
October 3, 2013, at around 5:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m., a
confidential informant ("CI") contacted Defendant
Holguin stating that CI saw Decedent in possession
of a taser and some sort of firearm around Harrison Place,
Irvington, New Jersey. (ECF No. 99 at 1-2). Thereafter at
approximately 6:30 p.m., New Jersey State Police vehicles
converged in front of 83 Harrison Place, where Decedent was
walking. (Compl. ¶ 15). Decedent then "ran across
the street toward 92 Harrison Place[, ]" and Defendant
and several other State Police Officers chased after him.
(Id. ¶¶ 16-17). Upon reaching 92 Harrison
Place, Decedent discarded a taser "in his possession
near the front porch steps located on the right side of said
residence." (Id. ¶ 18). Decedent continued
to run and turned left into an alley on the left side of 92
Harrison Place. (Id. ¶ 19).
in the alley, Decedent attempted to climb a fence to gain
entry to the 96 Harrison Place backyard. (Id. ¶
20). Plaintiff asserts that Defendant then fired his duty
weapon at Decedent striking him at least once. (Id.
¶ 21). However, Decedent was still able to reach another
fence that would have given him access to the 21 Ellis Avenue
backyard. (Id. ¶ 22). When Decedent attempted
to climb said fence, Defendant shot him several more times.
(Id. ¶ 23). Plaintiff asserts that at no time
did Decedent possess a firearm or other object in his hand
besides the taser that he previously discarded. (Id.
¶ 24). However, the following day, police found a
revolver, which was attributed to Decedent, at the scene.
(ECF No. 99 at 5).
died at the hospital nearly an hour after the above described
incident. (Compl. ¶ 25). Plaintiff asserts that an
October 4, 2013 autopsy revealed that Decedent suffered four
gunshot wounds to his right medial thigh, upper-left back,
chest, and left foot, as well as "blunt force trauma to
the right side of his face." (Id. ¶¶
filed a Complaint in this Court asserting federal question
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Id.
¶ 2). Said Complaint contained five causes of action
against Defendant, the State of New Jersey, the Township of
Irvington, and various John Doe Defendants for Excessive
Force (Counts I-II), Conspiracy (Count III), Wrongful Death
(Count VI), and State Tort (Count V). (Id.
¶¶ 35-66). This Court dismissed, with prejudice,
claims against the State of New Jersey by Consent Order, and
the Township of Irvington by Stipulation and Order of
Voluntary Dismissal. (ECF Nos. 15, 98). All that remain in
said Complaint are individual claims against Defendant
Holguin for Excessive Force (Count I), and Wrongful Death
the October 3, 2013 incident, CI provided the New Jersey
State Police with a sworn statement recounting
observations and communications with Defendant Holguin. (ECF
No. 99 at 2). Said statement was recorded and transcribed,
and Defendant Holguin produced a copy of the transcript to
Plaintiffs counsel during discovery. (Id.).
Plaintiff requested Defendant Holguin to reveal CI's
identity, but Defendant objected, asserting informant's
February 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed a letter with the Court
regarding said discovery dispute. (ECF No. 87). On February
27, 2017, the Court ordered Plaintiff to submit a letter
setting forth the relief sought and legal arguments for
compelling Defendant Holguin to disclose the identity of CI.
(ECF No. 88). Thereafter, on March 3, 2017, Plaintiff
submitted a Motion to Compel a Discovery Response. (ECF No.
89). On June 23, 2017, by Letter Order, Magistrate Judge
Dickson granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs Motion.
(ECF No. 99). Specifically, Magistrate Judge Dickson ordered
Defendant to produce CI for an in camera deposition
on July 31, 2017. (Id. at 7). If the Defendant
failed to do so, then the Defendant was ordered to reveal
CI's identity to Plaintiffs counsel on an
'"Attorneys' Eyes Only' basis so that
counsel may issue an appropriate subpoena[.]"
(Id.). Defendant now appeals Magistrate Judge
Dickson's Letter Order (ECF No. 105), and this Court
issued a stay pending the resolution of the Appeal. (ECF No.
reasons set forth below, the Court affirms Magistrate Judge
STANDARD OF REVIEW
L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(1)(A), a party may appeal from a
Magistrate Judge's determination of a non-dispositive
matter. The Court, in reviewing the order of the Magistrate
Judge in a non-dispositive matter, may modify, vacate, or
reverse the order only if it was "clearly erroneous
or contrary to law." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A)
(emphasis added); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); L. Civ. R.
72.1(c)(1)(A); see also Cipollone v. Liggett Group,
Inc., 785 F.2d 1108, 1113 (3d Cir. 1986); Jackson v.
Chubb Corp., 45 F.App'x 163, 166 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002).
A ruling is contrary to law "if the Magistrate Judge
misinterpreted or misapplied the applicable law, "
whereas a finding is clearly erroneous when the reviewing
court "is left with the definite and firm conviction
that a mistake has been committed." Marks v.
Struble, 347 F.Supp.2d 136, 149 (D.N.J. 2004). Even if
the Court might have decided the matter differently, the
reviewing court will not reverse the Magistrate Judge's
decision unless it satisfies the clearly erroneous standard.
Wortman v. Beglin, 2007 WL 2375057, at *2 (D.N.J.
Aug. 16, 2007); see also Andrews v. Goodyear Tire &
Rubber Co., Inc., 191 F.R.D. 59, 68 (D.N.J. 2000)
("A district judge's simple disagreement with the
magistrate judge's findings is insufficient to meet the
clearly erroneous standard of review.").