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United States v. Chazen

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 4, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL CHAZEN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DOUGLAS E. ARPERT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         These matters come before the Court on Motions by Caryn Chazen, wife of Defendant Michael Chazen, to Quash a Subpoena served upon her, ECF No. 24, and by Plaintiff United States of America to Compel Deposition and Responses to Discovery from Defendant. ECF No. 28. Both motions are opposed. ECF Nos. 25, 31. The Court has fully reviewed the submissions of the parties and movants, and considers same without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Deposition and Responses to Discovery is GRANTED, and the Motion of Ms. Chazen to Quash the Subpoena is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts and procedural history of this 10-year-old case are well known to the parties and need not be recited at length. Briefly, the underlying action concerns unpaid income taxes, penalties, and interest for the tax years 1995 through 2003. On September 23, 2009, U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper entered a Consent Judgment in favor of Plaintiff USA and against Defendant “in the amount of $406, 084.05 as of May 5, 2008, together with all interest and penalties that have accrued and will continue accruing according to law” for those tax years. ECF No. 81. Concomitant with the entry of that Order, a notice was entered on the docket stating, “Civil case terminated.” See October 9, 2009 Docket entry. There was no further activity on the docket until July 7, 2018, when Plaintiff moved for an Installment Payment Order. ECF No. 14. There Plaintiff stated Defendant had defaulted on two payment plans entered into pursuant to the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 3001 through 3008. Id. Under the first agreement, Mr. Chazen was to pay $25, 000 by December 23, 2009, and then pay $75, 000 more by December 31, 2009, and $75, 000 each year thereafter, until the balance of the judgment was paid in full. Id. at p.3. Plaintiff contends Defendant made none of these payments. Id. Under the second agreement, Defendant was to pay $1, 000 a month. Id. Plaintiff says Defendant made $16, 000 in payments before defaulting on this plan. Id. Defendant contends he has paid close to $75, 000 under the plan. Plaintiff states that since the entry of the Consent Judgment the amount at issue has risen to in excess of $572, 000.

         In October 2018, Ms. Chazen moved to quash Plaintiff's Subpoena under which she was to produce “documents reflecting current payoff amount of any mortgage or other security interest on 5 Andrea Court, Manalapan N.J. 07726, ” and submit to a deposition. ECF No. 24.

         On November 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed its Motion to Compel Defendant to appear for a deposition and to “provide proper responses to the Government's interrogatories and document requests.” ECF No. 28.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         As the Supreme Court has stated, “[t]he rules governing discovery in postjudgment execution proceedings are quite permissive.” Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd., 573 U.S. 134, 138 (2014). Fed.R.Civ.P. 69(a)(2) provides: “In aid of the judgment or execution, the judgment creditor…may obtain discovery from any person-including the judgment debtor-as provided in these rules or by the procedure of the state where the court is located.” See also 12 C. Wright, A. Miller, & R. Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3014, p. 160 (2d ed. 1997) (court “may use the discovery devices provided in [the federal rules] or may obtain discovery in the manner provided by the practice of the state in which the district court is held”). “The general rule in the federal system is that, subject to the district court's discretion, “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense.” Republic of Argentina, 573 U.S. at 139 (quoting Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 26(b)(1)); see also Pearson v. Miller, 211 F.3d 57, 65 (3d Cir. 2000). Information sought by the parties need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). During discovery, “[a] party may serve on any other party a request within the scope of Rule 26(b)” to produce documents “in the responding party's possession, custody, or control.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1). Of course, the responding party is not obliged to produce documents it does not possess or can not obtain. See Bumgarner v. Hart, Civ. No. 05-3900, 2007 WL 38700, at *5 (D.N.J. Jan. 4, 2007) (holding that the Court cannot order production of documents that are not in the responding party's possession or control). Not only must the requested documents be in the responding party's possession or control, they also must be relevant. The precise boundaries of the Rule 26 relevance standard depend upon the context of each particular action, and the determination of relevance is within the discretion of the District Court. Barnes Found. v. Twp. of Lower Merion et al., Civ. No. 96-372, 1996 WL 653114, at *1 (E.D.Pa. 1996).

         While the scope of discovery is undoubtedly broad, the Federal Rules also provide that a Court “must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed” if it concludes that: (1) the discovery sought is cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (2) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or (3) the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1). Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C). Further, “the Court has a responsibility to protect privacy and confidentiality interests” and “has authority to fashion a set of limitations that allow as much relevant material to be discovered as possible...while preventing unnecessary intrusions into legitimate interests that may be harmed by the discovery of material sought.” Schmulovich v. 1161 Rt. 9 LLC, Civ. No. 07-597, 2007 WL 2362598, at *1-2 (D.N.J. Aug. 15, 2007); see also Pearson, 211 F.3d at 65; Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c). Finally, Rule 37(a) allows a party to file a motion to compel discovery where the opposing party fails to respond adequately to a document request propounded pursuant to Rule 34. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B)(iv). Ultimately, it is within the Court's discretion whether to grant a motion to compel disclosure. In re Cendant Corp. Sec. Litig., 343 F.3d 658, 668 (3d Cir. 2003).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court will address each motion in turn.

         A. Ms. Chazen's Motion to Quash

         Plaintiff seeks to collect the unpaid amount due pursuant to the 2009 Consent Judgment against Defendant. Considering the failure of Defendant to fully satisfy this Judgment and pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26, Plaintiff served a Subpoena Duces Tecum on Defendant's wife. By that Subpoena Plaintiff sought documents regarding payments made on a mortgage loan that is secured by the marital residence and to depose Ms. Chazen. See ECF No. 24-1.

         Ms. Chazen seeks to quash the Subpoena. In her one-page letter Motion, Ms. Chazen contends the Subpoena is “unduly burdensome, unreasonable, and not warranted.” ECF No. 24. She further states there is “no relevancy to the information being ...


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