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Westbrook v. Bridges Community Services

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 31, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on pro se Plaintiff Curtis Westbrook's (“Westbrook”) Objection to the Magistrate Judges Order Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions and Request for Interlocutory Appeal. (Dkt. 81). Westbrook challenges the Magistrate Judge's May 3, 2018 decision to deny sanctions in his favor against Defendant Bridges Community Services, Inc. (“Bridges”). (Dkt. 79). For the reasons stated below, the Court overrules Westbrook's appeal of the Magistrate Judge's order and denies his request for an interlocutory appeal.


         A district court may refer for decision a non-dispositive pretrial motion to a magistrate judge under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a). Rule 72(a) provides: When a pretrial matter not dispositive of a party's claim or defense is referred to a magistrate judge to hear and decide, the magistrate judge must promptly conduct the required proceedings and, when appropriate, issue a written order stating the decision. A party may serve and file objections to the order within 14 days after being served with a copy. A party may not assign as error a defect in the order not timely objected to. The district judge in the case must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.

         After reviewing objections to a magistrate judge's order, the district court will modify or set aside the order only if it is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. The clear error standard is highly differential, permitting reversal only when the district court “is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.” Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Indus. Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997). “An order is contrary to law when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of procedure.” Coley v. Landrum, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13377, at *3 (S.D. Ind. Feb. 4, 2016) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         The legal standard for certifying an order for interlocutory appeal is set out in statute:

When a district judge, in making in a civil action an order not otherwise appealable under this section, shall be of the opinion that such order involves a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and that an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation, he shall so state in writing in such order.

28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).

There are four statutory criteria for the grant of a section 1292(b) petition to guide the district court: there must be a question of law, it must be controlling, it must be contestable, and its resolution must promise to speed up the litigation. There is also a nonstatutory requirement: the petition must be filed in the district court within a after the order sought to be appealed.

Ahrenholz v. Bd. of Trs., 219 F.3d 674, 675 (7th Cir. 2000).


         The proper method to challenge a non-dispositive order is by filing an objection or appeal of the Magistrate Judge's decision under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a). Although captioned in part as seeking an interlocutory appeal, Westbrook fails to discuss any of the four statutory criteria for an interlocutory appeal. Accordingly, his request for interlocutory appeal is denied. The Court will consider only Westbrook's Rule 72 objection.

         Westbrook moved for sanctions alleging that Bridges did not follow the court's discovery instructions when it submitted “inaccurate, misleading, limited, duplicated and obviously missing answers” to interrogatories, and that Bridges made “misrepresentations” about the reasons for its late disclosures. (Dkt. 72 at 1-2.) The Magistrate Judge found that a Rule 37(b)(2) sanction was not appropriate because there was an insufficient showing that Bridges did not comply with the Court's February 2, 2018 discovery order. She found that Bridge's supplemental answers to the interrogatories were adequate, except that some additional information was required.

         The Magistrate Judge rejected Westbrook's argument that Bridges has engaged in a pattern of misconduct and determined that a sanction of default would be disproportionate to the conduct complained of. On May 3, 2018 the Magistrate Judge denied Westbrook's motion for sanctions, except that she ordered Bridges to supplement its answer to Interrogatory 26 within 10 days of the date of her entry. Bridges was ordered to provide the SCSEP (Senior Community Service Employment Program) enrollment dates for each participant in ...

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