The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, District Judge
Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Appeal (Doc. 20) of Magistrate Judge Wilkerson's Order (Doc. 19), which granted Defendant's Emergency Motion for Protective Order to Stay Discovery (Doc. 16) and denied Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendant's motion (Doc. 13). For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the Order granting Defendant's Emergency Motion for Protective Order to Stay Discovery and denying Plaintiff's Motion to Strike.
Plaintiff Michael Reid filed his Complaint against defendant United States Postal Service, alleging a violation of the Freedom of Information Act*fn1 ("FOIA") for Defendant's failure to provide certain documents related to political mailings, requested by Plaintiff under FOIA. (Doc. 1.) In its Answer, Defendant plead that the documents sought by Plaintiff were exempt from FOIA's disclosure requirements and also stated that the permit holder of these requested documents objected to the release of the holder's postage statements. Subsequent to receiving Plaintiff's requests for admission, interrogatories and requests to produce, Defendant filed an Emergency Motion for Protective Order to Stay Discovery. (Doc. 12.)
Plaintiff moved to strike Defendant's emergency motion, claiming that his discovery requests were necessary in order to further prosecute this case and also to adequately respond to any dispositive motion that Defendant may file. (Doc. 13.) Defendant, in turn, opposed Plaintiff's Motion to Strike, stating that discovery is generally not permitted in a FOIA case prior to Defendant's filing of a summary judgment motion coupled with what is known as a "Vaughn Index." (Doc. 15.) Magistrate Judge Wilkerson conducted a hearing on these motions to allow the parties to present their arguments regarding the availability of discovery in FOIA cases.
A. Legal Standard of Review of Magistrate Judge's Order
Both the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the local rules of this Court provide for a federal district judge to review the order of a Magistrate Judge on appeal made by a party to the case.
Local Rule 73.1(a) provides:
(a) Appeal of Non-Dispositive Matters (28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A))
Any party may appeal a Magistrate Judge's order determining a motion or matter within ten (10) days after issuance of the Magistrate Judge's order, unless a different time is prescribed by the Magistrate Judge or a District Judge. Such party shall file with the Clerk of the Court, and serve on the Magistrate Judge and all parties, a written request for appeal which shall specifically designate the order, or part thereof, that the parties wish the Court to reconsider. A District Judge of the Court shall reconsider the matter and set aside any portion of the Magistrate Judge's order found to be clearly erroneous or contrary to law. The District Judge may also reconsider sua sponte any matter determined by a Magistrate Judge under this rule.
Also, under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 72(a), the Court may modify or reverse a decision of a magistrate judge on a nondispositive issue upon a showing that the magistrate judge's decision is "clearly erroneous or contrary to the law." A finding is clearly erroneous when "the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Anderson v. City of Bessemer, 470 U.S. 564, 573 (1985)(quoting United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364 395 (1948)). In applying the clearly erroneous standard of review, if two permissible views exists, the reviewing court may not reverse the lower court's decision merely because the reviewing court interpreted the evidence differently and thereby would ...