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Lerman v. Columbia College Chicago

January 26, 2012

LERMAN
v.
COLUMBIA COLLEGE CHICAGO, ET AL.



Name of Assigned Judge Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge Joan H. Lefkow than Assigned Judge

CASE TITLE

DOCKET ENTRY TEXT

Plaintiff's objections to the order of the magistrate judge [91] are overruled.

O[ For further details see text below.] Notices mailed by Judicial staff.

STATEMENT

Plaintiff Zafra Lerman filed this action against Columbia College and certain of its officers (collectively, "defendants"), claiming gender, national origin, and sex discrimination, civil rights violations, defamation, and breach of contract, among other claims. Plaintiff has filed objections to an order of Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown (89) denying her motion (82) for protective order regarding subpoenas addressed to MIMSAD, Inc., a not-for-profit organization of which plaintiff is the president, treasurer, and sole shareholder. The relevant facts are set out in the order and will not be repeated here other than as pertinent to the issues.

The legal principles are succinctly summarized in Webb v. CBS Broad., Inc., No. 08 C 6241, 2011 WL 842743, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar 8, 2011) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted):

A district court's review of any discovery-related decisions made by the magistrate judge is governed by Rule 72(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a), a district judge may set aside a magistrate judge's ruling on a non-dispositive motion if the order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. The clear error standard means that the district court can overturn the magistrate judge's ruling only if the district court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made. In general, under the clearly erroneous standard, if there are two permissible views of the facts, a district court's choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous.

Plaintiff contends that the ruling is clearly erroneous and contrary to law for five reasons, addressed below.

Argument (a). The ruling proceeds from a misstatement of the record.

Plaintiff takes issue with the following statement: "Although defendants have always been in possession of the payment records to MIMSAD, they were only prompted to investigate their possible significance when information about questionable grant payments to other entities came to light during the discovery process." (Dkt. No. 89, 2d para.). Plaintiff argues that the questionable payments at issue were described in "the Crowl report" prepared before this litigation was filed and clearly known to defendants well before the disputed subpoenas were issued. Judge Brown acknowledged as much in her discussion of the issues:

Although certain information about MIMSAD was apparently in defendants' records, defendants claim, in essence, that they just learned of the significance of MIMSAD and its relationship to plaintiff. The fact that it took defendants until shortly before the close of discovery to connect the dots does not justify cutting them off from a legitimate area of discovery.

Whether to allow discovery to be made after the closing date is plainly a discretionary decision. This court has no basis to conclude that, even if the magistrate judge misapprehended the facts (which does not appear to be the case), extending discovery for otherwise relevant discovery is either clearly erroneous or contrary to law. The objection is overruled.

Argument (b): The finding that the evidence is relevant to an after-acquired evidence defense is clearly erroneous because the facts demonstrate ...


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