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Redd v. Lutgen

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

January 23, 2014

TROY REDD, Plaintiff,
v.
DUSTIN LUTGEN, MARY DICK, CORNELL SMITH, JOHN BALDWIN, and TAHA TAWIL, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING REPORTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ON PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AND TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

MARK W. BENNETT, District Judge.

In this case, plaintiff Troy Redd, a Muslim inmate in the Iowa state prison system, alleges that the defendant prison officials at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility (FDCF) violated his constitutional right to free exercise of religion by interfering with his observance of Ramadan. This case is before me on two Reports And Recommendations filed by United States Magistrate Judge Leonard T. Strand. The first is Judge Strand's October 23, 2013, Report And Recommendation On Plaintiff's Application For Preliminary Injunction And Temporary Restraining Order (docket no. 28). The second is Judge Strand's October 28, 2013, Report And Recommendation On Defendants' Motion For Summary Judgment (docket no. 30). Neither side filed any objections to the first Report And Recommendation, but Redd, who is not represented by counsel, filed objections to the second Report And Recommendation on November 19, 2013, styled "Appeal For Further Review On United States Magistrate Judge, Report And Recommendation Of Defendants' Motion For Summary Judgment" (docket no. 31).

Before considering whether or not to accept either of Judge Strand's Reports and Recommendations, I will first set out my standard of review. The applicable statute provides for de novo review by the district judge of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, when objections are made, as follows:

A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.

28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (2006); see FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b) (stating identical requirements); N.D. IA. L.R. 72, 72.1 (allowing the referral of dispositive matters to a magistrate judge but not articulating any standards to review the magistrate judge's report and recommendation). Thus, "[a]ny party that desires plenary consideration by the Article III judge of any issue need only ask." Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985). The United States Supreme Court has explained that, although the statute provides for review when objections are made, the statutory standard does not preclude review by the district court in other circumstances:

[W]hile the statute does not require the judge to review an issue de novo if no objections are filed, it does not preclude further review by the district judge, sua sponte or at the request of a party, under a de novo or any other standard.

Thomas, 474 U.S. at 154. Thus, the specific standard of review may depend upon whether or not a party has objected to portions of the report and recommendation. I will explain what triggers each specific standard of review in a little more detail.

If a party files an objection to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court must "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. " 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (emphasis added). In most cases, to trigger de novo review, "objections must be timely and specific." Thompson v. Nix, 897 F.2d 356, 358-59 (8th Cir. 1990). However, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has been willing to "liberally construe[]" otherwise general pro se objections to require a de novo review of all "alleged errors, " see Hudson v. Gammon, 46 F.3d 785, 786 (8th Cir. 1995), and has also been willing to conclude that general objections require "full de novo review" if the record is concise, Belk, 15 F.3d at 815 ("Therefore, even had petitioner's objections lacked specificity, a de novo review would still have been appropriate given such a concise record."). When objections have been made, and the magistrate judge's report is based upon an evidentiary hearing, "the district court must, at a minimum, listen to a tape recording or read a transcript of the evidentiary hearing.'" United States v. Azure, 539 F.3d 904, 910 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Jones v. Pillow, 47 F.3d 251, 252 (8th Cir. 1995), in turn quoting Branch v. Martin, 886 F.2d 1043, 1046 (8th Cir. 1989)). Judge Strand did not hold an evidentiary hearing on either of the motions on which he filed a Report And Recommendation, nor did he consider oral arguments on those motions. Instead, he considered only the parties' written submissions, and I have done the same.

In the absence of an objection, the district court is not required "to give any more consideration to the magistrate's report than the court considers appropriate." Thomas, 474 U.S. at 150; see also Peretz v. United States, 501 U.S. 923, 939 (1991) (stating that § 636(b)(1) "provide[s] for de novo review only when a party objected to the magistrate's findings or recommendations" (emphasis added)); United States v. Ewing, 632 F.3d 412, 415 (8th Cir. 2011) ("By failing to file objections, Ewing waived his right to de novo review [of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation on a suppression motion] by the district court."). Indeed, Thomas suggests that no review at all is required. Id. ("We are therefore not persuaded that [§ 636(b)(1)] requires some lesser review by the district court when no objections are filed.").

Nevertheless, a district court may also review de novo any issue in a magistrate judge's report and recommendation at any time. Id. at 154. This discretion to conduct de novo review of any issue at any time makes sense, because the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has "emphasized the necessity... of retention by the district court of substantial control over the ultimate disposition of matters referred to a magistrate." Belk v. Purkett, 15 F.3d 803, 815 (8th Cir. 1994). Also, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has indicated that, at a minimum, a district court should review the portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which no objections have been made under a "clearly erroneous" standard of review. See Grinder v. Gammon, 73 F.3d 793, 795 (8th Cir. 1996) (noting that, when no objections are filed and the time for filing objections has expired, "[the district court judge] would only have to review the findings of the magistrate judge for clear error"); Taylor v. Farrier, 910 F.2d 518, 520 (8th Cir. 1990) (noting that the advisory committee's note to FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b) indicates "when no timely objection is filed the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record"). Review for clear error, even when no objection has been made, is also consistent with "retention by the district court of substantial control over the ultimate disposition of matters referred to a magistrate." Belk, 15 F.3d at 815.

Although neither the Supreme Court nor the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained precisely what "clear error" review means in this context, in other contexts, the Supreme Court has stated that the "foremost" principle under this standard of review "is that [a] finding is "clearly erroneous" when although there is evidence to support it, 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 City, 470 U.S. 564, 573, 74 (1985) (quoting United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)).

I will review Judge Strand's Reports And Recommendations with these standards in mind.

In his October 23, 2013, Report And Recommendation (docket no. 28), Judge Strand recommended that I deny Redd's October 15, 2013, Application For Preliminary Injunction And Temporary Restraining Order (docket no. 26). Judge Strand concluded that Redd's request for an injunction on his transfer from the Newton Correctional Facility to the Clarinda Correctional Facility, after a prior transfer from the FDCF to Newton that Redd alleged was in retaliation for the filing of this lawsuit, should be denied. Judge Strand reasoned that Redd was seeking a preliminary injunction concerning the location of his incarceration that bore no proper relationship to his claim of interference with his free exercise of religion in his § 1983 complaint.

Redd has filed no objection to Judge Strand's recommended disposition of his Application For Preliminary Injunction And Temporary Restraining Order, and, upon review, I find no clear error in Judge Strand's recommendation. Grinder, 73 F.3d at 795 (noting that, when no objections are filed and the time for filing objections has expired, "[the district court judge] would only have to review the findings of the magistrate judge for clear error"); Taylor, 910 F.2d at 520 (noting that the advisory committee's note to FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b) indicates "when no timely objection is filed the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record"). As Judge Strand noted, in Devose v. Herrington, 42 F.3d 470 (8th Cir. 1994), the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals explained that "a party moving for a preliminary injunction must necessarily establish a relationship between the injury claimed in the party's motion and the conduct asserted in the complaint." 42 F.3d at 471. The court explained that, when that relationship is missing, injunctive relief "has nothing to do with preserving the district court's decision-making power over the merits of [a prisoner's § 1983] lawsuit, " and a district court properly rules, as a matter of law, that the prisoner is not entitled to a preliminary injunction. Id. I find Judge Strand's conclusion that this is precisely the situation here is not ...


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