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United States v. Simmermaker

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

November 15, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHELLE RAE SIMMERMAKER, Defendant.

          ORDER

          C.J. Williams United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. 43) of the Honorable Mark A. Roberts, United States Magistrate Judge. On August 5, 2019, defendant filed a Motion to Suppress. (Doc. 28). On August 12, 2019, the government timely filed a resistance. (Doc. 31). On September 12, 2019, Judge Roberts held a hearing on the motion. (Doc. 35). On September 26, 2019, both parties timely filed supplemental briefs pursuant to Judge Roberts' order. (Docs. 41 & 42).

         On October 25, 2019, Judge Roberts issued his R&R, recommending that the Court grant in part and deny in part defendant's Motion to Suppress. (Docs. 28 & 43). Specifically, Judge Roberts found that although defendant was in custody, her statements made on the porch of the residence were voluntary and not the result of police interrogation. (Doc. 43, at 12-18). Defendant's statements were therefore not obtained in violation of her Miranda rights and are admissible at trial. (Id., at 18). Judge Roberts found, however, that the search of defendant's Brinks box was unreasonable and any evidence resulting from the search should be suppressed. (Id., at 27). The deadline for filing objections to the R&R was November 8, 2019. (Id., at 28). On November 8, 2019, both parties filed objections to the R&R (Docs. 46, 47, & 48).

         For the following reasons, the Court adopts in part and rejects in part Judge Roberts' R&R (Doc. 43) and denies defendant's Motion to Suppress (Doc. 28).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The court reviews the magistrate judge's report and recommendation pursuant to the statutory standards found in 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1):

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). While examining these statutory standards, the United States Supreme Court explained:

Any party that desires plenary consideration by the Article III judge of any issue need only ask. Moreover, while 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 v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985). Thus, a district court may review de novo any issue in a magistrate judge's report and recommendation at any time. Id. If a party files an objection to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, however, 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). 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.

         De novo review, of course, is nondeferential and generally allows a reviewing court to make an “independent review” of the entire matter. Salve Regina Coll. v. Russell, 499 U.S. 225, 238 (1991) (noting also that “[w]hen de novo review is compelled, no form of appellate deference is acceptable”); see Doe v. Chao, 540 U.S. 614, 620-19 (2004) (noting de novo review is “distinct from any form of deferential review”). The de novo review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, however, only means a district court “‘give[s] fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objection has been made.'” United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675 (1980) (quoting H.R.Rep. No. 94-1609, at 3, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6162, 6163 (discussing how certain amendments affect 28 U.S.C. § 636(b))). Thus, although de novo review generally entails review of an entire matter, in the context of § 636 a district court's required de novo review is limited to “de novo determination[s]” of only “those portions” or “specified proposed findings” to which objections have been made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see Thomas, 474 U.S. at 154 (“Any party that desires plenary consideration by the Article III judge of any issue need only ask.” (emphasis added)). Consequently, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has indicated de novo review would only be required if objections were “specific enough to trigger de novo review.” Branch v. Martin, 886 F.2d 1043, 1046 (8th Cir. 1989). Despite this “specificity” requirement to trigger de novo review, 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). As a result, the Eighth Circuit has concluded that general objections require “full de novo review” if the record is concise. Id. (“Therefore, even had petitioner's objections lacked specificity, a de novo review would still have been appropriate given such a concise record.”). Even if the reviewing court must construe objections liberally to require de novo review, it is clear to this Court that there is a distinction between making an objection and making no objection at all. See Coop. Fin. Ass'n, Inc. v. Garst, 917 F.Supp. 1356, 1373 (N.D. Iowa 1996) (“The court finds that the distinction between a flawed effort to bring objections to the district court's attention and no effort to make such objections is appropriate.”).

         In the absence of any objection, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has indicated a district court should review a magistrate judge's report and recommendation under a clearly erroneous standard of review. See Grinder v. Gammon, 73 F.3d 793, 795 (8th Cir. 1996) (noting 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 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”); Branch, 886 F.2d at 1046 (contrasting de novo review with “clearly erroneous standard” of review, and recognizing de novo review was required because objections were filed).

         The court is unaware of any case that has described the clearly erroneous standard of review in the context of a district court's review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which no objection has been filed. In other contexts, however, the Supreme Court has stated 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)). Thus, the clearly erroneous standard of review is deferential, see Dixon v. Crete Med. Clinic, P.C., 498 F.3d 837, 847 (8th Cir. 2007) (noting a finding is not clearly erroneous even if another view is supported by the evidence), but a district court may still reject the magistrate judge's report and recommendation when the district court is “left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed, ” U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. at 395.

         Even though some “lesser review” than de novo is not “positively require[d]” by statute, Thomas, 474 U.S. at 150, Eighth Circuit precedent leads this Court to believe that a clearly erroneous standard of review should generally be used as the baseline standard to review all findings in a magistrate judge's report and recommendation that are not objected to or when the parties fail to file any timely objections, see Grinder, 73 F.3d at 795; Taylor, 910 F.2d at 520; Branch, 886 F.2d at 1046; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b) advisory committee's note (“When no timely objection is filed, the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.”). In the context of the review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the Court believes one further caveat is necessary: a district court always remains free to render its own decision under de novo review, regardless of whether it feels a mistake has been committed. See Thomas, 474 U.S. at 153-54. Thus, although a clearly erroneous standard of review is deferential and the minimum standard appropriate in this context, it is not mandatory, and the district court may choose to apply a less deferential standard.

         III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         After reviewing the record, the Court finds that Judge Roberts accurately and thoroughly set forth the relevant facts in his R&R. (Doc. 43, at 2-7). Further, neither of the parties have objected to Judge Roberts' summary of the facts here. Therefore, the Court adopts Judge Roberts' factual findings as set forth below without modification. (See id.) (footnotes omitted).

On November 15, 2018 members of the Cedar County Drug Task Force executed a search warrant at a single-family residence on Meridian Street in Tipton, Iowa. The residence was the home of WS. The warrant had been signed two days previously by an Iowa state court judge. (Gov. Ex. 1.) Tipton Police Sergeant Bradley Peck executed the affidavit in support of the warrant. (Id.) Much of the factual basis for the warrant was obtained from informant CS. CS told Sergeant Peck and Cedar County Deputy Sheriff Matt Jackson that JT was a low-level methamphetamine distributor in Tipton who was supplied by MW. CS told the investigators that JT was living with WS, a woman. WS had a criminal history including possession of controlled substances. Moreover, CS told officers he had been living with WS while also selling narcotics in Tipton. Sergeant Peck's affidavit states, “The residence that [JT] was living in with [WS] has a history of drug use, and people coming and going from the residence are known drug users.” (Id. at 5.)
The warrant authorized search of the residence as well as the person of WS. The warrant authorized the search and seizure of a variety of items relating to drug trafficking including controlled substances, paraphernalia packaging, items used for consumption of controlled substances, items used to manufacture or deliver controlled substances, photographs or data having information associated with drug trafficking, weapons, currency, and other items. Significantly, the warrant authorized search and seizure of “[l]ocked containers, safes, hidden compartments or other items or areas capable of storing or concealing any of the other items listed herein.” (Id. at 10.)
A second application for a search warrant was sought and obtained after execution of the first warrant. The second application is identical to the first application except that it also seeks permission to search Defendant and provides the additional information:
12. During the execution of a search warrant at the residence, MICHELLE SIMMERMAKER was located in the living room area sleeping on the couch. MICHELLE SIMMERMAKER advised she has been staying ...

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