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United States v. Jordan

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

August 14, 2017




         I. Procedural History

         Now pending before the Court is a Motion To Compel (Doc. 25) filed by Defendant CLIFTON JORDAN. Defendant DERRICK JOHNSON has joined in that motion. (Doc. 30; docket entry Order dated 6/9/2017). Defendant DERRICK JOHNSON has also filed a supplement to the motion. (See doc. 37, docketed as a pending motion). The Government has filed a unified response (Doc. 47) to the motion as supplemented. On July 10, 2017, Magistrate Judge Herman N. Johnson, Jr. entered an Order (Doc. 63) denying in part and otherwise finding moot the motion as supplemented.

         On July 25, 2017, both Defendants jointly filed “Rule 59(a) Objections To Portions of the Magistrate Judge's Order.” (Doc. 68). The United States has responded. (Doc. 71). For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that the Objections are due to be, and hereby are, OVERRULED.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Supreme Court has found that a district court may “review in whole, ” “[review] in part anew, ” or “wholly [] ignore” a magistrate judge's order. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 263 (1976). “The authority and the responsibility to make an informed, final determination, [the Supreme Court] emphasize[s], remains with the [district] judge.” Id. at 271. The district court retains total control and jurisdiction over “the entire process.” United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 681 (1980); see also Webb v. Califano, 468 F.Supp. 825, 830 (E.D. Cal. 1979) (“[T]he district court must give a de novo review when timely objections are filed....” (emphasis added)).

         However, “[n]either the Constitution nor the statute requires a district judge to review, de novo, findings and recommendations that the parties themselves accept as correct.” United States v. Woodard, 387 F.3d 1329, 1334 (11th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003)). It is incumbent upon the parties to timely raise any objections that they may have regarding a magistrate judge's findings contained in a report and recommendation, as the failure to do so subsequently waives or abandons the issue, even if such matter was presented at the magistrate judge level. See, e.g., United States v. Pilati, 627 F.3d 1360, 1365 (11th Cir. 2010) (“While Pilati raised the issue of not being convicted of a qualifying offense before the magistrate judge, he did not raise this issue in his appeal to the district court. Thus, this argument has been waived or abandoned by his failure to raise it on appeal to the district court.”). However, the district judge has discretion to consider or to decline to consider arguments that were not raised before the magistrate judge. Stephens v. Tolbert, 471 F.3d 1173, 1176 (11th Cir. 2006); see also Williams v. McNeil, 557 F.3d 1287, 1292 (11th Cir. 2009) (“Thus, we answer the question left open in Stephens and hold that a district court has discretion to decline to consider a party's argument when that argument was not first presented to the magistrate judge.”).

         “Parties filing objections must specifically identify those findings objected to. Frivolous, conclusive or general objections need not be considered by the district court.” Nettles v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404, 410 n.8 (5th Cir. 1982).[1]“This rule facilitates the opportunity for district judges to spend more time on matters actually contested and produces a result compatible with the purposes of the Magistrates Act.” Id. at 410. Indeed, a contrary rule “would effectively nullify the magistrate judge's consideration of the matter and would not help to relieve the workload of the district court.” Williams, 557 F.3d at 1292 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting United States v. Howell, 231 F.3d 615, 622 (9th Cir. 2000)).

         III. Objections

         Defendants specifically limit their Objections to “defense requests 3 through 6 (Doc. 25, at 6-7) as denied by the magistrate's order. (Doc. 63, at 4-5).” (Doc 68 at 1, fn.1). As Objections, Defendants state that the Order is “contrary to law and/or clearly erroneous in that the Order fails to address the fundamental due process aspects of Jordan's original motion. As such, [the Defendants] object[] to and request[] [that] this Honorable Court ‘modify' and/or ‘set aside' the Magistrate's Order as to the portions of the Order dealing with defense requests 3 through 6. (Doc. 25, at 6-7).” (Doc. 68 at 1-2). Those “due process concerns” are later identified as those arising under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Specifically, they state:

In his original motion Jordan stated that the motion to compel was made “pursuant to the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America and Brady, Giglio, Kyles and its progeny” and that the requests were made “so that the defense can adequately investigate and defend this matter.” As such, the requests herein were made with Fifth and Sixth Amendment due process concerns in mind.

(Id. at 5) (internal citation omitted).

         The Defendants provide more particularity in section III. of their Objections, where they criticize the “[t]he magistrate's order [because it] focuses exclusive[ly] on the exculpatory nature of the material requested. (Doc. 63, at 4-5).” (Id. at 6). Although the Defendants

continue with their argument that exculpatory information would be uncovered with disclosure of the information requested [they also assert as valid] ... the remaining rationale for current disclosure is so that the defendants may effectively assert their rights to present a defense, investigate the allegations, to compel the attendance of witnesses and to present witnesses on the defendant's behalf.

(Id. at 6 fn. 6).

         They state that the material requested:

1. [C]ould [help the defense] try to determine the involvement of others [who are referred to in Government documents produced to date only by nicknames] in and their expectation of the intended disposition of their drugs and how it was accomplished [thereby] lead[ing] the defense to determine whether either [of those individuals] were [sic] suspicious about whether their shipment had been interdicted and what steps they took to insulate themselves and to protect their own interests.
2. [If the defense knew the identities of the people identified to date only by nicknames, those individuals] could assist the defense in finding out how Derrick Johnson came to be in possession of the car, etc. .... [sic] as well as whether that circumstance was done innocently or with guilty knowledge [on the part of Derrick Johnson] ... [or with Mr. Johnson having been] told that the car contained some but a lesser amount of cocaine that the 14 kilos which would have a substantial impact on sentencing for both defendants.
3. [If the defense knew the identities of the people who have been identified to date only by nicknames] [i]t is also very likely that neither of these two individuals could identify Mr. Jordan [and the defense would be able to learn this].

(Id. at 6-7).

         The Defendants ...

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