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Life Tree Trading, Pte. Ltd. v. Washakie Renewable Energy, LLC

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

October 3, 2018

LIFE TREE TRADING, PTE. LTD., Plaintiff,
v.
WASHAKIE RENEWABLE ENERGY, LLC, Defendant.

          Robert J. Shelby District Judge

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          PAUL M. WARNER, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         District Judge Robert J. Shelby referred this case to Chief Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).[1] Before the court are (1) Defendant Washakie Renewable Energy, LLC's (“Washakie”) motion for a protective order and to quash subpoenas;[2](2) a motion to quash and for protective order filed by WRE Truck Stop 100 LLC; WRE Chemical and Pharmaceutical, LLC; WRE Feed and Mill, LLC; and WRE Real Estate Holdings, LLC (collectively, “WRE Parties”);[3] and (3) Plaintiff Lifetree Trading, Pte. Ltd.'s (“Lifetree”) motion for order of contempt.[4] The court has carefully reviewed the written memoranda submitted by the parties on the above-referenced motions. Pursuant to Civil Rule 7-1(f) of the Rules of Practice for the United States District Court for the District of Utah, the court has concluded that oral argument is not necessary and will decide the motions on the basis of the written memoranda. See DUCivR 7-1(f). The court will address the motions in turn.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Washakie's Motion for a Protective Order and to Quash Subpoenas

          Washakie seeks to quash four deposition subpoenas Lifetree served upon the WRE Parties. Washakie argues that Lifetree did not provide notice to Washakie concerning the depositions before issuing the subpoenas, as required by Rule 30(b)(1). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(1) (“A party who wants to depose a person by oral questions must give reasonable written notice to every other party.”). Washakie also contends that when Lifetree did not provide notice of the depositions to Washakie, Lifetree also failed to comply with Rule 30(b)(2), which requires that “[i]f a subpoena duces tecum is to be served on the deponent, the materials designated for production, as set out in the subpoena, must be listed in the notice or in an attachment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(2). Washakie further asserts that Lifetree's counsel failed to confer with Washakie's counsel concerning the scheduling of the depositions before issuing the subpoenas.

         The subpoenas in question scheduled the four depositions of the WRE Parties for June 28 and 29, 2018. As of the date of this order, those dates have passed and, according to Lifetree, the depositions did not occur on those dates. Accordingly, there is no need to quash the subpoenas. Therefore, Washakie's motion is moot.

         The court notes that Lifetree subsequently issued deposition subpoenas to the WRE Parties, with notice to Washakie, rescheduling the four depositions for dates in July 2018 (collectively, “Subpoenas”).[5] The court is unaware whether those depositions went forward as scheduled. In its reply memorandum in support of its motion, Washakie argues that Lifetree's counsel failed to consult with Washakie's counsel regarding the scheduling of those depositions and, accordingly, the Subpoenas should be quashed. Importantly, however, Washakie has not filed a separate motion to quash the Subpoenas. The court will not entertain Washakie's request without a separate motion. Nevertheless, Lifetree's counsel is hereby notified that for any future depositions, it shall endeavor to consult with Washakie's counsel concerning the scheduling of depositions, as required by the Utah Standards of Professionalism and Civility. See DUCivR 83-1.1(g) (adopting the Utah Standards of Professionalism and Civility for attorney conduct in cases and proceedings in this court).

         As a final matter, the court notes the parties' apparent disagreement as to whether Washakie is permitted to attend the depositions of the WRE Parties. Because it is unclear whether Washakie has indeed been prevented from participating in those depositions, that issue is not ripe for court consideration. If either party feels that issue needs to be resolved, that party should file an appropriate motion with the court.

         II. WRE Parties' Motion to Quash and for Protective Order

          The WRE Parties seek to quash the Subpoenas. The WRE Parties argue that the Subpoenas subject them to an undue burden. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(d)(3)(A)(iv) (requiring the court to quash or modify a subpoena that “subjects a person to undue burden”). In support of their motion, the WRE Parties present several arguments as to why compliance with the Subpoenas is unduly burdensome. The court will address those arguments in turn.

         First, the WRE Parties assert that they are no longer in business and have ceased operations. The court is unable to see how that argument supports a showing of undue burden. Moreover, as argued by Lifetree, if the WRE Parties are in fact out of business, the need for a response to the Subpoenas is crucial before documents are potentially lost, individuals become unavailable, or assets are potentially dissipated.

         Second, the WRE Parties contend that they have no assets. Lifetree correctly notes that it is unclear whether the WRE Parties are seeking relief because they cannot afford to respond to the Subpoenas or because they have no assets to satisfy the underlying judgment in this case if they are found to be liable for the judgment. Regardless of the reason, the court concludes that the WRE Parties have failed to show that the Subpoenas impose an undue burden. It appears that the cost of responding to the Subpoenas would be minimal. Additionally, the fact that the WRE Parties may have insufficient assets to satisfy a judgment does not excuse them from complying with the Subpoenas.

         Third, the WRE Parties assert that they have very limited information that is responsive to the Subpoenas. That argument does nothing to demonstrate undue burden. To the contrary, if the WRE Parties have ...


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