ALLISON CLAIRE, Magistrate Judge.
Pending before the court is defendant Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc.'s ("Taylor Farms") ex parte application for an order authorizing discovery. Plaintiffs oppose the application. The court has determined that this matter shall be submitted on the papers. On review of the ex parte application, the documents filed in support and opposition, and good cause appearing therefor, THE COURT FINDS AS FOLLOWS:
RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Initiation of Case in State Court and Removal to Federal Court
Plaintiffs initiated this wage-and-hour class action against defendant Taylor Farms on February 17, 2012 in the San Joaquin County Superior Court.
Superior Court Case Management Order
On October 10, 2012, a case management order was entered setting forth a January 11, 2013 deadline for filing a motion for class certification and a March 22, 2013 hearing on plaintiffs' motion.
In March 2013, plaintiffs filed a second ex parte application to continue the class certification deadlines for the purpose of conducting additional discovery to support their motion for class certification. ECF No. 2-21 at 16-26. The ex parte application was granted by the state court presiding judge, setting August 13, 2013 as the deadline for filing a motion for class certification and October 16, 2013 as the hearing date on plaintiffs' motion. ECF No. 2-21 at 29-30. This was the case management order in effect at the time this was case removed to this court.
Removal to Federal Court
Following removal to this court, Judge Mueller issued an order setting a pretrial scheduling conference for October 31, 2013. ECF No. 4. Judge Mueller's order directs the parties to meet and confer pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(f) and Local Rule 240(b) at least 21 days before the conference and to submit a joint status report that includes the Rule 26(f) discovery plan at least 7 days before the conference.
As to cases removed from state court, Judge Mueller's order states only as follows:
ECF No. 4 ¶ 4.
Attached to the order setting status conference is Judge Mueller's Standing Order, which provides the following directive in removed cases:
ECF No. 4-1 ¶ 9.
The Instant Dispute
On July 16, 2013, nearly three weeks after this case was removed, Taylor Farms filed an ex parte application for an order authorizing discovery. ECF No. 10. Taylor Farms contends that, since removal, plaintiffs have refused to conduct discovery until participation in a Rule 26(f) conference, which they refuse to participate in because they assert that it is premature at this time. Taylor Farms argues that, since the parties have conducted extensive discovery in state court and since a case management schedule is already in place, a Rule 26(f) conference is unnecessary because its goals and aims have been satisfied long ago. Alternatively, since the state court's case management order remains in effect, defendant claims that it must conduct limited discovery to comply with those deadlines.
Plaintiffs oppose the application based on the following: (1) the express language of Rule 26(d)(1), which provides that "[a] party may not seek discovery from any source before the parties have conferred s required by Rule 26(f)"; (2) there is no urgency for ex parte relief; (3) plaintiffs are contemplating filing a motion to remand, which, if granted, would return discovery disputes to state court; (4) four new defendants have been added; and (5) Taylor Farms' removal delayed and interfered with discovery propounded by plaintiffs prior to removal.
"[A]fter removal, the federal court takes the case up where the State court left it off."
Here, the presiding judge in the state action granted plaintiffs' ex parte application to continue the class action certification deadlines, with August 13, 2013 as the deadline for filing a motion for class certification and October 16, 2013 as the hearing date on plaintiffs' motion. Because this case management order was in effect at the time this was case removed and further because Judge Mueller has not "dissolved or modified" through the order setting a scheduling conference or her Standing Order, those deadlines "shall remain in full force and effect." 28 U.S.C. § 1450.
Plaintiffs disagree with this analysis, relying on
The court turns now to the question of whether the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandate a discovery stay in a removed action pending participation in a Rule 26(f) conference. Generally, Rule 26(d) states that "[a] party may not seek discovery from any source before the parties have conferred as required by Rule 26(f), except . . . when authorized by these rules, by stipulation, or by court order." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(d)(1) (emphasis added). In considering the relationship between Rule 26(d)(1) and § 1450, courts have concluded that, in the context of discovery orders issued by a state court prior to removal, "[n]either § 1450 nor the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure carves out discovery orders from the scope of § 1450, or treats state court discovery orders differently from other state court orders."
The status of discovery requests served prior to removal, however, remains in dispute. Some courts do not consider these to constitute "proceedings" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1450 and, therefore, find that they become null and void on removal.
With this legal framework in mind, the court considers Taylor Farm's ex parte application for an order authorizing discovery. Specifically, Taylor Farms urges the court either to find that there is no need for a Rule 26(f) conference because its goals have already been met by the parties' discovery efforts in state court or to issue an order shortening the deadline for the parties to meet and confer pursuant to Rule 26(f).
Scope and Purpose of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Taylor Farm first argues that a Rule 26(f) conference is unnecessary because its goals have been satisfied by the parties' discovery efforts in state court. The goal of Rule 26(f) is for the parties to meet and confer as soon as practicable "to consider the nature and basis of their claims and defenses . . .; discuss any issues about preserving discoverable information; and develop a proposed discovery plan." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(f)(1)-(2). The discovery plan, in turn, is to state the parties' views and proposal on matters such as "the subjects on which discovery may be needed, when discovery should be completed, and whether discovery should be conducted in phases or be limited to or focused on particular issues," Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(f)(3)(B); "any issues about claims of privilege or of protection as trial-preparation materials,"
In support of its position Taylor Farms relies heavily on the parties' state court discovery efforts, plaintiffs' efforts in particular. The record establishes that plaintiffs (1) sent to defendant a "Demand for Preservation of Electronically Stored Information" on or around the time the case was initially filed, ECF No. 2-10 at 25-30; (2) stipulated to limitations regarding their and defendant's respective expert witnesses, ECF No. 2-10 at 110-11; (3) entered into a stipulated protective order, ECF No. 2-10 at 113-22; (4) served interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admissions,
In considering Taylor Farm's first argument, the court is guided by the overriding scope and purpose of the entire Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which is that they "should be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding." Fed. R. Civ. P. 1. Rule 1 and the parties' discovery efforts lend considerable support to Taylor Farm's position that the goal of Rule 26(f) has been satisfied. The parties had established a discovery plan as related to plaintiffs' motion for class certification, a case management order was issued by the state court, and the parties were proceeding with discovery accordingly. Nevertheless, Judge Mueller did schedule a pretrial scheduling conference in this case, suggesting the need to revisit scheduling in light of removal. The undersigned therefore declines to find that a Rule 26(f) conference is unnecessary entirely.
The Class Certification Deadline
The court nonetheless agrees with Taylor Farms that discovery is necessary now in order to comply with the current class certification deadlines. As discussed
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Taylor Farms' ex parte application is granted. The parties shall meet and confer pursuant to Rule 26(f) within twenty-one (21) days from the date of this order.