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Springs v. Ally Financial, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

April 27, 2015

VENUS SPRINGS, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLY FINANCIAL, INC., F/K/A GMAC, INC., AMY BOUQUE, KATHLEEN PATTERSON, YEQUIANG HE and CYNTHIA DAUTRICH, Defendants.

ORDER

MAX O. COGBURN, Jr., District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the court on Plaintiff's "Emergency Motion for a Stay" (#126) and the associated briefs of the parties. Having considered motion and reviewed the pleadings, the court enters the following Order.

I. Introduction and Procedural History

In light of the fact that the pertinent procedural and factual background in this matter has been thoroughly addressed through the court's previous orders (##104, 113, 121, 124), the court will provide only a brief review of the most relevant facts giving rise to Plaintiff's motion.

On December 2, 2014, Magistrate Judge Keesler entered an Order (#104) amending the previously existing Protective Order in this matter (#55) to provide that "No party shall publish or disseminate audio or video recordings obtained during discovery in this action without prior permission of the Court." (#104, p. 12). The Order further mandated that:

[1] Plaintiff shall immediately have any video or audio recordings related to this action removed from YouTube and any other internet site. Such video(s) or audio recording(s) may only be used in connection with this lawsuit, unless otherwise ordered by this Court; [and]
[2] Plaintiff shall file a Notice with this Court, on or before December 16, 2014, describing the steps she has taken to remove video(s) and/or audio recording(s) from public access, and confirming that the 30(b)(6) deposition by Amy Bouque has been removed from YouTube.

(Id., p. 13). Judge Keesler further notified Plaintiff that "[f]ailure to abide by this Order will likely lead to sanctions." (Id.)

Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a Notice with the court on December 16, 2014 unequivocally stating that she would only remove the video and audio recorded from the deposition at issue "when so ordered by an Article III judge." (#105, p. 1). She also filed Objections to Judge Keesler's Order. (#106). Defendants filed a Motion for Sanctions (#107) based on Plaintiff's failure to comply with Judge Keesler's Order. The undersigned issued an Order (#113) on February 6, 2015, overruling Plaintiff's objections to Judge Keesler's Order (#104) and ordering her to comply with it in all aspects. The undersigned then denied Defendants' Motion for Sanctions but noted that the court would not hesitate to consider future sanctions against Plaintiff if she continued to ignore orders of this court. (#113).

Defendants filed another Motion for Sanctions (#114) on February 12, 2015, arguing that despite multiple warnings, Plaintiff had continued to disobey the court's Protective Order. Plaintiff then filed a Notice (#116) on February 20, 2015, asserting that she "had removed from the internet, the video and audio from any deposition video I obtained during discovery in this case." (#116, p. 1). Plaintiff then filed her "Response In Opposition To Defendants' Second Motion For Sanctions" (# 119) on March 2, 2014, asserting that she had fully complied with the court's order. (# 119, p. 1). Defendants filed a Notice on March 3, 2014 that they did not wish to reply. (#120).

On March 6, 2015, the undersigned issued an Order (#121) referring Defendants' Motion for Sanctions (#114) to Judge Keesler, noting that as of the date of the Order (#121), Plaintiff appeared to have removed the audio and video from the depositions at issue from YouTube. She had not removed, however, a video that she uploaded to YouTube comprised of stills, or "screen shots, " of the deposition video. The undersigned noted that Plaintiff appeared to have complied with only the most narrow interpretation of Judge Keesler's Order (#104), and therefore found it appropriate to refer the matter back to him to clarify the scope of the protective order and determine whether it extended to "screen shots" of the video deposition. On March 9, 2015, Judge Keesler issued an Order (#124) granting, with modification, Defendants' Motion for Sanctions. (#114). Judge Keesler found that Plaintiff's narrow interpretation of the Protective Order (#104) had been in bad faith. He reiterated that previous court orders had made clear the fact that video and/or audio recordings obtained during discovery in this action "may only be used in connection with this lawsuit, unless otherwise ordered by this Court." (# 104, pp.12-13); (#113, p. 6). Judge Keesler found:

[t]he Court did not allow for circumstances where a video or audio obtained during discovery in this case could be published or disseminated in any way; regardless of the speed at which it is played, or any other way it might be edited or otherwise manipulated. As of March 6, 2015, Plaintiff is using video recording(s) from this lawsuit in a manner that is not in connection with this lawsuit, and has not been allowed by this Court. Plaintiff's continued use of deposition videos in this case, even if that use only includes still images or "screen shots" from those videos, is in violation of this Court's orders.

(#124, p. 4). He then ordered Plaintiff to file a Notice with the court on or before March 16, 201[5] describing the steps she had taken to remove video(s) and/or audio recording(s) from public access, and confirming that the 30(b)(6) deposition by Amy Bouque had been completely removed from YouTube. Id. at 5. He reminded Plaintiff that any public use or dissemination of video and/or audio recordings from discovery in this case, in any manner, is prohibited. (Id.) Judge Keesler also ordered that Plaintiff be fined $100 per day for every day she made publicly available, on the internet or otherwise, any video or audio recording from discovery in this case, beginning March 16, 201[5]. (Id., p. 4).

On March 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal (#122) as to: 1) Judge Keesler's Order modifying his earlier protective order (#104); 2) the Order of the undersigned upholding Judge Keesler's Order (#113); and 3) the Order of the undersigned referring Defendants' Motion for Sanctions (#114) to Judge Keesler (#121). Those matters are currently before the Fourth Circuit. On March 26, 2015, by a separate motion, Plaintiff filed an "Appeal of and ...


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