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Wright v. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

February 6, 2015



JOHN A. ROSS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Christopher Wright's ("Wright") Motion to Compel Compliance with Third-Party Subpoenas Issued in Arbitration (Doc. 1). Defendants have filed oppositions to this motion (Doc. 4, 7). Plaintiff has replied (Doc. 10). The Court granted Defendants Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC ("NML") leave to file a sur-reply (Doc. 13). For the following reasons, the motion will be GRANTED.

I. Background

Plaintiff and Defendants are currently involved in an arbitration proceeding before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") Arbitration Panel ("the Panel") regarding Plaintiff's claim that NML defamed Plaintiff and tortuously interfered with his business expectations. The final arbitration hearing is currently scheduled for February 9, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. On January 22, 2015, the Panel issued a Subpoena to Produce Documents to be served upon the Missouri Department of Insurance ("MDOI") and a Subpoena for Testimony to be served upon Ms. Lynda Kammeier, an investigator at the MDOI ( See Doc. 1-2).

In light of the MDOI's representations that it would not produce the documents or Ms. Kammeier, Plaintiff filed the current Motion to Compel pursuant to section 7 of the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") with this Court on January 28, 2015. On January 30, 2015, the Court entered an order expediting the briefing schedule and directing service upon the Defendants of both the Motion to Compel and that Order. Defendants have appeared in this case and responded to the Motion to Compel. In addition to their responses, Defendants moved to quash the subpoenas prematurely issued and served on behalf of this Court. The Court granted that Motion because the Court had not approved the issuance at that time.

II. Analysis

A. Due Process

The Court must first address NML's assertion that Plaintiff's Motion to Compel and this Court's January 30, 2015 Order violate its Due Process Rights. Specifically, that despite Plaintiff's Notice to the Court that it served NML with its Motion to Compel by email (Doc. 3), counsel for NML retrieved the pleadings themselves via the PACER docket system. NML also contends that Plaintiff's counsel misrepresented to the Court that counsel for NML requested service be directed at him. Finally, NML argues that there was no good cause for expediting the briefing schedule in this matter.

In response, Plaintiff points to NML's own Exhibit C which includes copies of the subpoenas and a copy of the Motion to Compel. Exhibit C is the same exhibit NML cites as evidence that it never received the Motion to Compel. Plaintiff also argues that NML has conceded that it was "served" with the Court's order which was provided by NML via email to its counsel. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that given the shortened timetable, Plaintiff's counsel used email service in order to ensure Defendants sufficient time to respond under the Court's Order.

It is clear from the record that NML received actual notice of the Motion to Compel in a timely fashion. "When the process gives defendant actual notice of the pendency of the action, the rules, in general, are entitled to a liberal construction." Armco, Inc. v. Penrod-Stauffer Bldg. Systems, Inc., 733 F.2d 1087, 1090 (4th Cir. 1984). Under such liberal construction, the Court finds that service of the Motion should be upheld in this case. Plaintiff's counsel indicates that NML's counsel was willing to accept service via email and had done so throughout the pendency of the arbitration proceeding. While NML now claims this is not the case, by receiving service via email, NML was afforded additional time to respond to the Court's Order expediting the briefing schedule. Wiseland v. Admiral Beverage Corp., 119 F.3d 733, 737 (8th Cir. 1997) ("The rules give wide authority and discretion to the district court to manage its caseload.") Further, NML has entered an appearance and has fully responded to the Motion such that the Court finds that NML's substantial rights have not been affected.

B. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Section 7 of the FAA states that "upon petition the United States district court for the district in which such arbitrators, or a majority of them, are sitting may compel the attendance of such person or persons before said arbitrator or arbitrators, or punish said person or persons for contempt." 9 U.S.C. § 7. Therefore, this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's motion to compel so long as the arbitrators are "sitting" within the Eastern District of Missouri pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 7. Ferry Holding Corp. v. GIS Marine, LLC, No. 4:11-MC-687 (CEJ), 2012 WL 88196, at *1-*2 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 11, 2012) (citing Hunter Engineering Co. v. Hennessy Industries, Inc., No. 4:08CV465, 2009 WL 3806377, at *2 (E.D. Mo. 2009)). In this case, the Parties do not contest that the Panel is sitting in the Eastern District of Missouri.

C. Issuance of Subpoenas

Plaintiff requests that the Court enforce the subpoenas issued on behalf of the Panel by authorizing his counsel to issue and sign subpoenas for the production of the documents and to compel testimony under the authority of the Court. Section 7 grants an arbitrator the power to "summon in writing any person to attend before them or any of them as a witness and in a proper case to bring with him or them any book, record, document, or paper which may be deemed material as evidence in the case." 9 U.S.C. § 7. "[I]f any person or person so summoned... shall refuse or neglect to obey said summons, " a district court may either (1) "compel the attendance of such person or persons before said arbitrators" or (2) "punish said person or ...

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