MLW Files Motion Against WWE’s Plea To Halt Discovery In Lawsuit
In 2022, MLW filed a lawsuit against WWE on grounds of malicious interference with their contracts and business prospects. WWE had allegedly pressured third parties to abandon agreements and prospective relationships with MLW. It was further alleged that WWE compelled the end of MLW’s negotiations with VICE TV in 2021.
Pwinsider reports that on January 23rd, MLW officially filed its legal response to WWE’s motion to halt discovery in the lawsuit, arguing that WWE’s plea “fails on procedure and evidence.” MLW’s legal letter states that the motion from WWE was made without an obligatory meeting and conference required under the court’s rules and that it “ignores the Court’s Case Management Order, which held (over WWE’s objection) that discovery is open.”
On January 5th, WWE filed a motion, requesting the honorable court to halt the discovery of materials in MLW’s lawsuit against them. The motion argued that the discovery process could cost WWE “millions of dollars in responding to discovery (in a case that may be dismissed), all while accessing WWE’s most sensitive, competitive information.”
You can read MLW’s full response below:
Defendant World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.’s (“WWE”) motion for administrative relief (ECF 57) is its latest desperate attempt to delay discovery that will expose its anticompetitive scheme to destroy Plaintiff MLW Media LLC’s (“MLW”) business and monopolize the U.S. market for the sale of broadcasting rights for professional wrestling programs. The motion fails on procedure and substance.
As a procedural matter, WWE’s motion was made without the meet and confer required under the Local Rules of the Northern District of California (the “Local Rules”).
On substance, the motion ignores the Court’s Case Management Order, which held (over WWE’s objection) that discovery is open. WWE’s assertion that a status conference is needed for the Parties to propose changes to the Case Management Order, pending the Court’s ruling on the Motion to Dismiss, is ridiculous on its face. In fact, the Court was well aware of the pending motion to dismiss when it issued its Case Management Order. And no further conference is needed to reinforce this Court’s clear guidance in that order that discovery is open—indeed, if discovery were not open then it would not be set to close on September 29, 2023.
WWE’s other arguments are equally flawed. MLW did not engage in forum shopping; rather, it properly filed its motion to compel before Magistrate Judge van Keulen in accordance with this Court’s Case Management Order, which provided “that any disputes with respect to discovery or disclosure are referred to the assigned Magistrate Judge.” And WWE’s false concern for third parties is nothing more than an attempt to prevent discovery into its predatory scheme which involved, inter alia, preventing its competitors from booking the arenas that were essential to the creation of professional wrestling content.
WWE’s Motion Violates Local Rule 7-11
WE’s motion is its latest effort in a series of actions that flagrantly disregard the orders of this Court and the Local Rules. Local Rule 7-11 requires that all motions for administrative relief be accompanied by “either a stipulation under Civil L.R. 7-12 or by a declaration that explains why a stipulation could not be obtained.” Civil L.R. 7-11(a). Yet WWE made no effort to consult Plaintiff or to satisfy the Local Rules’ prerequisite to seek a stipulation before burdening this Court with its baseless motion practice. Its motion should be rejected on this basis alone.
II. This Court’s Case Management Order Resolved the Dispute Over Whether Discovery is Open
WWE falsely claims that this Court’s Case Management Order did not address when discovery opens. In fact, this exact issue was put before the Court in the Parties’ Joint Rule 26(f) Report, in which the Parties submitted competing views of whether discovery in this matter was open. This Court specifically rejected WWE’s proposal in the Rule 26(f) Report that discovery be delayed until “[two] weeks after the Court’s ruling on [the] pending motion to dismiss” , and instead accepted MLW’s position that “discovery is already open” (id.) and ordered the parties to complete fact and expert discovery by September 29, 2023 and January 25, 2024, respectively. Despite the fact that this issue was expressly put before this Court, WWE incredibly claims that “[t]he Case Management Order did not address this dispute.”
WWE’s disingenuous position is further belied by its Motion for Protective Order, in which WWE implicitly recognized that discovery is open and requested that this Court “stay the collection, review, and production of documents responsive to MLW’s documents requests.” If discovery were not open there would be no requirement for a stay. MLW’s motion to compel before Judge van Keulen, by contrast, was necessitated by WWE’s refusal to abide by its discovery obligations and is consistent with established precedent that makes clear that a motion for a protective order does not excuse a defendant from fully complying with its discovery defendant is “not excused . . . from fully complying with its discovery obligations” while a motion for a protective order is pending), rev’d on other grounds, 449 F. App’x 646 (9th Cir. 2011); Garcia v. Almieda, 2006 WL 3001171, at *4 (E.D. Cal. 2006) (“[F]iling a motion for a protective order does not work to immediately shield the moving party from the [duty to appear at a] deposition.”); see also Schwarzer, Tashima & Wagstaffe, Cal. Practice Guide: Fed. Civ. Pro. Before Trial ¶ 11:1166 (The Rutter Group 2008) (“The mere fact that a motion for protective order is pending does not itself excuse the subpoenaed party from making discovery[.]”). Thus, unless and until WWE’s motion for a protective order is granted, it is obligated to abide by its discovery obligations and its failure to do so necessitated MLW’s motion to compel. Any risk of “wasting judicial resources” is therefore entirely of WWE’s own making.
No Change is Needed to the Case Management Order
WWE claims that “a status conference is needed for the Parties to propose changes to the Case Management Order pending the Court’s ruling on the Motion to Dismiss.” (ECF 57 at 3.) However, this Court issued its Case Management Order on December 13, 2022,, well after WWE filed its Motion to Dismiss on March 15, 2022, (ECF 19). The Court was well aware of the pending motion to dismiss when it issued its Case Management Order and there has been no intervening change in circumstances that warrant a departure from the Court’s prior scheduling determination.
WWE also misrepresents MLW’s arguments in the Motion to Compel, claiming that “MLW argues that the Case Management Order provides insufficient time for fact discovery” (ECF 57 at 3), which is perhaps why WWE fails to provide any citation in support. MLW did not argue that the Case Management Order provides insufficient time for fact discovery, but rather argued that WWE’s refusal to abide by the Court’s Scheduling Order, and WWE’s unilateral stay of discovery until this Court rules on its motion to dismiss, will prejudice MLW.
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