834 F.3d 1194 (11th Cir. 2016), 15-13008, Sergeeva v. Tripleton International Limited

Docket Nº:15-13008, 15-15066
Citation:834 F.3d 1194, 26 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. C 653
Opinion Judge:DALTON, District Judge:
Party Name:Anna Aleksandrovna Sergeeva, a natural Person and Citizen of the Russian Federation, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Tripleton International Limited, Defendant, Trident Corporate Services, Inc., Interested Party-Appellant, Gabriela Pugh, Interested Party.
Attorney:Fredric J. Bold, Jr., Lisa R. Strauss, Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, LLP, Atlanta, GA, for Plaintiff-Appellee. Debra G. Buster, Glenn P. Hendrix, Arnall Golden & Gregory, LLP, Atlanta, GA, for Defendant. Philip Whitworth Engle, Philip W. Engle, LLC, Roswell, GA, for Interested Party-Appellant.
Judge Panel:Before JORDAN and ANDERSON Circuit Judges, and DALTON, [*] District Judge.
Case Date:August 23, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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Page 1194

834 F.3d 1194 (11th Cir. 2016)

26 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. C 653

Anna Aleksandrovna Sergeeva, a natural Person and Citizen of the Russian Federation, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Tripleton International Limited, Defendant,

Trident Corporate Services, Inc., Interested Party-Appellant,

Gabriela Pugh, Interested Party.

Nos. 15-13008, 15-15066

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

August 23, 2016

Page 1195

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, D.C. Docket No. 1:13-cv-3437-LMM.

Fredric J. Bold, Jr., Lisa R. Strauss, Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, LLP, Atlanta, GA, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Debra G. Buster, Glenn P. Hendrix, Arnall Golden & Gregory, LLP, Atlanta, GA, for Defendant.

Philip Whitworth Engle, Philip W. Engle, LLC, Roswell, GA, for Interested Party-Appellant.

Before JORDAN and ANDERSON Circuit Judges, and DALTON, * District Judge.

OPINION

DALTON, District Judge:

In these consolidated appeals, Appellant challenges the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia’s orders allowing discovery pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, § 1782 (Appeal No. 15-13008 (“ First Appeal” )) and imposing contempt sanctions (Appeal No. 15-15066 (“ Second Appeal” )). After a thorough review of the record and with the benefit of oral argument, we find no error and affirm the District Court in all respects.

I.

After dissolving their sixteen-year marriage in the Russian Federation (“ Russia” ), former spouses Mikhail Leopoldovich Dubin (“ Ex-Husband” ) and Appellee Anna Sergeeva (“ Ex-Wife” ) commenced a distinct proceeding in the Hoamvnischesky District Court of Moscow (“ Moscow Court” ) for division of marital assets (“ Russian Dispute” ). In the Russian Dispute, Ex-Wife claimed that Ex-Husband was concealing and dissipating marital assets through and with the assistance of “ offshore companies” around the world.

Ex-Husband dodged, delayed, and opposed Ex-Wife’s unrelenting efforts to obtain discovery in support of her claim, and their red in tooth and claw feud played out in countries around the world, including Cyprus, Latvia, Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands (“ BVI” ), the Commonwealth of the Bahamas (“ Bahamas” ), and the United States of America. In the United States, Ex-Wife sought information from Gabriella Pugh (“ Ms. Pugh” ) and her employer in Atlanta, Georgia— Appellant Trident Corporate Services, Inc. (“ Trident Atlanta” )— that she expected would reveal Ex-Husband’s beneficial ownership of Bahamian corporation, Tripleton International Limited (“ Tripleton” ). When met with resistance, Ex-Wife initiated a § 1782 action in the Atlanta division of the District Court on July 25, 2013. Ex-Wife filed substantial evidence in support of her “ Ex Parte Application for Judicial Assistance” (“ Application” ), including a lengthy and detailed declaration from her attorney, Dmitry Lovyrev (“ Lovyrev” ). On referral, the Magistrate Judge granted the ex parte Application and authorized service of two subpoenas (“ Ex Parte M.J. Order” ).

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The subpoena issued to Trident Atlanta (“ Subpoena” ): (a) referenced Tripleton, and other Bahamian corporations, including Guardian Nominees (Bahamas) Limited (“ Guardian Bahamas” ) and Trident Corporate Services (Bahamas) Limited (“ Trident Bahamas” ); (b) referenced other “ Trident Trust” entities located in Cyprus and Switzerland; (c) demanded production of documents possessed by Trident Trust entities located outside the United States, including Trident Bahamas; and (d) instructed Trident Atlanta to furnish all responsive documents in its “ possession, custody, or control, regardless of whether such documents or materials are possessed directly by [Trident Atlanta] or by any of [Trident Atlanta’ s] agents, representatives, attorneys, or their employees or investigators.”

Trident Atlanta objected to the Subpoena on numerous grounds, including that it sought documents located outside the United States and required “ Trident Atlanta to obtain documents from a third party.” 1 Trident Atlanta also filed motions to vacate the Ex Parte M.J. Order and to quash the Subpoena, which motions were referred to the Magistrate Judge, who: (a) denied the motions; (b) granted Ex-Wife’s motion to compel; and (c) required production of all documents responsive to the Subpoena that are within the “ possession, custody, or control” of Trident Atlanta. (“ M.J. Production Order” ). A few months later, the Magistrate Judge also denied Trident Atlanta’s request for reconsideration of the M.J. Production Order. (“ M.J. Reconsideration Order” ).

Ultimately, Trident Atlanta produced only twenty-three pages of documents from its office in Atlanta, and it objected to the M.J. Production and the M.J. Reconsideration Orders. On February 6, 2015, the District Court Judge overruled Trident Atlanta’s objections and approved the orders entered by the Magistrate Judge. (“ DJ Review Order” ). Several months later, the District Court declined to reconsider the DJ Review Order and noted that Trident Atlanta’s obligation to respond to the Subpoena was clear: [Trident Atlanta] is required to respond to the [S]ubpoena as ordered by [the Magistrate Judge] on November 22, 2013. If it does not have the requested documents, it should say so via a discovery response with a clear statement as to what [Trident Atlanta] has done in order to obtain these documents. If [Trident Atlanta] cannot produce the documents after a good faith attempt to find documents, it should say so. Obviously, if [Trident Atlanta] does not tell the truth and does in fact have the practical ability to obtain the documents, this Court will order sanctions against [Trident Atlanta].

(“ DJ Reconsideration Order” ). Trident Atlanta then filed the First Appeal and requested stays, which requests were denied by the District Court and by this Court.

While the First Appeal was pending, Ex-Wife sought sanctions against Trident Atlanta for its failure to produce documents responsive to the Subpoena. (“ Sanctions Motion” ). The District Court determined that it retained...

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