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Bruce v. Ylst


July 28, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Vaughn R Walker United States District Chief Judge


On July 19, 2005, the court received a letter from counsel for plaintiff Vincent C Bruce (Bruce) seeking permission to file a motion to compel evidence pursuant to two discovery requests. Defendant California Department of Corrections (CDC) responded with its own letter opposing Bruce's request. Doc #144. Bruce endeavors to compel production by the CDC of requested documents "referring or relating to the physiological and psychological effects of confinement in the Second Housing Unit [SHU]." Fry Letter at 1. The CDC objects to this request as "without reasonable limitations "unduly burdensome causing undue hardship." Fry Letter; Ex. E. Specifically, the CDC found the request "overly broad" because it provides no "limitations as to time and subject matter." Id.

The court finds that the CDC's objections to these requests are well-taken. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(2) imposes limitations on the scope of discovery, including a requirement that the burden or expense of the discovery not outweigh its likely benefit. FRCP 26(b)(2)(iii). Presently, Bruce is requesting the CDC to produce "ALL DOCUMENTS referring or relating to" the psychological or physiological effects of confinement in a SHU. The requests seek all documents relating to any CDC facility, not just documents pertaining to Pelican Bay State Prison, where Bruce alleges the unlawful retaliation took place. Fry Letter; Ex A, Request No. 13 & 14. Moreover, the requests contain no time period limitation, even though the time period relevant to the claim is readily discernible. Id.

Bruce argues that the requested documents are relevant on the issue of liability to demonstrate that the correctional officers knew confinement in SHU to be a "harsh penalty," and therefore intended Bruce's confinement to be retaliatory. Fry Letter at 2. A request more narrowly crafted to the training and employment of these specific officers might encompass relevant evidence without causing the CDC undue hardship. Although the documents sought are more clearly relevant to the issue of Bruce's damages, they would hardly be the only evidence on damages. Thus, the court finds that Bruce's likely benefit is simply far outweighed by the burden the requests impose on the CDC.

Bruce also argues that the burden is on the CDC, as the responding party, to demonstrate that Bruce's requests are unduly burdensome. Id (citing Excelligence Learning Corp v Oriental Trading Co, 2004 US Dist LEXIS 28125 at *22-24 (ND Cal June 14, 2004); but see Sorosky v Burroughs Corp, 826 F2d 794, 805 (9th Cir 1987) ("Without a more specific showing that the burdens of production would be minimal and that the requested documents would lead to relevant evidence, we cannot say that the district court abused its discretion in concluding that the burdens of the requests outweighed their potential benefits."). While it is true that the responding party must often oppose a motion to compel by demonstrating that the request is unduly burdensome, the CDC is not opposing a motion to compel. Rather, the court considers Bruce's request for leave to file such a motion. Because the court finds that Bruce's discovery requests are overly broad on their face, the court DENIES Bruce's request.



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