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Fraihat v. Cohen

November 7, 2007

FAOUR ABDALLAH, FRAIHAT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COHEN, UNIT MANAGER AT CCA; ET DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara L. Major United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL

[Doc. No. 47]

On September 19, 2007, Defendants sought leave to file a motion to compel production of documents. Doc. No. 46. On September 24, 2007, the Court granted Defendants' request and ordered the Clerk's Office to file the motion to compel, which was attached to the application for leave. Doc. No. 48. Pursuant to the briefing schedule set by the Court, Plaintiff timely opposed the motion [Doc. No. 55], and Defendants filed a reply on October 16, 2007 [Doc. No. 53]. The Court found the motion suitable for decision on the papers without oral argument and took the matter under submission pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). Doc. No. 48.

Having considered all of the briefing and supporting documents presented, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to compel [Doc. No. 47] is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff initiated this action against several employees of Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA") pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Compl. at 1. Plaintiff, a civil immigration detainee who previously was detained at CCA's San Diego Correctional Facility and now is being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at its El Centro Processing Center, alleges that (1) Defendants Cohen and Lebya-Gonzales interfered with his First Amendment right of legal access by delaying his legal mail, which proximately caused Plaintiff to lose his immigration appeal, (2) Defendant Clover humiliated and retaliated against him for utilizing the facility's grievance process, and (3) Defendants Soria, Clover, Howard and Easterling violated Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment Due Process rights by failing to interview witnesses and give him a formal hearing on his grievances. Id. at 5-8. As a result of these alleged violations, Plaintiff maintains that he is suffering from "serious mental stress" and, accordingly, seeks $7,000,000.00 in damages. Id. at 5, 8.

On June 8, 2007, Defendants served Plaintiff with their first set of requests for production of documents. Mem. P. & A. Supp. Defs.' Mot. to Compel ("Defs.' Mem.") at 2. Plaintiff responded to these requests on August 6, 2007, but objected to Request for Production Nos. 1, 2 and 6, which sought Plaintiff's institutional and immigration records*fn1 , on the grounds that the requested records contain "confidential documents" and "are not relevant to this case." Id. at 2, Ex. 2 at 2. After meeting and conferring unsuccessfully with Plaintiff in an effort to resolve the parties' dispute over the requests for which Plaintiff served objections, Defendants filed the instant motion to compel.

LEGAL STANDARD

The scope of discovery is defined by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b). Pursuant to that rule, litigants may obtain discovery regarding "any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Relevant information for discovery purposes includes any information "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence," and need not be admissible at trial to be discoverable. Id. District courts enjoy broad discretion both to determine relevancy for discovery purposes, see Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002), and to limit discovery to prevent its abuse, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2) (instructing that courts may limit discovery where it is "unreasonably cumulative or duplicative," "obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive," or where its burden or expense "outweighs its likely benefit").

DISCUSSION

In the instant motion, Defendants seek an order compelling Plaintiff to produce all of his institutional records, which include records regarding his medical history, disciplinary history, and past immigration proceedings. Defs.' Mem. at 3. To facilitate this production, Defendants have requested that Plaintiff sign releases authorizing the institutions where he has been detained for either criminal or immigration reasons to provide Defendants with his records.

at 3-4. Defendants contend that to the extent Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages for emotional distress, his medical records are relevant to the issue of whether Defendants' conduct, in fact, caused Plaintiff's emotional distress symptoms or whether he had pre-existing emotional distress issues. Id. Also relevant in Defendants' view is whether or not Plaintiff has continued to seek treatment for his mental distress. Id. at 4.

Defendants contend that Plaintiff's other institutional records are relevant to determine whether Plaintiff has a prior history of similar claims and/or problems concerning mail processing issues, grievance process issues or disciplinary issues. Id. Specifically in regard to Plaintiff's disciplinary history, Defendants note that Plaintiff has claimed in this lawsuit that he was subject to segregation based upon false disciplinary write-ups created in retaliation for his filing grievances and lawsuits. Id. Defendants contend that the extent of Plaintiff's institutional disciplinary history at other institutions is, therefore, relevant to Defendants' defense that Plaintiff's corrective history is a product of his pattern of repeated disciplinary violations, not retaliation. Id.

Finally, to the extent these immigration records are not included in Defendants' first and sixth production requests, Defendants' Request for Production No. 2 specifically seeks the complete court files for "In re: FRAIHAT, Faour Abdallah, In Removal Proceedings, Case No. A76 697 069; 93 167 376, United States Department of Justice, Immigration Review and Appeals." Id., Ex. 1 at 4. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's immigration records are relevant to determine whether, but for the delay in postage, the Board of Immigration Appeals would have granted Plaintiff's motion to reconsider. Id. at 3. It is Defendants' belief that ...


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