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Tracchia v. Tilton


December 22, 2008



Plaintiff is a state prison inmate proceeding pro se with a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging restrictions on the family visiting program for inmates. He has filed a motion to compel discovery and a motion to continue the proceedings on defendants' motion for summary judgment; defendants have filed a motion for a protective order.

I. Plaintiff's Motion To Compel Discovery

On September 18, 2008, plaintiff filed a motion to compel the defendants to answer interrogatories. Defendants opposed on the ground that the motion was premature and that responses would be provided in a timely manner.

According to the court's discovery order, responses to discovery were due forty-five days after the request was served. Docket No. 17 ¶ 2. According to defendants plaintiff's discovery requests were served on June 25, 2008; plaintiff does not dispute as much. Defendants secured two extensions of time to respond, with the ultimate due date extended until September 24, 2008. Docket Nos. 24 & 28. Accordingly, the motion to compel was premature.

Plaintiff filed two other documents on the same date as his motion to compel. Each is denominated a "reply" to defendant Clark's and Tilton's objections to the interrogatories. Each argues that the defendants' objections are in "bad faith" and designed "to delay the process of this lawsuit." Plaintiff asks the court direct the defendants "to answer the interrogatories presented to them, as the information is undoubtedly known by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and is accessable [sic]." Docket Nos. 29 & 30 at 2. Defendants have not responded to these documents.

Under Local Rule 33-250(c), interrogatories should not be filed "until there is a proceeding in which the interrogatories . . . [are] at issue. When required in a proceeding, only that part of the set of interrogatories and answers that is in issue shall be filed." Plaintiff has not filed those portions of his interrogatories or the answers he contends are inadequate and so has not complied with the rules. Because he has not done so, the court cannot evaluate the merits of his claim that the responses were inadequate.

II. Defendants' Motions For A Protective Order

Plaintiff has served identical requests for admissions on the defendants, containing 276 requests. Request 1 through 55, 65 through 118, 206 through 247, 249, 251 through 262 and 276 ask defendants to admit certain things based on an interpretation of provisions of Title 15 of the California Code of Regulations. Additional entries seek responses about the Departmental Operations Manual: requests 132 through 190 and 192 through 201. Typical requests of this type read:

Per CCR Title 15 Div. 3 § 3177, Inmates who have been found guilty of a serious rule violation report consisting of use of a non-inmate hostage occuring [sic] more than 14 months prior, is not housed in administrative segregation or the security housing unit, is not designated "C" status, and has a custody designation level of medium or below shall not be restricted from participating in the family visiting program based on such a guilty finding alone.

Per the CDCR D.O.M. § 54020.33.16, Inmates participating in the family visiting program shall be required to purchase all food for the visitor and themselves with funds from their trust account.

Motion For A Protective Order (Docket No. 36), Ex. A ¶¶ 30, 171.

Requests 56 through 58 ask the defendants to admit certain things about plaintiff's commitment offense and in-prison record. In requests 60 and 61, plaintiff asks defendants to admit that a lower custody designation indicates lesser security control needs while a higher designation indicates greater security needs.

In requests 62 through 64, plaintiff poses hypothetical questions about the chance that an eighteen year old inmate with a specified sentence will be paroled.

Requests 119 through 131 ask about the gun cover in various security level facilities and in the family visiting unit, the placement of family visiting units.

In requests 191 and 202 through 205, plaintiff asks defendants to admit facts about the family visiting unit.

In requests 248 and 250, plaintiff asks the defendants to admit that an inmate receives placement score points when found guilty of a serious rules violation and receives a reduction of that score for periods of disciplinary-free behavior.

In requests 263 through 269 and 271 through 275 plaintiff asks defendants to admit facts about his current housing and custody level and about inmates housed in open dormitory settings.

Defendants have filed a motion for a protective order,*fn1 arguing that the requests described above are improper, burdensome and irrelevant. Plaintiff counters that the information sought is necessary to his showing that the policy preventing life term inmates without parole dates from participating in the family visiting program is not rationally related to legitimate penological needs.

Although requests for admission under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36 are governed by the same relevance standards set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b), such requests are not, strictly speaking, discovery devices. Workman v. Chinchinian, 807 F.Supp. 634, 647 (E.D. Wash. 1992) (Rule 26 relevance standards apply); Misco, Inc. v. United States Steel Corporation, 784 F.2d 198, 205 (6th Cir. 1986) (not a discovery device). Requests for admission are designed to limit factual issues in the case. Henry v. Champlain Enterprises, Inc., 212 F.R.D. 73, 77 (N.D.N.Y. 2003). Although the rule permits a party to ask another party to admit the truth of "the application of law to facts," requests for admission should not be used to "demand that the other party admit the truth of a legal conclusion," Disability Rights Council v. Wash. Metro. Area, 234 F.R.D. 1, 3 (D.C. Cir. 2006); Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(1). A request calls for a legal conclusion when it asks a party to admit what is required or permitted by particular regulations. Miller v. Holzman, 240 F.R.D. 1, 5 (D. D.C. 2006). A party may move for a protective order for protection from "annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden. . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1).

Plaintiff's requests that incorporate a provision of the DOM or the California Administrative Code call for a legal conclusion, for they ask defendants to admit what the regulations or the provisions of the operations manual permit or require. These requests are improper as discovery requests.

Although plaintiff's other requests do not call for legal conclusions, they are not relevant. It appears that plaintiff seeks through them to argue that the policy is not rationally related to legitimate penological objectives when applied to him rather than to the class of lifer inmates without parole dates. Accordingly, the motion for a protective order is well taken.

III. Plaintiff's Motion To Continue Proceedings On Summary Judgment

Plaintiff asks the court to continue the proceedings on summary judgment under Rule 56(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He bases this request on his outstanding requests for admission, which also are the subject of this order. Because the protective order is appropriate, there are no grounds for plaintiff's request to defer a ruling on summary judgment.


1. Plaintiff's motions to compel discovery (docket nos. 29, 30 & 31) are denied;

2. Defendants' motions for a protective order (docket nos. 19 & 36) are granted and defendants are relieved of their obligation to respond to requests for admission served June 25, 2008;

3. Plaintiff's motion to continue proceedings on summary judgment (docket no. 35) is denied; and

4. Plaintiff's opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment is due within thirty days of the date of this order; the optional reply is due fifteen days after the opposition is filed.

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