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Eichler v. Tilton

September 17, 2010

DWAYNE EICHLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TILTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is Plaintiff's motion to compel responses to his discovery requests, including interrogatories, requests for admissions, and requests for production of documents (Doc. 110). Defendants have filed an opposition to the motion (Doc. 111).*fn1

At the outset, the court notes that Plaintiff's motion fails to set forth his "contentions . . . as to each contested issue." See Local Rule 251(c)(3). In particular, Plaintiff has not set forth any specific argument as to each disputed request. See id. However, attached to his motion is a list of responses to the answers the defendants provided, apparently outlining the answers Plaintiff found inadequate. Plaintiff makes general arguments that the defendants objected to or evaded answers to the questions he posed. His motion also makes rather general statements relating to all of the defendants' responses. He does, however, attach to his motion all of the defendants' responses to his requests for admissions and requests for production of documents.*fn2 Despite his vague statements relating to the interrogatories responses, no interrogatories are attached to his motion.*fn3 Regardless of the defects in Plaintiff's motion, because the requests for production of documents and admissions were provided to the court, as well as an indication as to which questions and answers are at issue, the court will address those identified as inadequate.

Generally, discovery may be obtained "regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). A motion to compel may be brought where the answers provided in response to a discovery request are evasive or incomplete. See Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 37(a)(3)(B), (4). Relevancy in the discovery context has been construed broadly to encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matters that bear on, any issue that is in the case. See Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 352 (1978) (citing Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 501 (1947)). Therefore, a discovery request directed at discovering a matter which is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence is not within the scope of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1). See id. Consistent with this rule, discovery is not limited to issues raised by the pleadings, for discovery itself is designed to help define and clarify the issues. See id. at 351. Nor is discovery limited to the merits of a case, for a variety of fact-oriented issues may arise during litigation that are not related to the merits. See id.

Discovery may not be obtained regarding matters which are privileged. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Thus, if a discovery privilege exists, information may be withheld, even if relevant to the case. See Baldridge v. Shapiro, 455 U.S. 345 (1982). The question of privilege is determined by reference to the Federal Rules of Evidence. See Campbell v. Gerrans, 592 F.2d 1054 (9th Cir. 1979). Generally, questions of privilege "shall be governed by the principles of the common law as they may be interpreted by the courts of the United States in the light of reason and experience." Fed. R. Evid. 501. However, in civil actions which do not raise a federal question, the question of privilege is determined by state law. See Fed. R. Evid. 501. But, "when state privilege law is consistent, or at least compatible with, federal privilege law, the two shall be read together in order to accommodate the legitimate expectations of the state's citizens." Pagano v. Oroville Hospital, 145 F.R.D. 683, 687 (E.D. Cal. 1993).

Finally, relevant non-privileged discovery may be limited if: (1) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient; or (2) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation, and the importance of the proposed discovery in resolving the issues. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2).

A party to whom requests for admissions have been propounded may either answer the admission by admitting or denying the matter or object to the request. A denial must fairly meet the substance of the requested admission. A party may not give lack of information or knowledge as a reason for failure to admit or deny unless the party also states that he has made reasonable inquiry and that the information known or readily obtainable is insufficient to enable the party to admit or deny. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a). If an objection is made, the reasons for the objections must be stated. A party who considers that a matter of which an admission has been requested presents a genuine issue for trial may not, on that ground alone, object to the request. See id.

If, upon a motion made by the requesting party to determine the sufficiency of responses, the court determines that a response does not comply with the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 36, the court may order that the matter is admitted or that an amended answer be served. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a).

A. Request for Production of Documents

The requests at issue are set forth below:*fn4

Request for Production No. 1

Copies of all dental guidelines of all defendants, as to the treatment of prisoners with any dental needs. Years in questions.

Defendants responded with objections that the request is duplicative of a prior request, as well as being compound, vague and ambiguous as to some of its terms. Notwithstanding the objections, Defendants provided copies of documents in response. Plaintiff objects to this response on the basis that it is not overly compound, vague, or ambiguous,*fn5 he requested a clearer copy of the guidelines provided, and also "all additional relevant documents."

It is unclear from the documents before the court, but it appears that Defendants provided additional copies of documents as requested. To the extent Plaintiff is arguing the response was insufficient, he fails to provide sufficient information to the court as to what else he was requesting. Defendants' objection that the request was vague and ambiguous is sustained.

Request for Production No. 5

Produce any policy, directive, procedure, or other document as to conducting sick-call dental care.

Defendants objected on the basis that it is duplicative of a prior request, as well as being vague and ambiguous, overbroad and burdensome. Nonetheless, Defendants produced documents in response. Plaintiff responded with a request for "all Dental title 15" as well as other written procedures. Defendants again objected that this request is overbroad and burdensome request, as well as vague and ambiguous. However, Defendants indicated that Plaintiff has access to title 15 in the prison law library. Plaintiff offers no specific argument as to how this response was inadequate.

The court finds that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that an order compelling further responses is warranted.

Request for Production No. 9

Produce store/canteen lists at each facility showing what dental supplies were available for inmates to buy at the canteen, at the times of this case.

Defendants objected to this request on the basis that it is duplicative of a prior request, as well as being vague, overbroad, and ambiguous. However, Defendants produced a current canteen list for Mule Creek State Prison. Plaintiff responded he was requesting canteen lists for 1995 to the present. Defendants again objected that the request was still vague, overbroad, and ambiguous as Plaintiff failed to specify what institution's canteen list he was requesting, and how production of such would lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Plaintiff offers no specific argument as to how this response was inadequate.

The court finds that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that an order compelling further responses is warranted.

Request for Production No. 10

Any and all showing what supplies were given to inmates with no money, both in general population and Ad. Seq.

Defendants objected to this request on the basis that it is duplicative of a prior request, as well as being confusing, vague, ambiguous, and irrelevant as not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence since Plaintiff was not indigent. Plaintiff objected that documents exist "showing what is allowed, and issued to general population, and Ad-Seg" and that such documents were needed to show "what supplies were given, and what was denied that caused injury." Defendants responded that they were still unclear as to what documents Plaintiff was requesting, and that any such document would be irrelevant because Plaintiff is not indigent.

The court sustains Defendants' objections. Plaintiff failed to sufficiently clarify his request for either the defense or the court to determine what document Plaintiff is requesting, and how it is reasonably likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Request for Production No. 11

Produce exhibits of half toothbrushes and tooth powder used during all years in question.

Defendants objected to this request on the basis that it is duplicative of a prior request, as well as being vague and ambiguous. In addition, Defendants object that the items requested are not normally kept in the course of business, and any exhibit would be attorney work product. Plaintiff responded that he is "asking for facts, and examples as well."

Defendants again content the request is vague and ambiguous, requests items not normally kept in the course of business, and requests attorney work product.

Defendants' objections are sustained.

Request for Production No. 12

Any and all grievances, complaints or other documents, received by the defendants as to mistreatment or inadequate dental care during the years in question, including any memoranda, investigative files, or other documents created in response to such.

Defendants objected to this request on the basis that it is duplicative of a prior request, it is vague, ambiguous, and confusing, overbroad and burdensome, irrelevant, and calls for information protected by privacy rights. Plaintiff responded that his request "is important to see if Defendants are credible Dentists, or not." Defendants again object on the same basis, and ...


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