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Christopher R. Lute v. R. Beers

March 11, 2011

CHRISTOPHER R. LUTE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
R. BEERS, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

Docs. 31, 32, and 33

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS TO COMPEL, AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST FOR EXPENSES THIRTY-DAYDEADLINE

Order on Plaintiff's Motions to Compel

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff Christopher R. Lute, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on December 30, 2008. This action is proceeding against Defendants Beer, Longoria, and Torres on Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment excessive force claim, which arises from an incident on April 13, 2008, at California State Prison-Corcoran. Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's motions to compel, filed September 16, 2010, September 24, 2010, and September 27, 2010. (Docs. 31-33.) The motions have been deemed submitted, following receipt of Defendants' oppositions and Plaintiff's reply. Local Rule 230(l). (Docs. 36-43.)

II. Request for Production of Documents, Set One

Plaintiff seeks to compel responses to requests one, two, and five from his first request for the production of documents.

A. Standard

"Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense. . . . Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). For document production requests, responding parties must produce documents which are in their "possession, custody or control." Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a)(1). "Property is deemed within a party's 'possession, custody, or control' if the party has actual possession, custody, or control thereof or the legal right to obtain the property on demand." Allen v. Woodford, No. CV-F-05-1104 OWW LJO, 2007 WL 309945, *2 (E.D.Cal. Jan. 30, 2007) (citing In re Bankers Trust Co., 61 F.3d 465, 469 (6th Cir. 1995)); accord Bovarie v. Schwarzenegger, No. 08cv1661 LAB (NLS), 2011 WL 719206, at *4 (S.D.Cal. Feb. 22, 2011); Evans v. Tilton, No. 1:07CV01814 DLB PC, 2010 WL 1136216, at *1 (E.D.Cal. Mar. 19, 2010).

B. Request One*fn1

POD 1: "The complete prison records of Plaintiff[:]

a. 115 Rules violation report of involved staff.

b. Incident Report of involved staff.

c. Perscribtion [sic] glasses from I.G.I. left under verbal orders on or about March or April after my neck was slashed. I want my px glass's back!" (Doc. 31, p. 4.)

Ruling: Defendants objected on numerous grounds, but they produced the 115 Rules Violation Report and the non-confidential portions of the Incident Report for the incident on April 13, 2008.

Plaintiff's request is overbroad and vague, as it is not limited in terms of timeframe or documents relevant to his excessive force claim. However, assuming, as Defendants did, that Plaintiff is seeking the 115 Rules Violation Report and the Incident Report pertaining to the incident on April 13, 2008, Defendants already produced the 115 Rules Violation Report and Plaintiff makes no argument to the contrary. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion to compel production of the 115 is denied.

Defendants produced the non-confidential portions of the Incident Report, but relying on Title 15 regulations, they declined to produce the portions deemed confidential. State prison regulations do not shield Defendants from the production of discoverable documents in federal court and neither do vague assertions of safety and security concerns. Defendants have identified no privilege that allows them to avoid production of the report in its entirety. Compare Sanchez v. City of Santa Ana, 936 F.2d 1027, 1033-34 (9th Cir. 1991) (personnel files subject to qualified official information privilege); Johnson v. Runnels, No. CIV S-04-0776 LKK EFB P, 2009 WL 900755, *3 (E.D.Cal. Mar. 31, 2009) (setting forth the specific requirements necessary to support a claim of official information privilege relating to personnel records).

An incident report regarding the alleged use of force on April 13, 2008, is relevant and discoverable. Plaintiff's motion to compel is granted and Defendants are ordered to produce the report in its entirety. Defendants may either (1) redact personal information such as social security numbers and birth dates, if applicable, and produce the report to Plaintiff, or (2) submit the report to the Court for in camera review, subject to the following limitation. If Defendants submit the report to the Court, it must be accompanied by a brief setting forth, clearly and with specificity, what portions should be redacted and why. Given that the report is discoverable and is not shielded from production by any identified privilege, Defendants bear the burden of making a compelling argument for redaction.

Finally, Plaintiff's motion to compel the production of his eyeglasses is denied. Plaintiff fails to demonstrate the relevance of the glasses to his legal claim and the relevance is not readily apparent to the Court.

C. Request Two

POD 2: "All written statements, originals or copies, - identifiable reports about the incident on 4-13-08, made by prison and civilian employees wittness's [sic]." (Doc. 31, pp. 4-5.)

Ruling: Although Defendants stated that Plaintiff failed to move to compel a further response to this request, they addressed it nevertheless, and it appears to the Court that Plaintiff in fact moved to compel a further response given that he ...


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