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Jose Dejesus Rodriguez v. Jeffery Simmons

April 1, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge


Currently pending before the court are: (1) plaintiff's motion to compel discovery responses (Dkt. Nos. 81, 83, 86); and (2) plaintiff's motion for a 90-day extension of the discovery deadline (Dkt. No. 80).*fn1

Plaintiff's motions arise from discovery requests he propounded upon Defendant Steve Moore, Sheriff of San Joaquin County ("Sheriff Moore") (erroneously sued as the Sheriff of San Joaquin County) and defendant Jeffery Simmons ("Sgt. Simmons") (collectively, the "defendants"). Defendants filed a response (the "Response") in opposition to plaintiff's motions, and oppose the motions on primarily procedural grounds. (Response, Dkt. No. 87.) Specifically, defendants argue that plaintiff's motions do not comply with Eastern District Local Rule 251 and should therefore be denied outright. (Response, at 2, 6-7.) Defendants argue that they cannot substantively respond to plaintiff's motions because they cannot glean the nature of plaintiff's discovery dispute from the "rambling" papers he filed. (Response at 6-7.)

A review of the court's docket indicates that plaintiff did not file the required joint statement in accordance with Eastern District Local Rule 251(c). While plaintiff filed a document styled as a "Joint Statement," it is apparent that defendants neither signed that document nor contributed to the contents thereof. (Dkt. No. 82.) Defendants confirm that they had no role in preparing that document. (Response at 6.) Defendants also state that plaintiff did not fulfill his obligation to meet and confer with them prior to filing his motions. (Id.) Defendants request denial of plaintiff's motions-and dismissal of the action-as sanctions for plaintiff's repeated failures to abide by the court's rules. (Id.)

Defendants are correct that a failure to follow the specific procedural requirements of participating in a discovery conference, meeting and conferring, and filing a joint statement "shall be grounds, in the discretion of the Court, for entry of an order adverse" to the party refusing to do so. E.D. Local Rule 251(d). The parties to this action-including plaintiff- have been previously cautioned that, despite the pro se nature of this case, the court still requires the parties to timely and productively meet and confer. (E.g., Order, Nov. 4, 2010, Dkt. No. 69.) The court expects and encourages the parties to work together so as to avoid any unnecessary discovery disputes. (Id.) As mandated by Local Rule 251, the parties must meet and confer, preferably in person or via telephone, prior to the filing of any motion to compel. (Id.) If that meet and confer is unsuccessful, the moving party shall draft and file a document entitled Joint Statement re Discovery Disagreement, and all parties shall assist in the preparation of that joint statement. Local Rule 251(c). (Id. (emphasis added).) Further, the undersigned has cautioned plaintiff of his need to follow the court's rules on at least six separate occasions. (E.g., Dkt. Nos. 36 (cautioning plaintiff that defective requests will be disregarded in the future); 57 (cautioning plaintiff about multiple procedurally-improper filings, warning him that pro se parties must abide by procedural rules, and informing him that failure to do so may be grounds for sanctions including dismissal); 66 (disregarding plaintiff's filed discovery); 69 (rejecting plaintiff's filing for failure to comply with the court's rules and again reminding him that pro se parties must follow procedural rules); 73 (cautioning plaintiff against repeatedly filing the same motion and informing him that future filings with this defect may be summarily disregarded); 85 (disregarding plaintiff's filed discovery and informing plaintiff that the undersigned's prior admonition against filing repetitive motions without new grounds was meant to include filings styled as letters and declarations).) Several of those warnings included specific reference to the possibility that improperly-filed documents would be disregarded and that sanctions-including dismissal of plaintiff's case-may result. (E.g., Dkt. Nos. 36, 57, 73.)

While plaintiff has previously been warned about failing to comply with this court's rules, he continues to violate those rules, intentionally or not. During the hearing, the undersigned warned plaintiff that his most recent failure to abide by the court's rules is alone grounds for denying his motion pursuant to Local Rule 251. The undersigned also reminded plaintiff that he has been reminded at least six times of his obligation to follow the court's rules, even as a pro se party, and that his continued failure to do so will result in the denials of improperly-filed motions and the potential dismissal of his case. This is the final warning plaintiff will receive on this issue. If, in the future, plaintiff's filings do not comply with the requirements of the Eastern District Local Rules, those filings will be rejected and may result in "entry of an order adverse" to plaintiff, up to and including dismissal of his action with prejudice.*fn2

Nevertheless, as to the pending motion, in an abundance of caution the court will construe plaintiff's filings with leniency one last time and will proceed to analyze the substance of those filings. While plaintiff's filings are indeed meandering, plaintiff has attached two discovery requests (and defendants' responses thereto) to his filings. (Dkt. Nos. 83.) Plaintiff's motion to compel can be read to pertain solely to these two requests and defendants' objections thereto. (Dkt. No. 86 at 1-2 (framing the issue as pertaining to the validity of defendants' discovery responses on issues pertaining to "whether in fact Plaintiff really assaulted former Defendant Deputy Anthony Knapp or whether the charges are false . . . .").)

Plaintiff's motions came on for hearing on March 31, 2011. Plaintiff attended on his own behalf, and attorney Jason Morrish attended on behalf of the defendants.

The undersigned has considered the briefs, oral arguments, and the record in this case and, for the reasons that follow, orders that: (1) plaintiff's motion to compel discovery responses is granted in part and denied in part, and (2) plaintiff's request for a 90-day extension of time to complete discovery is denied. No sanctions will be awarded.


Plaintiff's amended complaint, filed December 21, 2009, seeks money damages and declaratory and injunctive relief. (FAC, Dkt. No. 15.) Plaintiff, proceeding without counsel and in forma pauperis, alleges generally that defendants violated his constitutional rights during the course of his incarceration at the San Joaquin County Jail in August 2008. More specifically, plaintiff alleges that he was battered by correctional officers at the jail without provocation and was subsequently denied the right to make a telephone call. Defendants contend that plaintiff's claims are frivolous, that he was uncooperative and attempted to assault the correctional officers on duty, and that any disciplinary restrictions placed upon plaintiff during his incarceration were lawful and appropriate. (Dkt. No. 54 at 2.) Anthony Knapp, the officer who allegedly battered plaintiff (FAC at 1), was voluntarily dismissed from this action on June 10, 2010 (Dkt. No. 52), but his employer, San Joaquin County, remains a defendant.

As part of a second round of written discovery, on December 28, 2010, plaintiff served two "Requests for Production of Documents" upon defendants. (Dkt. No. 82 at 9-10.) Plaintiff's pending motion to compel can be read to seek to compel responses to both of those Requests. (Dkt. Nos. 81-83, 86.) Defendants appear to have timely served plaintiff with responses to the two requests. (Dkt. No. 83 at 8 (defendants' counsel signed discovery responses and dated them January 27, 2011).)*fn3 Shortly after receiving those responses, plaintiff filed the pending motions on January 4, 2011. (Dkt. Nos. 80-81.)

While not entirely clear from plaintiff's moving papers, it appears plaintiff is seeking to compel defendants' further responses to two Requests for Production of Documents. Those two Requests, and defendants' responses and objections thereto, are analyzed separately below.


1. Compelling Responses to Discovery Requests

A motion to compel is appropriate when a party fails to produce relevant, non-privileged documents requested pursuant to Rule 34. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3)(B)(iv), (a)(4). The party seeking to compel discovery has the burden of establishing that its request satisfies the relevancy requirements of Rule 26(b)(1). Soto v. City of Concord, 162 F.R.D. 603, 610 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (holding that a relevant matter is "any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matters that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case." )*fn4 Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), the scope of federal discovery is broad. The broad scope of permissible discovery encompasses any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case. Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). Discovery is not 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." Id. A district court has wide latitude in controlling discovery, and its rulings will not be overturned in the absence of a clear abuse of discretion." Volk v. D.A. Davidson & Co., 816 F.2d 1406, 1416-17 (9th Cir. 1987).

After the moving party makes the requisite showing of relevance, the party opposing the discovery has the burden of showing that it should be prohibited, as well as the burden of clarifying, explaining, and supporting its objections. DIRECTV, Inc. v. Trone, 209 F.R.D. 455, 458 (C.D. Cal. 2002) (citing Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975)). As to requests for production of documents, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34(b)(2)(c) provides that "[a]n objection to part of a request must specify the part and permit inspection of the rest." Each ...

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