Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

George H. Robinson v. D. Adams

May 26, 2011

GEORGE H. ROBINSON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
D. ADAMS, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS (ECF Nos. 65, 83, 84, 91, 92, 96, 103)

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR A STATUS CONFERENCE AND MOTION TO CONDUCT FURTHER DISCOVERY (ECF No. 107)

RESPONSES DUE WITHIN THIRTY DAYS

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff George H. Robinson ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On September 11, 2008, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, Defendants Adams, David, Melo, Martinez, Ruiz, Miranda, Mendoza, and Masiel removed this action from Kings County Superior Court. This action is proceeding on the complaint against Defendants David, Miranda, Melo, Garcia, Mendoza, Martinez, and Masiel for excessive force and Defendants Adams and Ruiz for failure to protect in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and state law assault and battery claims against Defendants David, Miranda, Melo, Garcia, Mendoza, Martinez, and Masiel.*fn1

On August 20, 2009, a scheduling order issued setting the discovery cut-off date on April 20, 2010. (ECF No. 35.) Plaintiff filed a motion to compel on January 19, 2010. (ECF No. 41.) Plaintiff filed motions to modify the scheduling order on February 16, 2010 and March 26, 2010. (ECF Nos. 44, 51.) On April 27, 2010, Plaintiff filed a supplemental motion to compel. (ECF No. 53.) On May 11, 2010, an order issued granting in part and denying in part Plaintiff's motion to compel. (ECF No. 55.) The order extended the discovery deadline to June 30, 2010. On June 7, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend the pleadings, discovery cut-off and dispositive motion deadlines. (ECF No. 58.) On June 29, 2010, an order issued granting Plaintiff's motion to compel, filed February 25, 2010, and allowing him thirty days to file a motion to compel once he received Defendants' responses to the disputed discovery requests. (ECF No. 61.) On July 8, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration of the order denying Plaintiff's motion to extend discovery. (ECF No. 62.) Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration was denied on August 23, 2010. (ECF No. 70.)

On July 15, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel. (ECF No. 65.) On January 14, 2011, an order partially granting Plaintiff's motion to compel issued. (ECF No. 94. Defendants filed a motion for reconsideration on January 31, 2011, and Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration requesting an evidentiary hearing and sanctions on March 10, 2011. (ECF No. 96, 103.) On March 23, 2011, the case was reassigned to the undersigned. (ECF No. 105.) Plaintiff filed a motion for a status conference and a motion to conduct further discovery on May 2, 2011. (ECF No. 107.) The District Court Judge issued an order vacating the prior order partially granting Plaintiff's motion to compel and referred the motion back to the undersigned on May 18, 2011. (ECF No. 108.)

II. Summary of Allegations Contained in Complaint

On January 22, 2007, Plaintiff alleges that while he was face down on the ground in hand and leg restraints, Defendant David and Miranda began hitting and kneeing him, and Defendants Melo, Garcia, Mendoza and Martinez failed to stop them. Defendant Martinez pepper sprayed Plaintiff, and Defendant David "tweaked" his fingers and ears, breaking one of his fingers. Later that same day, Plaintiff alleges that while he was unconscious in his cell, Defendant Martinez pepper sprayed him.

On January 23, 2007, Plaintiff was taken for an interview regarding his allegations of staff misconduct. Plaintiff claims Defendant David was present and pulled Plaintiff's ears and hit him during the interview. Plaintiff claims he sent two staff misconduct complaints to Defendant Adams, and on January 26, 2007, he informed Defendant Ruiz that he wanted to make a staff complaint and needed to be moved out of the building he was housed in. Defendant Ruiz ignored his request and walked away. On February 11, 2007, Defendant Garcia held Plaintiff's right arm while Defendant Miranda hit Plaintiff with a closed fist in the back and head and kicked him in the butt.

III. Motion to Compel

A. Legal 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).

If Defendants object to one of Plaintiff's discovery requests, it is Plaintiff's burden on his motion to compel to demonstrate why the objection is not justified. In general, Plaintiff must inform the Court which discovery requests are the subject of his motion to compel, and, for each disputed response, inform the Court why the information sought is relevant and why Defendants' objections are not meritorious.

B. Timeliness of Defendant's Objections

Plaintiff argues that Defendants failed to provide a timely response to the interrogatories and request for production of documents, and their failure to respond in a timely manner constitutes a waiver. (Mot. To Compel 9, ECF No. 65.) Plaintiff states that he propounded the requests on September 21, 2009, and Defendants did not respond in a timely manner. However, Defendants indicated that they did not receive the requests, and the Court ordered Defendants to respond within thirty days on May 11, 2010. Plaintiff has failed to show that Defendants failed to respond within thirty days of May 11, 2010. Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate why or how Defendants' objections were untimely.

C. Defendant Adams' Responses to Plaintiff's Interrogatories and Request for Production of Documents

Plaintiff propounded interrogatories to Defendant Adams on September 21, 2009. After failing to receive a response, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel on January 19, 2010. (ECF No. 41.) On March 7, 2010, due to Defendants' contention that they did not receive the interrogatories, Plaintiff amended the set, adding five additional interrogatories, and served them on Defendant Adams. The Court granted Plaintiff's motion, in part, on May 11, 2010, and ordered Defendant Adams to respond to the interrogatories. Plaintiff seeks responses to the five additional interrogatories, numbered 16-20 and additional responses to some of the interrogatories propounded.

"An interrogatory is a written question propounded by one party to another who must answer under oath and in writing. These questions are limited to anything within the permissible scope of discovery, namely, any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party." Fed. R. Civ. P. 33, 26(b)(1). The responding party is to answer each interrogatory fully, to the extent that it is not objected to, Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(3), and any objections must be stated with specificity, Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(4). Generally, the responding party does not need to conduct extensive research in answering the interrogatory, however, a reasonable effort to respond must be made. Evans, 2010 WL 1136216 at *7.

1. Interrogatory No. 2

Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 2 states:

State all "YOUR" procedures in effect from January 1, 2003 through the present, relating, pertaining, and/or referring to the handling of inmates housed in the Security Housing Units, (hereinafter "SHU"), at CORCORAN. If those procedures are set-forth in any policies, directives or other documents, produce any and all DOCUMENTS. Defendant Adams' response states:

Responding Party objects to this request on the grounds that it is vague as to the terms "all your procedures" and "handling of inmates," is overly broad, overly burdensome, is inarticulate, lacks foundation, and is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Plaintiff's Argument: Plaintiff argues that Defendant Adams created a policy of inaction that was deliberately indifferent to inmates. He alleges he was beaten by staff, mistreated and deprived of his property and legal documents. Plaintiff claims that other inmates have suffered similar injuries and the response to this request will show a habit and pattern. Defendant Adams should have noticed a risk of harm to all inmates at the hands of these Defendants. Additionally, these policies and procedures will be relevant evidence as to whether Defendant supervisors failed to properly train or supervise and were deliberately indifferent by creating a policy of inaction.

Additionally, Plaintiff argues in his reply to Defendant's opposition that Defendant had the opportunity to identify all procedures that would be relevant to this action.

Defendant's Objection: Defendant objects that the request is overly broad. The procedures in the SHU include subject matter beyond the scope of this litigation and are not relevant to the matters at issue.

Ruling: Plaintiff's claim that this information is relevant to show that failure to properly train and supervise is without merit. Plaintiff's claim against supervisory defendants for failure to train and supervise was dismissed and is not at issue in this action. This action is proceeding against Defendants for excessive force and failure to protect. Plaintiff's allegations that he was deprived of property are irrelevant. Defendant is correct that the request is overly broad and includes subject matter beyond the scope of this litigation.

Plaintiff's argument that Defendant could have provided only relevant documents is without merit. It is Plaintiff's responsibility to propound discovery, and Defendant is not required to reinterpret Plaintiff's discovery requests and provide answers based on what Plaintiff could have requested. Plaintiff's request is denied.

2. Interrogatory No. 3

Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 3 states:

State the names, titles and duties of all "OFFICERS" at CORCORAN who had a responsibility of the control and custody of each inmate housed in Facility 4A housing unit 2L, from January 1, 2007 through April 1, 2007. If those duties are set-forth in any job description or other document, produce any and all DOCUMENTS.

Defendant Adams' response states:

Responding Party objects to this request on the grounds that it is vague as to the terms "all your procedures" and "handling of inmates," is overly broad, overly burdensome, is inarticulate, lacks foundation, and is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Without waiving these objections, Responding Party does not know the names of the Officers who were assigned to that facility during that time frame.

Plaintiff's Argument: Plaintiff argues that the interrogatory is relevant because it may identify unknown defendants or witnesses. Additionally, Plaintiff states it is hard to believe that there are no documents of correctional staff who worked in the area during the time period in question.

Defendant's Objection: Defendant objects that the names of officers who worked during shifts unrelated to the incidents alleged is irrelevant, over broad and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Ruling: The Court fails to see how the identify of officers who were working at times other than when the incidents occurred would be relevant or be reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. However, records must exist of employees working at the times these incidents occurred.

Under Rule 34(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "any party may serve on any other party a request to produce and permit the party making the request . . . to inspect and copy any designated documents . . . which are in the possession, custody or control of the party upon whom the request is served." Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a)(1). "[A] party need not have actual possession of documents to be deemed in control of them." Clark v. Vega Wholesale Inc., 181 F.R.D. 470, 472 (D.Nev., 1998) quoting Estate of Young v. Holmes, 134 F.R.D. 291, 294 (D.Nev., 1991). A party is deemed to have control of documents when it has a legal right to obtain the documents. Evans, 2010 WL 1136216 at *1. The relationship between the party and the person or entity having control of the documents is central to the inquiry of whether the party has control. Clark, 181 F.R.D. at 472. The special relationship that allows the party to command release of the documents usually exists under statute, affiliation or employment. Id. Defendant Adams, as the warden of the institution, has the ability to command release of the documents requested.

Under Rule 34(b), the party to whom the request is directed must respond in writing that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested, or state an objection to the request, including the reasons. Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(2). Also, "[a] party must produce documents as they are kept in the usual course of business or must organize and label them to correspond to the categories in the request." Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(E)(I). The Court orders that Defendant produce the names of employees who had responsibility of custody and control of inmates that were working in Facility 4A housing unit 2L on the dates and times of the incidents alleged in this action.

3. Interrogatory No. 4

Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 4 states:

State the names, title and duties of all "OFFICERS" at CORCORAN who had a responsibility of investigating and/or processing staff complaints and/or Inmate Appeals, from January 1, 2007 through January 1, 2008. If those duties are set-forth in any job description or other document, produce any and all "DOCUMENTS." Defendant Adams' response states:

Responding Party objects to this request on the grounds that it is vague, is overly broad, overly burdensome, lacks foundation, and is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Without waiving these objections, Responding Party does not know the names of the Officers who were assigned to either investigate staff complaints or inmate appeals. That duty is assigned to different staff depending on the situation, the staff member involved, the type of incident alleged, and the facility in which the alleged incident took place.

Plaintiff's Argument: Plaintiff argues that his contention is that he was submitting staff complaints while he was being mistreated by officers, and those appeals were screened out.

Identifying those officials would lead to additional defendants or produce witnesses.

Defendant's Objection: Defendant contends that the staff member assigned to investigate allegations against an officer depends upon the type of incident, where it occurred, and the type of complaint. Incidents that are not designated as a "staff complaint" are not maintained by officer name and would require staff to identify every inmate housed at Corcoran during the time period requested and search each inmates central file to determine which officer investigated the allegation. The complaint is not proceeding on a claim that Plaintiff's appeal was improperly screened out and the information sought is irrelevant.

Ruling: The current action alleges excessive force and failure to protect Plaintiff. As such the Court fails to see how the information requested, all personnel who investigated complaints or appeals from January 1, 2007 to January 1, 2008, would be likely to lead to admissible evidence in this action. Plaintiff alleges that his complaints were screened out, however, even if true, the processing of complaints by other inmates would be irrelevant to this claim.

Plaintiff's allegation is that Defendant Adams was aware that he was in danger and failed to act. The investigation into Plaintiff's staff complaint could potentially be relevant to whether Defendant Adams was aware of a potential danger to Plaintiff. Defendant is ordered to produce the names of employees who investigated Plaintiff's complaints regarding the incidents alleged in this action.

4. Interrogatory No. 5

Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 5 states:

State any all procedures in effect from January 1, 2007 through the present, for "CDCR" and "CORCORAN" relating, pertaining and referring to staff complaints or complaints of staff misconduct. If thopse [sic] procedures are set-forth in any policy, directive or other document produce any and all "DOCUMENTS".

Defendant Adams' response states:

Responding Party objects to this request on the grounds that it is vague, is overly broad, overly burdensome, lacks foundation, and is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Plaintiff's Argument: Plaintiff argues that the objection lacks merit and should be rejected.

An examination of the procedures compared to the actions of Defendant can support Plaintiff's claim for deliberate indifference or lead to relevant evidence to support his claims or refute defenses.

Defendant's Objection: Defendant argues that the request is facially over broad. Ruling: Plaintiff's request is overly broad and seeks information and documents that would be irrelevant to the current action. Plaintiff's request is denied.

5. Interrogatory No. 7

Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 7 states:

What, if any, procedures were in effect in 2007 that articulate each step that must be taken following an allegation by an officer that he or she has been assaulted by an inmate? (7b) Are there any steps taken to insure that the officer and inmate no longer come in direct contact with each other? If there are any procedures that are set-forth in any policy, directive or any other documents, produce any and all "DOCUMENTS".

Defendant Adams' response states:

Responding Party objects to this request on the grounds that it is vague as to what type of assault, is overly broad, overly burdensome, lacks foundation, and is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Without waiving these objections, the procedures are different depending on the type of assault.

Plaintiff's Argument: Plaintiff argues that excessive force was used against him on more than one occasion, and he was falsely accused of kicking at staff. Therefore, the procedures regarding steps to separate the inmate from the correctional officers would be relevant and lead to admissible evidence.

Defendant's Argument: Defendant argues that the type of action taken depends upon the extent of the assault and where the inmate was housed. Plaintiff assaulted an officer during a scuffle. The officer was treated and returned to work. Plaintiff was provided this information by way of the incident reports.

Ruling: It is clear that Plaintiff is not seeking what occurred in this instance, but what should happen when there has been an assault by an inmate. Therefore, the incident reports for these events are not responsive to Plaintiff's request. The Court appreciates Defendant's argument that the response is dependant on the type of assault and where the inmate was housed, so Plaintiff's request will be granted with the following limitation: Defendant is to respond to the interrogatory with the procedure that was to be taken in February 2007, when an officer was physically assaulted by an inmate, as alleged in this action, while housed in the SHU.

6. Interrogatory No. 11

Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 11 states:

What are the purposes for an inmate placement on "property restriction" and/or management status? Produce any and all documents relating, pertaining and/or referring to "property restriction" and "management status" that were in effect in 2007 at CORCORAN.

Defendant Adams' response states:

Responding Party objects to this request on the grounds that it is vague, lacks foundation, calls for speculation, and is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Without waiving these objections, the reasons for placing an inmate of[sic] property restriction or management cell status are set forth in the Department Operations Manual which is available for inspection and copying pursuant to institutional policies and procedures.

Plaintiff's Argument: Plaintiff contends that he was placed on property restriction, which is not an authorized punishment.

Defendant's Objection: Defendant states that the purposes for placement on property restriction or management cell status are set forth in the Department Operations Manual. Non-confidential portions of the manual are maintained in the prison library and are available for inspection and copying.

Ruling: Plaintiff fails to adequately explain how this interrogatory is reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. Plaintiff's claims based on the conditions of management cell status were not found to be cognizable and are not at issue in this action. Plaintiff's request for further response is denied.

7. Interrogatories 16-20

Plaintiff sent an amended set of interrogatories to Defendant Adams on March 7, 2010, adding interrogatories 16 through 20. The interrogatories did not indicate that they were amended, and Defendant Adams only responded to those interrogatories propounded on September 21, 2009. There is no indication that this amended set of interrogatories was different from those originally propounded until the last page which states "THE FOLLOWING INTERROGATORIES WERE NOT PART OF THE ORIGINAL." Since it was not clear that this set of interrogatories was different from the original, Defendant may not have realized that it contained additional interrogatories.

The Court will not sanction Defendant Adams for failing to respond to these requests. The additional interrogatories were propounded in a timely manner, however, and the Court will order Defendant to provide responses to these interrogatories within thirty (30) days of the date of service of this order.

D. Defendant Mello's Responses to Plaintiff's Interrogatories and Request for Production of Documents

Plaintiff seeks to compel Defendant Mello to provide further responses to certain interrogatories. The parties numbered the interrogatories differently, Plaintiff is objecting to Defendant's responses to interrogatories Nos. 12-16, which refer to interrogatories No. 9, 10, 12, 13, and 14 as numbered by Plaintiff.

1. Interrogatory No. 12 (Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 9) Interrogatory No. 12 (Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 9) states:

Describe (by date, names and description of all Use of Force Incidents) all "Use of Force Incidents" in which you have been involved in four years prior to the January 22, 2007 incident. If there are any documents (i.e. Incident Reports) responsive to this question produce any and all documents.

Defendant Melo's response states:

Responding Party objects to this request on the grounds that it is lacks [sic] foundation, presumes as true facts that have not been established as true, is overly broad, vague as to what type of incident, what type of force was deemed necessary, where the incidents occurred, and is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Plaintiff's Argument: Plaintiff argues that all prisons maintain a CDCR "Watch Commander's Incident Log" and "Use of Force Log" that list and identify all use of force incidents that take place at the prison. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant is exaggerating the burden that would be required to produce the requested information as the prison is mandated to keep such information. Although Defendant Mello did not hit him, the information is relevant as she held his legs as he was battered by the other defendants.

Defendant's Objection: Defendant objects that it would be extremely burdensome and expensive to provide this information as the reports are kept by log number, not officer name. Staff would be required to retrieve all Crime/Incident reports for the four year period and go through them to determine if Defendant Mello was involved.

Defendant argues that she did not use any force against Plaintiff, and therefore the requested information would not be reasonably calculated to lead to discoverable evidence. Defendant argues that the undue burden outweighs any likely benefit of the information.

Ruling: Plaintiff's allegation is that Defendant Mello held his legs down while he was battered by other officers. The discovery requested would be relevant to whether she used excessive force against Plaintiff and additionally could be used to impeach her testimony. This Court has reviewed officer personnel files in other prisoner litigation cases and has seen copies of reports by prisoners of use of excessive force in the officer's files. However, Plaintiff's request is overly broad as to the time period requested and the Court will limit the request as follows: Defendants are ordered to respond and produce all responsive documents that contain information on excessive force use by Defendant Mello for the period from January 22, 2005 through January 22, 2007. Defendant does not have to create a factual statement regarding incidents for Plaintiff.

2. Interrogatory No. 13 (Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 10) Interrogatory No. 13 (Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 10) states:

Describe (by date, names and description of the "Use of Force Incident") all "Use of Force Incidents" in which you have been involved ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.