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Committee For Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County, et al v. County of Sonoma

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA SAN FRANCISCO DIVISION


June 16, 2011

COMMITTEE FOR IMMIGRANT RIGHTS OF SONOMA COUNTY, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF SONOMA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Seeborg United States District Judge

**E-filed 6/16/11**

ORDER RE OBJECTION TO RULING OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Prior to the time that partial settlements were reached in this action, some of which are now final and some of which remain tentative, plaintiffs filed an objection to a nondispositive pretrial 21 order of the magistrate judge denying their motion for a "global" protective order. The parties then 22 stipulated to a stay of the action in light of ongoing settlement discussions, and thereafter stipulated 23 to extensions of that stay. Plaintiffs and the federal defendants recently advised the Court for the 24 first time that, following the expiration of the last formal stay, a disposition of the pending objection 25 is now desired.

In light of the changed circumstances that the individual defendants have settled with the federal defendants and tentatively settled with the county defendants, it is appropriate that no 28 distinctions be drawn between any of them and third party witnesses with respect to the scope of allowable discovery under the order entered by Judge Hamilton, on April 24, 2009 (Dkt. No. 78), 2 regardless of the extent to which their prior exclusion from the limitations in that order may have 3 been based on facts other than their status as plaintiffs. Accordingly, the matters specifically listed 4 in the April 24, 2009 order as being outside the permissible scope of discovery in this action apply 5 with respect to all persons from whom such discovery might otherwise be sought. This ruling, of 6 course, does not preclude defendants from introducing evidence of such matters that they may have 7 obtained from other sources, provided such evidence is otherwise admissible and relevant in these 8 proceedings. 9 immigration status-related information outside the context of this litigation was not improperly denied. Despite plaintiffs' characterization of the motion as seeking relief not previously sought from Judge Hamilton, the form of order they proposed would have imposed restrictions that Judge jected, whether or not plaintiffs

Hamilton expressly considered and re elected to brief the potential 14 availability of such restrictions, rather than simply raising them at hearings.*fn1 The thrust of 15 plaintiffs' objections to the magistrate judge's ruling is that the written decision purportedly identifies a legitimate concern arising from the "in terrorem" effect of discovery on witnesses, but then fails to provide any remedy. In the absence of a viable proposal from the parties, it was not 18 incumbent on the court to craft a structure for handling these issues during the discovery process 19 that would address the competing concerns. Particularly in light of the fact that plaintiffs elected to 20 seek the broadest conceivable orders without briefing or providing concrete alternative proposals 21 during the several instances that this basic issue was before the court, denial of their present motion 22 was not clearly erroneous.

That said, as the magistrate judge's order expressly discussed, there is authority for limiting disclosure of immigration status-related information on an "attorney eyes-only" basis, at least up to 3 the time of trial. See Aguilar v. Immigration and Customers Div. of the U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54669 (S.D.N.Y. 2009). Although the magistrate judge correctly 5 concluded that Aguilar does not support imposing the protective order plaintiffs had requested, 6 neither did he foreclose the availability of such relief. Accordingly, the parties are hereby ordered to 7 resume meet and confer negotiations regarding the form of a general protective order to govern 8 discovery in this action. The order may incorporate the specific restrictions of the April 24, 2009 9 order and any other particular provisions the parties may agree are appropriate, and should 10 otherwise generally conform to the contours of the model protective order provided on the Court's website, including provisions for designation of material as "attorney eyes only."*fn2 Upon entry of such an order, plaintiffs may designate as "attorney eyes only" material that they in good faith contend constitutes immigration status related info rmation, with any challenges to such designations to be made according to the usual procedures. 15

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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