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John Allen Rainwater v. John Mcginniss


June 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge



Plaintiff is a civil detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this action seeking relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Presently pending is plaintiff's motion to quash a subpoena (Doc. 24), plaintiff's motion to compel (Doc. 31), plaintiff's motion for sanctions (Doc. 33) and plaintiff's motion for a 91 day extension of discovery (Doc. 37).*fn1

Plaintiff was housed in Sacramento County Main Jail (SCMJ) for several months as a civil detainee while away from his usual facility, Coalinga State Hospital (CSH). Plaintiff alleges that nearly every aspect of his time at SCMJ was too restrictive and his rights were constantly violated as he was a civil detainee, not a prisoner. Plaintiff objects to cell searches, the color of his clothing, medical treatment, the lack of a private bathroom, procedures regarding his personal property, use of phones, insufficient bedding materials and similar issues.

Motion to Quash

Defendants issued subpoenas to SCMJ and CSH for all records relating to plaintiff's medical history and treatment. Plaintiff does not object to his records being produced from SCMJ but filed the instant motion to quash the subpoena for his CSH records. Doc. 24 at 8.*fn2 Plaintiff contends that his CSH records are privileged and not relevant to the instant litigation. Defendants counter that plaintiff has compared his treatment and services at SCMJ to what he received at CSH, therefore the records are relevant.

A party may seek to quash a subpoena, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(c)(3), based on a claim that the subpoena infringes upon the parties' legitimate and privileged interests. U.S. v. Tomison, 969 F.Supp. 587, 596 (E.D. Cal. 1997) (citations omitted); Moon v. SCP Pool Corp., 232 F.R.D. 633, 636-37 (C.D. Cal. 2005). A parties' privacy interest in his confidential medical records is not absolute but conditional; a limited impairment of the right may be properly justified. Soto v. City of Concord, 162 F.R.D. 603, 618-19 (N.D. Cal. 1995). In order to determine whether the privacy rights outweigh the need for the information, courts might examine and balance the five factors set forth in Pagano v. Oroville Hospital, 145 F.R.D. 683, 695-98 (E.D. Cal. 1993)*fn3

(1) the probable encroachment of the individual's privacy right ... and the magnitude of the encroachment; (2) whether the encroachment of the privacy right would impact an area that has traditionally been off limits for most regulation; (3) whether the desired information is available from other sources with less encroachment of the privacy right; (4) the extent to which the exercise of the individual's privacy rights impinge on the rights of others; and (5) whether the interests of society at large encourage a need for the proposed encroachment.

In this ca se the encroachment is severe and would impact an area that has traditionally been off limits, namely an individual's medical records and treatment, both physical and mental. In addition, plaintiff's privacy rights for this information do not impinge on the rights of others and the interests of society do not encourage the encroachment. In fact, the subpoenaed records do not appear relevant to the instant litigation. Plaintiff's claims are solely focused upon his time at SCMJ. Plaintiff raises no issues concerning CSH. Plaintiff does compare his treatment at SCMJ to CSH on a few occasions, yet even if plaintiff compared all of his treatment at both facilities, the care he received at CSH is not at issue in this action. What is at issue is if plaintiff's treatment at SCMJ violated his constitutional rights. Whether CSH is more or less restrictive than SCMJ, does not alter the alleged restrictions and treatment at SCMJ In other words, this case will not be decided on whether alleged restrictions at SCMJ are the same, better, or worse than at CSH. There are certain requirements for SCMJ to maintain regardless for civil detainees. Moreover, defendants do not relate that plaintiff's CSH medical history was available to defendants when plaintiff resided in their jail; thus SCMJ cannot maintain that its treatment of plaintiff was based upon CSH background or treatment records. In such a case, plaintiff's right of privacy in his CSH records outweighs any reason for acquiring them.

For all these reasons, the subpoena to Coalinga State Hospital is quashed. Motion to Compel Plaintiff's motion o compel states that defendants provided plaintiff with a computer CD with 800 pages of documents on it, but plaintiff does not have access to a computer to view it. In their response, defendants indicated that they are printing out the pages and shipping them to plaintiff, therefore this issue is moot. To the extent plaintiff was able to view some of the documents on the CD and he states they were illegible, plaintiff appears to be referring to handwritten notes that he requested which defendants provided. Defendant is not responsible for deciphering handwritten notes or pages provided for discovery, plaintiff must do the best he can.

Therefore, plaintiff's motion to compel is denied.

Motion for Sanctions

Plaintiff seeks sanctions alleging that defendants destroyed evidence. Doc. 33. On April 14, 2011, plaintiff filed a motion (Doc. 20) for defendants to preserve all surveillance video evidence of plaintiff while at SCMJ from June 3, 2009, to October 6, 2009. The court denied the motion but noted that defendants had an ongoing obligation not to destroy evidence and were now on notice. Doc. 22.

During discovery, plaintiff requested the video surveillance and was informed by defendants that the video footage had been purged from the system during the normal course of business. Plaintiff states that defendants have a responsibility to preserve the footage for two years based on Cal. Gov. Code § 34090.*fn4

Defendants filed a response (Doc. 40) and indicated that SCMJ rules require footage to be saved for 13 months. Doc. 40 at Exh. A. Defendants [erroneously] state there is no California law that requires the preservation of video records in county jails. Defendants state that surveillance video is saved on a digital video recorder and is automatically purged every 13 months unless a request is made for certain footage to be saved. Decl. of Deputy McDaniel. The footage in question was from June 2009, to October 2009, so was destroyed in November 2010, as there was no request to save the footage. Defendants note that they were not served with the complaint in this action until January 25, 2011, several months after the footage was destroyed. Doc. 15.

California Government Code § 34090.6 states in relevant part:

(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 34090, the head of a department of a city or city and county, after one year, may destroy recordings of routine video monitoring, and after 100 days may destroy recordings of telephone and radio communications maintained by the department. This destruction shall be approved by the legislative body and the written consent of the agency attorney shall be obtained. In the event that the recordings are evidence in any claim filed or any pending litigation, they shall be preserved until pending litigation is resolved. [. . .]

(c) For purposes of this section, "routine video monitoring" means video recording by a video or electronic imaging system designed to record the regular and ongoing operations of the departments described in subdivision (a) , including mobile in-car video systems, jail observation and monitoring systems, and building security recording systems.

California law is clear that the video recordings in jail observation and monitoring systems may be destroyed after one year, therefore, plaintiff's argument fails. While plaintiff did request the footage be preserved, he did not communicate this to defendant until well after the footage was destroyed and moreover, the footage was destroyed before defendants were even aware of the litigation. Nor was there a specific incident that was recorded that defendants should have perhaps been on notice to preserve, plaintiff wants all footage of him from a four month period. Thus, defendants actions were not improper and plaintiff's motion for sanctions is denied.

Motion to Extend Discovery

Discovery ended on June 10, 2011. On June 9, 2011, plaintiff filed a motion to extend discovery 91 days. As discussed above, plaintiff was originally given a computer CD with 800 pages of documents on it and then as he had no access to a computer was sent the 800 pages in paper form and received it at some point in the end of May. While plaintiff could have a legitimate reason to extend discovery he does not present any arguments to the court on why he specifically needs an extension. Instead, plaintiff simply provides general statements that defendants did not provide the appropriate discovery and he needs a discovery extension. This is insufficient to warrant an extension.

Plaintiff previously requested a 90 day extension at the beginning of discovery as he was waiting for discovery responses and assumed he would need more time as he theorized that defendants would provide improper discovery. Plaintiff's request was denied as prematureand plaintiff is aware that he must present specific arguments and reasons in his requests and motions. As plaintiff has failed to provide any detail, his motion is denied.

Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Plaintiff's motion to quash (Doc. 24) is granted in part, in that the subpoena to Coalinga State Hospital is quashed, but the motion is denied in all other respects;

2. Plaintiff's motion to compel (Doc. 31) is denied;

3. Plaintiff's motion for sanction (Doc. 33) is denied;

4. Plaintiff's motion for an extension of discovery (Doc. 37) is denied;

5. Plaintiff's motion to correct the spelling of defendant's last name (Doc. 34) is denied as unnecessary;

6. Defendants motion for a protective order (Doc. 23) is vacated as defendants withdrew the motion.

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