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Jerry W. Baker v. Solano County

July 25, 2011


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


Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel, with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action is proceeding on plaintiff's third amended complaint in which plaintiff challenges the dental care he received while incarcerated in the Solano County Jail. (Dkt. No. 12.) This order addresses plaintiff's alleged failure to comply with the court's May 31, 2011 order, defendants' prior request for expenses, and the parties renewed requests for sanctions.

I. Alleged Failure to Comply with May 31, 2011 Order

By order filed May 31, 2011, defendants' motion to compel discovery responses was granted, and plaintiff was directed to serve his responses on counsel for defendants within 14 days. (Dkt. No. 36.) On June 9, 2011, defendants filed a reply, arguing that plaintiff's discovery responses are incomplete, unsigned and undated, are without any substance, and provide no more than was available in the complaint, and no documents were appended, despite reference to attached documents. On June 17, 2011, plaintiff filed a response claiming:

First, my proof of service was signed & dated & I stated that I was sending the requested discovery that the defendants requested so who else answered their questions? If it's still unclear, I Jerry W.Baker, responded to the discovery I sent to Williams & Associates for Case #2:10-cv-01811-KJN. (Dkt. No. 39 at 1.) Plaintiff claims he answered all the questions to the best of his knowledge and ability, and again states he is not a lawyer. (Id.)

First, plaintiff is reminded that his pro se status does not relieve him of his obligation to comply with court orders or procedural rules. Local Rule 183(a) provides, in part:

Any individual representing himself or herself without an attorney is bound by the Federal Rules of Civil or Criminal Procedure, these Rules, and all other applicable law. All obligations placed on "counsel" by these Rules apply to individuals appearing in propria persona. Failure to comply therewith may be ground for dismissal or any other sanction appropriate under these Rules.

Id. See also King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987) ("Pro se litigants must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants."). This action has been pending for over a year, and plaintiff is responsible for prosecuting his own action.

Second, defendants are correct that discovery responses must be signed and dated. The fact that plaintiff's accompanying certificate of service is signed and dated is of no consequence. Plaintiff is warned that failure to sign and date any discovery response in the future will result in a recommendation that this action be dismissed based on plaintiff's failure to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Third, defendants are also correct that many of plaintiff's responses are lacking in substance. Plaintiff is reminded that the purpose of discovery is to allow defendants to obtain the evidence plaintiff has to support plaintiff's allegations. Plaintiff is again admonished that failure to cooperate in the discovery process may result in the imposition of sanctions, including a recommendation that this action be dismissed. It appears that plaintiff is well aware of this possible sanction inasmuch as defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's action in Baker v. Solano County Jail, 2:08-cv-0404 AK (E.D. Cal.), was granted based on plaintiff's failure to appear at two scheduled depositions, failure to respond to written discovery, and plaintiff's failure to respond to the court's order imposing monetary sanctions. (Id., April 1, 2011 Order.) Plaintiff is warned that he must provide appropriate discovery responses; plaintiff may not rely on his pro se status to avoid disclosing evidence supporting his claims, or to avoid responding appropriately to defendants' discovery requests.

Defendants have narrowed the requests for which they seek responses. (Dkt. No. 38 at 2 n.2.) Plaintiff will be required to provide supplemental responses. First, plaintiff is advised that interrogatories are questions to which plaintiff must provide a written answer. Plaintiff may not refer to documents or to his complaint. Plaintiff must answer the question. If plaintiff does not know the answer, but has reason to believe he could find the answer, he must make an effort to obtain the answer. Second, requests for production of documents require plaintiff to produce the document or documents that responds to the request. Plaintiff may not simply refer to an attached document and then fail to provide the document to defendants' counsel. Plaintiff may not direct defendant to go get the document or call someone.

Moreover, as noted above, plaintiff must sign and date his responses to discovery requests. Within twenty-one days from the date of this order, plaintiff shall provide supplemental responses for the following discovery requests, organized by defendant:

Defendant Cullison

Plaintiff responded "unclear?" to Request for Admission No. 5: Sgt. Cullison did not cause you any physical harm. (Dkt. No. 38 at 2.) Plaintiff is advised that defendant is asking whether plaintiff claims that defendant Cullison caused plaintiff any physical harm. ...

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