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Matthew G. Jennings v. A. Moreland

September 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carolyn K. Delaney United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has brought claims of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need and claims of failure to protect. All of the defendants are alleged to have been employed at California State Prison-Sacramento (CSP-Sac), where plaintiff was incarcerated at the time of the incidents described in the amended complaint. There are several discovery-related motions pending before the court.

1. Defendants' motion to quash subpoena duces tecum

Defendants have collectively moved to quash the subpoena duces tecum plaintiff served on the Internal Affairs Department (IAD) of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), on September 21, 2010. Their grounds for quashing the subpoena are purely technical: (1) the subpoena was not served on any named person, and (2) plaintiff served the subpoena himself, via U.S. Mail, rather than through a non-party. See Motion (Docket No. 137). For both arguments, defendants rely on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(b)(1).

"Ordinarily a party has no standing to seek to quash a subpoena issued to someone who is not a party to the action, unless the objecting party claims some personal right or privilege with regard to the documents sought." Fenstermacher v. Moreno, 2010 WL 5071042 at *2 (E.D. Cal.) (internal quotations and citations omitted). "Absent a specific showing of privilege or privacy, a court cannot quash a subpoena duces tecum" when asked to do so by a party to the lawsuit. Windsor v. Martindale, 175 F.R.D. 665, 668 (D.Col. 1997). If a party fails to provide a legitimate privilege or privacy interest in a subpoena that is directed at someone else, objections based on alleged technical violations, such as improper service, cannot be the basis of quashing it. Id.

The court will deny the motion to quash because defendants do not have standing to bring it. The subpoena seeks letters that plaintiff had written to IAD and "any and all documents concerning investigation(s) conducted by the Internal Affairs Division for Jennings being assaulted on August 1, 2007." Motion, Ex. A. As stated above, all of the defendants are alleged to have been correctional officers or employees at CSP-Sac while plaintiff was incarcerated there. None of the defendants has been an officer or employee at IAD at any time relevant to this action, nor is any defendant sued in an official capacity such that he or she would have standing to object on behalf of CDCR or IAD -- neither of which, incidentally, has appeared in this case to object to the subpoena. Most importantly, none of the defendants alleges any privacy interest in any document sought through the subpoena.

The fact that defendants were at the time of the alleged incidents employed by CDCR does not give defendants standing to challenge the subpoena: the division between their potential, individual liability under § 1983, with which they are charged in the amended complaint, and CDCR's official liability, which is not charged, is well established. CDCR and these defendants are wholly separate legal entities. In fact, it is worth noting that CDCR employees who were named as defendants in other cases in this court have served Rule 45 subpoenas on CDCR to obtain records about the inmate-plaintiffs who sued them, and they have won at least partial relief against CDCR's attempts as a non-party to quash those subpoenas. See, e.g., Delaney v. Tilton, 2008 WL 4298179 (E.D.Cal.).*fn1

2. Plaintiff's motion to compel

Plaintiff has filed a motion to compel, in which he seeks an order that defendants respond to his Request for Production No. 12. The request is for "[a]ll documents containing the rights and responsibilities of employees under civil service." Motion at 2 (Docket No. 146). Defendants state that the motion has become moot because they have produced the documents requested. See Opposition at 2 (Docket No. 156). Plaintiff has not disputed defendants' representation that they have complied with the discovery request. Therefore the motion is moot.

3. Plaintiff's motion for sanctions

On September 15, 2010, the visiting magistrate judge then assigned to this case ordered defendants to give plaintiff the opportunity to review his central file ("C-File") within fifteen days of the order. See Docket No. 120. The order states that "[i]f this does not occur, the responsible prison official shall appear before this Court in Reno, NV, to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed." Id. On December 15, 2010, plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions, stating that he still had not seen his C-File. See Motion (Docket No. 145).

Defendants have not responded to the motion for sanctions. However, they have produced a letter from plaintiff, dated January 2, 2011, in which plaintiff acknowledges he "was finally able to review my C-File on Thursday [December] the 30th. Thank you for your assistance in this matter." Motion for Extension of Time, Attachment 1 (Docket No. 154). Although defendants are still bound to show cause why they should not be sanctioned under the court's order of September 15, 2010, the court finds that plaintiff's motion for sanctions is now moot.

4. Plaintiff's motion for priority library access

On April 15, 2011, the district judge currently assigned to this case reversed the magistrate judge's denial of plaintiff's motion for priority access to the prison's legal library. See Order (Docket No. 161). The district judge made his ruling "[i]n light of the prior grants to plaintiff's nearly identical motions and in the interest of justice[.]" Id. at 2. The six-month period of priority access created under that order expires on October 18, 2011. Id. Plaintiff now seeks an additional six-month period of priority access, to begin October 19, 2011. Hearing no objection from ...

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