IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
October 13, 2011
CHRISTINA MITCHELL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
SKYLINE HOMES, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carolyn K. Delaney United States Magistrate Judge
Pending before the court is plaintiffs' ex parte application for extension of time to comply with the court's September 29, 2011 order directing plaintiff to submit documents for in camera review. Noticed for hearing on November 2, 2011 is plaintiffs' motion to reconsider the September 29, 2011 order. Because oral argument is not of material assistance, these matters are submitted on the briefs. E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). Upon review of the documents in support and opposition, and good cause appearing, THE COURT FINDS AS FOLLOWS:
Plaintiffs request an extension of time to comply with the court's order directing plaintiffs to submit for in camera review documents responsive to defendant's discovery requests which were withheld under the work product doctrine. Plaintiffs assert that compliance with the court's order would be unduly burdensome because allegedly thousands of documents would have to be produced. The court's order does not call for such production.
Defendant propounded discovery relating to the general issues of
plaintiffs' damages and possible other causes of damages, weather
resistive characteristics of the siding used on plaintiffs' homes, and
identification of class members and their damages. In response,
plaintiff provided minimal substantive responses and made blanket work
product objections to the discovery. A privilege log was not provided
for all the documents withheld on the basis of work product nor was
any general description of the withheld documents made.*fn1
In briefing on the defendants' motion to
compel, plaintiffs continued to stand on their objection, essentially
contending that any claim of work product was completely unreviewable
by the court. Now, on the motion to reconsider, plaintiffs have
finally identified seven general categories of documents withheld
under the work product doctrine.*fn2 See Decl. of
Shana Scarlett, dkt. no. 144. It is apparent from counsel's affidavit
and the motion to reconsider that plaintiffs misapprehend the import
of the court's order on the motion to compel. The court has not
ordered production of documents protected under the work product
doctrine. The court has not ordered production of counsel's complete
files for in camera review. But given the paucity of information
provided in plaintiffs' privilege log, the court cannot meaningfully
review plaintiffs' blanket claim of work product protection,
particularly here where minimal responsive discovery has been produced
on issues directly relating to class certification, absent in camera
review of the documents \\\\ \\\\
responsive to the discovery but which have been withheld from
production under the claim of work product.*fn3
Presumably, in response to defendant's discovery requests, plaintiffs' counsel in good faith carefully reviewed and categorized their files for responsive documents and all that remains to be done is simply copying and bate stamping the documents. Of the categories of documents identified by plaintiffs' counsel (dkt. no. 144), plaintiffs need not produce for in camera review documents in the first, second, sixth and seventh categories. With respect to the fourth category, plaintiffs need not produce pleadings and briefs. The remaining categories of documents shall be produced for in camera review within the time line previously set forth in the order on the motion to compel.
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiffs' ex parte application for extension of time to comply with the court's September 29, 2011 order (dkt. no. 145) is denied.
2. The hearing date of November 2, 2011 is vacated. Plaintiffs' motion to reconsider (dkt. no 143) is denied.