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Rodney Womack v. Tim Virga

December 20, 2011

RODNEY WOMACK PLAINTIFF,
v.
TIM VIRGA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and his motion to compel. Dckt. Nos. 1, 31. Defendants have opposed both motions, and plaintiff has filed reply briefs. Dckt. Nos. 23, 32, 33, 34.

I. Background

Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction asks that the court order, inter alia, that plaintiff be housed in a single cell and receive treatment for his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dckt. No. 1 at 12. Plaintiff alleges that due to his mental illness, he fears that if he is forced to share a cell he will kill or be killed by his cellmate. Id. at 4-5.

Defendants argue that plaintiff has failed to present credible evidence to support a grant of a preliminary injunction. Dckt. No. 24 at 2. Specifically, defendants contend plaintiff has failed to present evidence to establish that he suffers from PTSD or that he will suffer irreparable injury in absence of an injunction. Id. at 5-6. Defendants further contend that plaintiff has not presented credible evidence that plaintiff "has a requisite history of in-cell violence, predatory behavior, or objectively determinable victimization to justify single-cell assignment." Id. at 7. In addition, defendants assert plaintiff's mental health clinicians do not believe plaintiff currently poses a threat to himself or another inmate if one is assigned a cell-mate, thus, plaintiff cannot justify his request for single-cell status. Id.

On August 17, 2011, plaintiff filed a "motion to compel discovery," seeking a number of documents from defendants. Dckt. No. 28. The court construed the motion as a request for discovery and ordered defendants to respond. See Dckt. No. 30. Plaintiff contended that he needed the documents in order to support his motion for a preliminary injunction. Dckt. No. 28 at 1, 3. On September 6, 2011, defendants responded to plaintiff's request for discovery, objecting to every request for production and "declin[ing] to produce any documents . . . at this time." Dckt. No. 33, Ex. A to Irby Decl. at 2-9.

On September 22, 2011, plaintiff filed a motion to compel. Dckt. No. 31. Plaintiff contends that he requires the requested documents as evidence in support of his motion for preliminary injunction. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion to compel is granted, and defendants must produce documents to plaintiff.

Plaintiff claims that he needs the requested documents as evidence in support for his motion for preliminary injunctive relief--and defendants argue that plaintiff's motion for injunctive relief should be denied because plaintiff has not produced sufficient evidence in support of his allegations. It is apparent that plaintiff wishes to file an amended motion for injunctive relief once he obtains the requested evidence. Therefore, the court denies plaintiff's currently pending motion for injunctive relief without prejudice. Plaintiff may file an amended motion for injunctive relief, or, if he chooses, may simply file a notice of renewing his original motion for injunctive relief, with any new supporting documents attached. Defendants may file an amended opposition or a notice of renewal of their original opposition, and plaintiff may file an amended reply brief or a notice of renewal of his original reply, within the time periods set out in the Federal Rules.

II. Motion to Compel

Plaintiff moves to compel the production of the following documents: 1) any and all institutional appeals against correctional officers; 2) any and all institutional 602 appeals plaintiff has submitted for any and all reasons; 3) any and all copies of CDC 115 disciplinary write-ups plaintiff has received while incarcerated at Folsom State Prison; 4) all classification committee actions; 5) any and all mental health institutional appeals plaintiff has submitted against mental health staff; 6) any and all institutional 602 appeals plaintiff has submitted against Folsom State Prison's mental health staff; 7) any and all copies of CDC 115 disciplinary write-ups that plaintiff has received from mental health employees; 8) plaintiff's mental health records from Folsom Mental Health Department; 9) plaintiff's confidential mental health records from Folsom Mental Health Department; and 10) all classification committee actions. Dckt. No. 28 at 2-3.

Defendants object to each RFP on several grounds and "decline" to produce any documents to plaintiff. See generally Dckt. No. 33, Ex. A at 2-9. Defendants also make the circular argument that "[p]laintiff defends each of his objectionable requests on the basis that he needs the information sought to expose the existence of a pattern and practice of 'conspiracy, harassment, and retaliation' by Defendants" but the court should deny his motion to compel because "plaintiff offers no admissible evidence that any conspiracy, harassment, retaliation, or document destruction by Defendants exists." Dckt. No. 33 at 4. The argument is self-defeating. Further, defendants are reminded that under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The primary purpose of discovery is to acquire evidence to support a party's allegations. As defendants' own argument demonstrates, plaintiff has requested relevant evidence.

Information is relevant for purposes of discovery if "it is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id. Relevant information encompasses "any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case." Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351, 98 S. Ct. 2380, 57 L. Ed. 2d 253 (1978). Because discovery is designed to define and clarify the issues in the case, it is not limited to the precise issues raised in the pleadings. Id. at 350-51. "The question of relevancy should be construed 'liberally and with common sense' and discovery should be allowed unless the information sought has no conceivable bearing on the case." Soto v. City of Concord, 162 F.R.D. 603, 610 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (quoting Miller v. Panuci, 141 F.R.D. 292, 296 (C.D. Cal. 1992)). The court may limit discovery if it determines the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or obtainable from a more convenient or less expensive source, the party seeking discovery had ample opportunity to obtain the information sought, or the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2).

A motion to compel is appropriate where a party fails to produce relevant, non-privileged documents requested pursuant to Rule 34. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3). If a party, in response to a request for production under Rule 34, fails to produce or permit inspection, the discovering party may move for an order compelling production. Id. An evasive or incomplete answer or response to a discovery request "must be treated as a failure to disclose, answer or respond." Fed. R. Civ. P 37(a)(4). The party seeking the motion to compel discovery has the burden of informing the court why the defendants' objections are not justified or why the defendants' responses are deficient.

Defendants assert several virtually identical objections to each of plaintiff's RFPs. The court addresses each of these ...


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