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Academy of Our Lady of Peace v. City of San Diego

December 28, 2011

ACADEMY OF OUR LADY OF PEACE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Mitchell D. Dembin U.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER ON JOINT MOTION FOR DETERMINATION OF DISCOVERY DISPUTE [DOC. NO. 116]

Background

Before the Court is the Joint Motion for Determination of Discovery Dispute filed by the parties on October 20, 2011. (Doc. No. 116). On October 21, 2011, the Court ordered the Defendant to submit to the Court for in camera review relevant documents subject to discovery requests by Plaintiff as to which Defendant was claiming privilege. (Doc. No. 118). The documents were submitted to the Court on October 31, 2011. After reviewing the motion, the Court ordered the parties to appear for a discovery conference on November 10, 2011. At the discovery conference, following a discussion with the parties, the Court deferred ruling on the instant motion pending the outcome of an upcoming settlement conference. The settlement conference was held on December 12, 2011. No settlement was reached.

In this lawsuit, Plaintiff challenges the decision of Defendant, through the City Council, to deny Plaintiff the necessary permits for its plan to modernize its campus and buildings. Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint alleges violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, unlawful discrimination based upon religion under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, violations of the California Constitution and seeks a Writ of Mandate compelling Defendant to grant the permit for the Plaintiff's modernization plan. (Doc. No. 109).

There are four remaining aspects to the current discovery dispute:

1. Plaintiff's objections to Defendant's Requests for Production numbered 21, 25, 26,

27, 34 and 35;

2. Plaintiff's challenge to Defendant's assertion of attorney-client privilege to shield certain documents from disclosure;

3. Plaintiff's challenge to Defendant's assertion of deliberative process privilege to shield certain documents from disclosure; and,

4. Defendant's challenge, based upon deliberative process privilege, to Plaintiff's expressed desire to notice the depositions of certain City Council members and staff.

A fifth dispute, involving Defendant's request to inspect Plaintiff's property, was resolved by the parties. The remaining disputes will be addressed below.

Discussion

1. Defendant's Requests for Production ("RFP")

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure generally allow for broad discovery, authorizing parties to obtain discovery regarding "any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Also, "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." Id. Relevant information for discovery purposes includes any information "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence," and need not be admissible at trial to be discoverable. Id. There is no requirement that the information sought directly relate to a particular issue in the case. Rather, relevance encompasses any matter that "bears on" or could reasonably lead to matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be presented in the case. Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 354 (1978). District courts have broad discretion to determine relevancy for discovery purposes. See Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002). Similarly, district courts have broad discretion to limit discovery where the discovery sought is "unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C). Limits also should be imposed where the burden or expense outweighs the likely benefits. Id.

RFP # 21

Defendant appears to seek its own documents in this request. The RFP requires the production of:

Each and every Document, Communication, Correspondence, or other writing exchanged between any member of the City's Development Services Department (DSD), its Planning Commission, its City Council, or any other committee or community planning group regarding The Modernization Plan, and any amendment thereto.

Plaintiff objects that Defendant is requesting from Plaintiff documents produced by Defendant in discovery in this case. Defendant has agreed to limit its request to only those documents Plaintiff may have which were not produced by Defendant. Defendant also claims that this request seeks communications between Plaintiff and other committees or community planning groups regarding the Modernization Plan.

This RFP is vague and ambiguous. By its terms, it does not appear to require the production of communications between Plaintiff and anyone. It only appears to require Plaintiff to produce documents in its possession that reflect communications "exchanged between" the various City components and between those components and outside committees or groups regarding the Modernization Plan. Plaintiff need not respond further.

RFP # 25

Defendant seeks from Plaintiff any and all documents regarding construction projects of the Plaintiff from 1925 to date. Plaintiff objects for overbreadth and relevance. Defendant claims that it can only locate in its records permits for construction dating back to1992 although Plaintiff has operated at its current location since the 1920's. Defendant asserts that a record of all of its transactions with Defendant over the years bears on whether Defendant has discriminated against Plaintiff.

This request is overbroad and irrelevant. The issue is whether Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff in denying the permits necessary to proceed with the Modernization Plan in 2009. Plaintiff need not respond further.

RFP #27

Defendant seeks reports of any kind pertaining to the Modernization Plan. Plaintiff claims to have produced the requested ...


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