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William P. Garcia v. Ken Clark

April 11, 2012

WILLIAM P. GARCIA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
KEN CLARK, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL DEFENDANTS' FURTHER RESPONSE DUE WITHIN THIRTY DAYS (DOC. 63)

Plaintiff William P. Garcia ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is proceeding on his first amended complaint against Defendants K. Allison, F. Diaz, D. Ibarra, S. Knight, C. Palmer, R. Santos, R. Tolson, K. Turner, and C. Walters. Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to compel, filed December 14, 2011. Doc. 63. On January 9, 2012, Defendants filed their opposition. Doc. 64. On January 24, 2012, Plaintiff filed his reply. The matter is submitted pursuant to Local Rule 230(l).

I. Motion To Compel (Doc. 46)

A. Interrogatories

Plaintiff moves to compel further response to Plaintiff's Interrogatories Nos. 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10. Plaintiff includes responses from Defendants R. Tolson, K. Allison, F. Dias, D. Ibarra, and C. Palmer. The Court presumes that Plaintiff seeks to compel further response from these Defendants only.

1. Legal Standard

"An interrogatory may relate to any matter that may be inquired into under Rule 26(b) [of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure]." Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(a)(2); see also id. 26(b)(1) ("Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense -- including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter.").

The responding party is obligated to respond to the interrogatories to the fullest extent possible, Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(3), and any objections must be stated with specificity, Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(4). The responding party shall use common sense and reason. E.g., Collins v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 06-2466-CM-DJW, 2008 WL 1924935, *8 (D. Kan. Apr. 30, 2008). A responding party is not generally required to conduct extensive research in order to answer an interrogatory, but a reasonable effort to respond must be made. L.H. v. Schwarzenegger, No. S-06-2042 LKK GGH, 2007 WL 2781132, *2 (E.D. Cal. Sep. 21, 2007). Further, the responding party has a duty to supplement any responses if the information sought is later obtained or the response provided needs correction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(e)(1).

2. Interrogatories Interrog. No. 4: Describe the professional education, training and experience possessed by the defendant in the jewish religion. [sic] In the alternative, attach a copy of defendant's curriculum vitae or defendant's personal knowledge to these interrogatories.

Interrog. No. 5: Describe the professional education, training and experience possessed by the defendant in the Jewish race/Culture. In the alternative, attach a copy of defendant's curriculum vitae or defendant's personal knowledge to these interrogatories.

Response: Defendant objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it seeks information that is not relevant, not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence and beyond the scope of permissible discovery. Defendant further objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it is vague and ambiguous. Defendant further objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it seeks confidential information and information protected by Defendant's Constitutional right of privacy. Defendant further objects to the interrogatory on the grounds that Plaintiff has not shown good cause for disclosure of the information.

Plaintiff contends that his interrogatories are relevant to this action. Plaintiff's claims are that Defendants at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility ("CSATF") denied him Kosher meals in violation of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. Plaintiff alleges that he is Jewish and is required by his religion to eat Kosher meals.

Defendants contend that Plaintiff's interrogatories are not relevant. Defendants contend that Plaintiff has not demonstrated how Plaintiff's objections are not justified. Defs.' Opp'n 4:15-21. Defendants contend that Plaintiff's contention is that Defendants failed to comply with key training that they received. Id. Thus, Defendants contend that training that they did not receive is not relevant. Id.

Defendants are incorrect. "Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Plaintiff's interrogatories pertaining to Defendants' training regarding the Jewish religion and culture are relevant, as this action involves religious discrimination, retaliation, and denial of the exercise of religion.

Defendants contend that Plaintiff has failed to explain why Defendants' responses are insufficient. However, Plaintiff contends that the interrogatories are relevant because they go toward Defendants' failure to provide Plaintiff with the ability to practice his religion. Plaintiff contends that Defendants failed to follow CDCR rules regarding prisoners practicing their religion. This is sufficient to demonstrate Plaintiff's arguments in favor of compelling a further discovery response.

Defendants fail to explain the basis of their remaining objections. See Roesberg v. Johnson-Manville Corp., 85 F.R.D. 292, 297 (E.D. Pa. 1980) (burden on objector to clarify and explain objections). Defendants filed form objections without explanation. Defendants' opposition to Plaintiff's motion to compel provides no enlightenment.*fn1 Accordingly, Defendants' objections are overruled. Plaintiff's motion to compel an answer to Interrogatories Nos. 4 and 5 is granted.

Interrog. No. 7: State the reason why defendant would take a jewish inmates food. Response to No. 7: Defendant objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it seeks information that is not relevant, not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence and beyond the scope of permissible discovery. Defendant further objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it is vague and ambiguous. Defendant further objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it assumes facts not in evidence.

Plaintiff contends that this interrogatory is relevant because Defendants took food from him. Defendants provide no explanation in their opposition. Assuming facts not in evidence may be the basis for an objection during trial or some other evidentiary hearing. This however, is discovery. See Roesberg, 85 F.R.D. at 298 ("That an interrogatory may contain an element of conclusion is not objectionable on this ground alone"). As stated previously, Defendants failed to explain the basis of their other objections. Accordingly, Defendants' objections are overruled. Plaintiff's motion to compel further response to Interrogatory No. 7 is granted.

Interrog. No. 8: Describe in detail CDCR's policy & Procedures in the D.O.M. O. P. S.O.P.'s Title 15 or any other document, memorandum which states that all lunch's whether kosher or General Population have to be stapled closed.

Response to No. 8: Defendant objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it seeks information that is not relevant, not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence and beyond the scope of permissible discovery. Defendant further objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it is vague and ambiguous.

Plaintiff contends that it is relevant, because he contends that there are no regulations, policies, or procedures that require that all lunch bags be stapled closed or that CDCR has the right to confiscate such lunch bags if they are opened. Pl.'s Mot. Compel 10:23-11:19. Plaintiff contends that he opened the bags to check the contents to ensure that there was no rotten or spoiled food, at which time, Defendants confiscated his food. Id.

Defendants contend that Plaintiff makes no allegations regarding the sealing of sack lunches.*fn2 Defs.' Opp'n 4:22-5:23. Defendants further contend that there are safety and security issues and that inmates are not permitted to take their meals back to their cells, with the exception of sealed sack lunches, because staff cannot control the quality of the food. Id.

Defendants' arguments do not address Plaintiff's interrogatory. Plaintiff's interrogatory is relevant. Defendants maintain that inmates are not permitted to take food back to their cells, with the exception of sealed sack lunches. It appears that Plaintiff seeks the policy, procedure, or regulation that authorizes such taking, which is directly related to Plaintiff's claim that Defendants are impermissibly taking Plaintiff's food from him. Thus, the interrogatory is relevant. Defendants' other objections are overruled for failure to explain the basis of the objection. Plaintiff's motion to compel further response to Interrogatory No. 8 is granted. Interrog. No. 10: Please state if the camera's [sic] on facility D yard are in working order and are kept for review if needed.

Response to No. 10: Defendant objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it seeks information that is not relevant, not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence and beyond the scope of permissible discovery. Defendant further objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it is vague and ambiguous. Defendant further objects to this interrogatory on the grounds that it seeks confidential and restricted security information. Plaintiff contends that this interrogatory is relevant because there is video from this camera which will purportedly show Defendants targeting Plaintiff by taking food out of his hand. Pl.'s Mot. Compel 11:20-12:19. These actions allegedly expanded to include every Jew on the yard who was receiving Kosher meals. Id. Defendants contend that they properly objected, and will provide no further response. Defs.' Opp'n 5:26-6:2.

Plaintiff contends that there is videotape of the alleged deprivation of his religious meals by Defendants, which is at issue here. It is thus relevant whether the camera on Facility D yard is in working order and if video is kept for review if needed.*fn3 As to issues of security, Defendants have not provided an explanation as to how the functionality of the video camera on Facility D yard implicates any security concerns. Plaintiff seeks an answer as to whether the video camera on Facility D yard was working, in order to discover video involving some of the alleged actions at issue. Defendants' contention that Plaintiff seeks restricted security information is vague and unexplained. The Court finds their concerns speculative. Accordingly, Defendants' objections are overruled. Plaintiff's motion to compel further response to Interrogatory No. 10 is granted.

B. Production Of Documents

1. Legal Standard

In responding to discovery requests, defendants must produce documents or other tangible things which are in their "possession, custody or control." Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a). Responses must either state that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested, or state an objection, including the reasons. Id. 34(b)(2)(B).

Actual possession, custody or control is not required. "A party may be ordered to produce a document in the possession of a non-party entity if that party has a legal right to obtain the document or has control over the entity who is in possession of the document. Soto v. City of Concord, 162 F.R.D. 603, 620 (N.D. Cal. 1995). As this Court explained in Allen v. Woodford, 2007, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11026, *4-6, 2007 WL 309945, *2 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 30, 2007) (internal citations and quotations omitted):

Property is deemed within a party's possession, custody, or control if the party has actual possession, custody, or control thereof or the legal right to obtain the property on demand. A party having actual possession of documents must allow discovery even if the documents belong to someone else; legal ownership of the documents is not determinative. Control need not be actual control; courts construe it broadly as the legal right to obtain documents upon demand. Legal right is evaluated in the context of the facts of each case. The determination of control is often fact specific. Central to each case is the relationship between the party and the person or entity having actual possession of the document. The requisite relationship is one where a party can order the person or entity in actual possession of the documents to release them. This position of control is usually the result of statute, affiliation or employment. Control may be established by the existence of a principal-agent relationship.

Such documents also include documents under the control of the party's attorney. Meeks v. Parson, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90283, 2009 WL 3303718 (E.D. Cal. September 18, 2009) (involving a subpoena to the CDCR); Axler v. Scientific Ecology Group, Inc., 196 F.R.D. 210, 212 (D. Mass. 2000) (A "party must product otherwise discoverable documents that are in his attorneys' possession, custody or control."); Gray v. Faulkner, 148 F.R.D. 220, 223 (N.D. Ill. 1992); see also Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 3370(e) ("No case records file, unit health records, or component thereof shall be released to any agency or person outside the department, except for private attorneys hired to represent the department, the office of the attorney general, the Board of Parole Hearings, the Inspector General, and as provided by applicable federal and state law.").

2. Requests For Production

Plaintiff moves to compel further response to Plaintiff's Requests For Production of Documents ...


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