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Mark Glen Groce v. Theodore Bernard Claudat

May 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. William McCurine, Jr. U.S. Magistrate Judge United States District Court



Plaintiff worked for defendant at Quality Instant Printing (QIP) for an eight month period from November 15, 2004 to July 29, 2005. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated.

Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("FAC") alleges: (1) defendant failed to pay plaintiff for over time and double over time for hours worked, (2) defendant did not have workers compensation insurance, and (3) plaintiff suffered an injury at work due to defendant's negligence.

Defendant now moves to quash plaintiff's subpoena of financial information. (ECF No. 72). Additionally, defendant seeks a protective order of his financial information. Plaintiff filed an opposition to defendant's motion. (ECF No. 85).

Defendant's Motion

Defendant moves this Court to quash plaintiff's subpoena pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 45, Fed. R. Civ. P. 26, and Cal. Gov't Code § 7470. (ECF No. 72). Defendant asserts the subpoenas are not relevant to this issues in this matter, the subpoenas are meant to harass defendant, the subpoenas seek privileged and/or protected information, the subpoenas were not served on defendant, and the subpoenas were not properly filed with the court. Id.

Plaintiff's Opposition

Plaintiff filed a 245 page opposition to defendant's motion to quash. Essentially, plaintiff argues the financial documents requested are "material and relevant to defendant's credibility, truthfulness and veracity" and may lead to the discovery of evidence establishing a "a pattern and practice of submitting false and misleading statement[s] in banking applications and/or documents." (ECF No. 85, pg. 3). Plaintiff also notes the subpoenas permit the institution to omit personal data. Id.

Legal Standard

The legal standard applicable to discovery is broad. See Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). Generally, relevant information is discoverable. Id. Discoverable information need not be admissible at trial so long as it "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). However, relevancy is not without "ultimate and necessary boundaries." Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507 (1947). Accordingly, district courts have broad discretion to determine relevancy for discovery purposes. Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002).

District courts also have broad discretion to limit discovery. For example, a court may limit the scope of any discovery method if it determines that the discovery sought is "unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C). Similarly, district courts are directed to limit discovery where "the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C).

Under Rule 45, any party may serve a subpoena commanding a non-party "to attend and give testimony or to produce and permit inspection [and] copying" of documents. Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(a)(1) (C). A subpoena is subject to the relevance requirements set forth in Rule 26(b). Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The non-party may make objections to the subpoena within fourteen days after service, or before the time for compliance if less than fourteen days. Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(c)(2)(B). Upon a timely motion, the court may quash or modify the subpoena for any one of the reasons set forth in Rule 45(c)(3)(A), such as the subpoena "requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter and no exception or waiver applies," or it "subjects a person to undue burden." Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(c)(3)(A). A party cannot simply object to a subpoena served on a non-party, but rather must move to quash or seek a protective order. Moon v. SCP Pool Corp., 232 F.R.D. 633, 636 (C.D.Cal.2005); Pennwalt Corp. v. Durand-Wayland, Inc., 708 F.2d 492, 494 n. 5 (9th Cir.1983) ("[o]nce the person subpoenaed objects to the subpoena ... the provisions of Rule 45(d) come into play"). The party who moves to quash a subpoena has the burden of persuasion under Rule 45(c)(3). Moon v. SCP Pool Corp., 232 F.R.D. 633, 637 (C.D.Cal.2005).

Courts have broad discretion to determine whether a subpoena is unduly burdensome. Exxon Shipping Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 34 F.3d 774, 779 (9th Cir.1994). For example, a subpoena is unduly burdensome where it seeks to compel production of documents regarding topics unrelated to or beyond the scope of the litigation. Mattel, Inc. v. Walking Mountain ., 353 F.3d 792, 813-14 (9th Cir.2003) (holding subpoenas properly quashed where their overbreadth led the court to conclude that subpoenas were "served for the purpose of annoying and harassment and not really for the purpose of getting ...

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