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Keith R. Bridgewater v. Debra Sweeny

October 31, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff's motion to compel (Doc. 20) and motion for an extension of the discovery deadline (Docs. 20, 22). Plaintiff has also filed a motion for additional time to respond to defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 26).


Plaintiff brings his motion to compel on the basis that the answers provided in response to his discovery requests, including interrogatories and requests for admissions, were incomplete, and he did not receive any documents as requested. He argues the defendants objected to his discovery requests, indicating his questions were compound, argumentative, vague and ambiguous.

The scope of discovery is generally governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b). Rule 26(b)(1) provides that "the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . . 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). Relevancy in the discovery context has been construed broadly to encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matters that bear on, any issue that is in the case. See Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 352 (1978) (citing Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 501 (1947)). Therefore, a discovery request directed at discovering a matter which is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence is not within the scope of Rule 26. See id. Consistent with this rule, discovery is not limited to issues raised by the pleadings, for discovery itself is designed to help define and clarify the issues. See id. at 351. Nor is discovery limited to the merits of a case, for a variety of fact-oriented issues may arise during litigation that are not related to the merits. See id.

Discovery may not, however, be obtained regarding matters which are privileged. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Thus, if a discovery privilege exists, information may be withheld, even if relevant to the case. See Baldridge v. Shapiro, 455 U.S. 345 (1982). The question of privilege is determined by reference to the Federal Rules of Evidence. See Campbell v. Gerrans, 592 F.2d 1054 (9th Cir. 1979). Generally, questions of privilege "shall be governed by the principles of the common law as they may be interpreted by the courts of the United States in the light of reason and experience." Fed. R. Evid. 501. However, in civil actions which do not raise a federal question, the question of privilege is determined by state law. See Fed. R. Evid. 501. But, "when state privilege law is consistent, or at least compatible with, federal privilege law, the two shall be read together in order to accommodate the legitimate expectations of the state's citizens." Pagano v. Oroville Hosp., 145 F.R.D. 683, 687 (E.D. Cal. 1993).

In addition, relevant non-privileged discovery may be limited if: (1) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient; or (2) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation, and the importance of the proposed discovery in resolving the issues. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2).

Here, plaintiff seeks an order for further responses to his request for admissions, interrogatories, and request for production of documents. He argues the answers provided are inadequate, and he is dissatisfied with the defendant's objections to his questions. He claims the defendant failed to provide adequate responses to the requests for admissions, specifically requests 1-7, 10, and 13-16. He also argues the defendant failed to provide adequate responses to the interrogatories, specifically interrogatories 1-7, and 11-14. Finally, he argues the defendant failed to produce any document requested, and her objections thereto were inadequate. He does not, however, set forth in his motion the requests and responses received. Instead, he attaches exhibits to his motions, some of which appear to be either misnumbered, or mixed up. Defendant argues her responses were adequate and the objections were proper, and also that in addition to the objections, and without waiving such objections, proper responses were provided for most of the requests. The defendant sets forth the requests and responses, which the court uses as set forth below, as they appear to be less mixed up.

A review of the discovery requests and responses the parties supplied to the court reveals that the defendant did object to most if not all of the requests. However, without waiving the stated objections, she also provided a response to most of the requests. Plaintiff fails to address the responses defendant did provide, and simply argues he is dissatisfied with the objections set forth. As responses were provided over the stated objections, plaintiff fails to meet his burden of showing the responses were inadequate.

There were a few requests, however, that the defendant simply objected to on numerous grounds, and no actual response was provided. These requests are limited to Requests for Admissions number 5, 11, 13, and 14; Interrogatories number 14, 15, and 16; and Requests for Production of Documents 1-6. Those requests and responses are set forth below:


Request for Admission No. 5: Admit that it was and is your "OFFICIAL POSISTION [sic]", that plaintiff physically threatened you on the night of July 25th 2010, while in the direct physical presence of Two Correctional Officers, during the evening Medical Pill Line.

Response to Request for Admission No. 5: Objections. The request is compound, and the phrases "official position" and "direct physical presence" are vague and ambiguous. The request is also irrelevant and not calculated to lead to admissible evidence. The request is argumentative. Defendant's objections are sustained. The request is compound and vague. A simple admission or denial was not possible as the request was presented.

Request for Admission No. 11: Admit that the amount of overtime in which you worked directly contributed to you suffering a stroke, due to ...

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