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Craig Cooper v. Synthia Sely

January 14, 2013

CRAIG COOPER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SYNTHIA SELY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Seng United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSE TO FIRST SET REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS (ECF No. 26) THIRTY-DAY DEADLINE ORDER AMENDING DISCOVERY AND SCHEDULING ORDER (ECF No. 14) DISCOVERY CUT-OFF DATE: APRIL 3, 2013 DISPOSITIVE MOTION DEADLINE: / JUNE 11, 2013

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Craig Cooper is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action filed April 1, 2011 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff and Defendant have declined to extend magistrate judge jurisdiction to all matters and for all purposes in this case. (Decline Magistrate, ECF Nos. 3, 22.)

On February 28, 2012, the Court screened Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and found that it stated cognizable claims against Defendant Synthia Sely, Licensed Vocational Nurse ("LVN") at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP"), for medical indifference under the Eighth Amendment and for state law negligence. (Order Finding Claims, ECF No. 9); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). On May 15, 2012, Defendant filed her Answer. (Answer, ECF No. 13.) On May 16, 2012, the Court filed its Discovery and Scheduling Order (Discov and Sched. Order, ECF No. 14), setting a Discovery Cut-Off Date of January 16, 2013, and a Dispositive Motion Deadline of March 25, 2013.

Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff's October 15, 2012, motion to compel. (Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 26.) Plaintiff seeks a further response to Request No. 3 in his First Set Request for Production relating to interviews of Defendant conducted in response to Plaintiff's complaint about the underlying incident. Defendant filed opposition to the instant motion on October 29, 2012. (Opp'n to Mot., ECF No. 27.) Plaintiff filed a reply to the opposition on November 7, 2012. (Reply to Opp'n, ECF No. 29.) The matter is deemed submitted for ruling.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Discovery Generally

Plaintiff is proceeding pro se as a state prisoner challenging his conditions of confinement. As a result, the parties were relieved of some requirements which would otherwise apply, including initial disclosure and the need to meet and confer in good faith prior to involving the Court in a discovery dispute. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c); Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(1); Local Rules 240, 251; Discovery and Scheduling Order, ECF No. 14, ¶5.

However, regardless of Plaintiff's incarceration, this is a civil action to which the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply, and the discovery process is subject to the overriding limitation of good faith. Asea, Inc. v. Southern Pac. Transp. Co., 669 F.2d 1242, 1246 (9th Cir. 1981). Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense, and for good cause, the Court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Id.

Generally, if the responding party objects to a discovery request, the party moving to compel bears the burden of demonstrating why the objections are not justified. E.g., Grabek v. Dickinson, No. CIV S-10-2892 GGH P, 2012 WL 113799, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2012); Womack v. Virga, No. CIV S-11-1030 MCE EFB P, 2011 WL 6703958, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 21, 2011); Mitchell v. Felker, No. CV 08-119RAJ, 2010 WL 3835765, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Sep. 29, 2010); Ellis v. Cambra, No. 1:02-cv-05646-AWISMS PC, 2008 WL 860523, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 27, 2008). This requires the moving party to inform the Court which discovery requests are the subject of the motion to compel, and, for each disputed response, why the information sought is relevant and why the responding party's objections are not meritorious. Grabek, 2012 WL 113799, at *1; Womack, 2011 WL 6703958, at *3; Mitchell, 2010 WL 3835765, at *2; Ellis, 2008 WL 860523, at *4.

Nonetheless, the Court is vested with broad discretion to manage discovery, Hunt v. County of Orange, 672 F.3d 606, 616 (9th Cir. 2012); Surfvivor Media, Inc. v. Survivor Productions, 406 F.3d 625, 635 (9th Cir. 2005); Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002), and where the discovery request seeks information which, based on the record, is clearly within the scope of discovery and the objection lacks merit, the Court may elect to exercise its discretion to reach the merits of the dispute, the moving party's initial burden notwithstanding. E.g., Marti v. Baires, No. 1:08-cv-00653-AWI-SKO PC, 2012 WL 2029720, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Jun. 5, 2012); Williams v. Adams, No. 1:05-cv-00124-AWI-SMS PC, 2009 WL 1220311, at *1 (E.D. Cal. May 4, 2009).

Courts in the Eastern District of California have required that at a minimum "[t]he moving party plaintiff has the burden of informing the court (1) which discovery requests are the subject of his motion to compel, (2) which of the defendant's responses are disputed, (3) why he believes the defendant's responses are deficient, (4) why the defendant's objections are not justified, and (5) why the information he seeks through discovery is relevant to the prosecution of this action." Walker v. Karelas, 2009 WL 3075575, *1 (E.D. Cal. September 21, 2009). The court must limit discovery if the burden of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2) (C)(iii). "In each instance [of discovery], the determination whether . . . information is discoverable because it is relevant to the claims or defenses depends on the circumstances of the pending action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 Advisory Committee's Note (2000 Amendment) (Gap Report) (Subdivision (b)(1).

B. Motion to Compel Production of Documents

A party may serve on any other party a request within the scope of Rule 26(b) to produce and permit the requesting party or its representative to inspect, copy, test, or sample items in the responding party's possession, custody or control: any designated documents or tangible things. Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a)(1). "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." Allen v. Woodford, No. CV-F-05-1104 OWW LJO, 2007 WL 309945, *2 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 30, 2007), citing In re Bankers Trust Co., 61 F.3d 465, 469 (6th Cir. 1995); accord Bovarie v. ...


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