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Utha Hellmann-Blumberg v. University of the Pacific

January 14, 2013

UTHA HELLMANN-BLUMBERG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF THE PACIFIC, A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



ORDER

This matter came before the court on December 21, 2012, for hearing of plaintiff's motion to compel discovery. (Doc. No. 13.) Attorney Jose Fuentes appeared on behalf of plaintiff Utha Hellmann-Blumberg. Attorney Linda Adler appeared telephonically on behalf of defendant University of the Pacific.

Upon consideration of the parties' arguments as set forth in the joint statement of discovery disagreement filed December 14, 2012 (Doc. No. 17) and at oral argument, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's November 29, 2012 motion to compel is granted in part and denied in part as follows:*fn1

I. Request For Production of Documents Nos. 8, 16, 36, 37, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 and 51

In these eleven requests plaintiff seeks all responsive documents for the nineteen-year time period of January 1, 1993, to January 1, 2012 of all faculty members employed by defendant, as well as all certain identified individuals, concerning pre-tenure review, recommendations, promotions, appointments with tenure, etc. Defendant objects to these requests arguing, in part, that plaintiff is seeking nineteen years worth of discovery for over 200 hundred academic departments despite the fact that plaintiff's allegations are limited to events which allegedly occurred in 2007 and 2008 and primarily involve the Chemistry Department at the defendant university. Defendant contends that courts have generally found five years to be a reasonable time period for discovery purposes in similar actions and has offered to produce all tenure files for tenure decisions from 2002 to 2009 in the departments of Chemistry, Biological Sciences, School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and Educational Psychology. According to defendant, these departments are unique among the other departments of the university in that they all offer doctoral degrees. Defendant also argues that the pre-tenure review takes place years before the application for tenure and thus is not relevant. In response, plaintiff argues that defendant is a small university with infrequent tenure hires which therefore justifies the expansive time frame of discovery which plaintiff seeks here. (Doc. No. 17 at 7-22.)

Defendant's position regarding the appropriate temporal scope of discovery in this action is based upon its contention that there is a rule that limits discovery in Title VII actions such as this to the period of five years prior to the plaintiff's termination. (Doc. No. 17 at 18-19.) In light of this rule, defendant suggests that its agreement to produce files for all tenure decisions made in the limited number of departments from 2002 through 2009 is reasonable. However, there is no such strict "five year rule." See Harris v. Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Operations Inc., 2010 WL 4683776, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 10, 2010) (in a Title VII action ordering a seven year time period for information to be provide in response to interrogatories after noting cases limiting discovery to up to eight years prior to and up to two years after plaintiff's termination.) Rather, courts have generally permitted discovery in Title VII cases "for a reasonable time period that predates a plaintiff's claims." Id.

Here, plaintiff was allegedly denied tenure on April 15, 2007 and eventually terminated on August 31, 2008. Based upon these dates, the Court determines that a reasonable time frame for discovery in this action is April 15, 2000 (seven years prior to plaintiff being denied tenure) through August 31, 2010 (two years after her termination). Moreover, the court concludes that the pre-tenure reviews may well reflect evidence relevant to the subject matter of this litigation. However, the Court also finds that plaintiff's discovery request for responsive documents from every department of the defendant university is overbroad and unduly burdensome.

Accordingly, with respect to plaintiff's Request For Production of Documents Nos. 8, 16, 36, 37, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 and 51, defendant will be ordered to produce responsive documents for the time period from April 15, 2000 through August 31, 2010, with respect to the departments of Chemistry, Biological Sciences, School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and Educational Psychology and shall include pre-tenure review documents in that production. All responses provided by defendant in this regard shall be produced subject to a stipulated protective order.*fn2

II. Request For Production of Documents Nos. 11*fn3

In this request for production plaintiff seeks all documents setting forth policies, guidelines, etc., with respect to salary increases, wages and deductions, and contributions made by defendant to faculty members for the nineteen year period from January 1, 1993 to January 1, 2012. Defendant has produced the requested documents only for the period December 1, 2009 to August 31, 2009 but objects to any additional production. (Doc. No. 17 at 22-24.)

For the reasons stated above, with respect to plaintiff's Request For Production of Documents No. 11 defendant shall produce responsive documents for the time period April 15, 2000 through August 31, 2010.

III. Request For Production of Documents Nos. 46*fn4

In this request for production plaintiff seeks documents related to defendant's

consideration of appointing an Assistant or Associate Biochemist tenure-track candidate in the fall of 2001. Defendant objects to the request, arguing in part that the requested documents are not relevant. (Doc. No. 17 at 25-29.)

The Court finds this request for production seeks documents that are potentially relevant to the subject matter of this action. Accordingly, defendant will be ordered to produce responsive documents subject to a stipulated protective order.

IV. Request For Production of Documents No. 51 (sic)*fn5

In this request for production plaintiff seeks any and all documents related to plaintiff's research, scholarly endeavors, scholarship, appointment as an Assistant Professor, etc., located in Native Format on the computers of seventeen identified individuals associated with defendant. Defendant objects to the request for production arguing, in part, that it has searched for and is producing emails related to plaintiff's application for tenure and the termination of her employment from Donald DeRosa, the former President of the University of the Pacific, Philip Gilberton, the former Provost, Patrick Jones, the former Chair of the Chemistry Department, Robert Cox, the former Dean, Elfriede Kraka, the former Chair and Dieter Cremer, the former Chemistry Department mentor to plaintiff. Defendants asserts that the other individuals identified in plaintiff's request for production did not hold any position or office in the University's Administration or in the Chemistry Department from 2007 through 2008. (Doc. No. 17 at 26-28.)

The Court finds that this request for production seeks documents potentially relevant to the subject matter of this litigation action only with respect to the individuals identified by defendant. Accordingly, defendant will be ordered to produce responsive documents to plaintiff's Request for Production No. 51 only as to Donald DeRosa, Philip Gilbertson, Patrick Jones, Robert Cox, Elfi ...


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