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Emery I. Franklin v. United States

May 9, 2013


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



On January 20, 2010, Plaintiff Emery I. Franklin, a federal prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil action pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA") for personal injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident. (ECF No. 1.) The action proceeds on Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint for negligence against the United States. (ECF No. 13.) Defendant filed its Answer on April 19, 2012. (ECF No. 22.)

Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff's January 2, 2013 Motion to compel further responses to his May 21, 2012 request for production, set one, items 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, and for sanctions. (ECF No. 49.) Defendant filed Opposition to the Motion on January 17, 2013, and also requested sanctions. (ECF No. 51.) Plaintiff filed a Response to Defendant's Opposition on February 6, 2013. (ECF No. 58.) The Motion is deemed submitted for ruling. Local Rule 230(l).


A. Discovery Motions

Plaintiff is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se. As a result, the parties were relieved of some of the 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 Rule 230; ECF No. 24 at ¶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, 2012 WL 113799, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2012); Mitchell v. Felker, 2010 WL 3835765, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Sep. 29, 2010); Ellis v. Cambra, 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 v. Virga, 2011 WL 6703958, at *3 (E.D. Cal. December 21, 2011).

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. Marti v. Baires, 2012 WL 2029720, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Jun. 5, 2012); Williams v. Adams, 2009 WL 1220311, at *1 (E.D. Cal. May 4, 2009).

Courts in the Eastern District of California have required, "at a minimum, [that] the 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 at *1 (September 21, 2009); Brooks v. Alameida, 2009 WL 331358 at *2 (February 10, 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. Requests for Production

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. Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a)(1).

III. Discussion

Plaintiff seeks further responses to his request for production, set one, items 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, and 13. Each of the parties has requested Rule 37 monetary sanctions against the other.

A. Plaintiff's Argument In Support

Plaintiff argues that (1) he inadvertently named U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner as the "responding party"; (2) he subsequently narrowed his requests to items in Defendant's possession, custody and control concerning phone records, emails and text messages of Correctional Officer Paul Lehmann, Defendant's employee driving the medical transport at the time of the December 17, 2008 incident, and other unspecified escorting officers, and their employers (ECF 50 at 2, 34; ECF 58 at 3), and video of USP Atwater CMS facilities and Unit 6-A from December 17, 2008 to May 6, 2009; (3) the six hundred and sixty-nine documents produced on October 26, 2012 by defense counsel in response to Plaintiff's set two request for production ...

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