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Quiroz v. Horel

United States District Court, N.D. California

February 11, 2014

MARK ROBERT QUIROZ, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT A. HOREL, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO COMPEL; DENYING REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS; VACATING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING MOTION FOR EXTENSION OF TIME AS MOOT (Docket Nos. 198, 221, 234)

LUCY H. KOH, District Judge.

On July 16, 2013, plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se , filed a third amended civil rights complaint ("TAC") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Upon screening, the court ordered the TAC served upon named defendants. On October 15, 2013, defendant Sergeant D. Short ("Short") filed a motion for summary judgment. On October 29, 2013, defendants J. F. Akin, D. Barneburg, J. Barneburg, K. Brandon, S. Burris, Matthew Cate, C. Coulter, C. Countess, G. D'Errico, A. Dornback, A. Hernandez, Robert A. Horel, Francisco Jacquez, G. D. Lewis, K. McGuyer, M. J. Nimrod, M. Pena, G. Pimentel, J. Puente, R. Rice, Chris Wilber, and M. Winingham filed a motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment. On November 15, 2013, plaintiff filed a motion to compel discovery from Short. Plaintiff has also filed a second motion for an extension of time in which to file his opposition to Short's motion for summary judgment. Short has filed an opposition to the motion to compel, and plaintiff has filed a reply. Plaintiff has also requested sanctions to be imposed against Short. For the reasons stated below, plaintiff's motion to compel is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; plaintiff's request for sanctions is DENIED; Short's motion for summary judgment is VACATED; and plaintiff's motion for an extension of time in which to file an opposition to Short's motion for summary judgment is DENIED as moot.

BACKGROUND

In plaintiff's TAC, plaintiff alleges, inter alia , that Short conspired with other defendants to unlawfully interfere with plaintiff's incoming and outgoing mail; retaliated against plaintiff for filing grievances, filing the underlying lawsuit, and submitting a declaration in support of another lawsuit; violated plaintiff's right of association and to marry; failed to properly train and supervise his subordinates; and violated state law.

DISCUSSION

The parties have been conducting discovery since, at the latest, October 17, 2011. (Mot. to Compel at 3.) "If a party fails to make a disclosure required by Rule 26(a), any other party may move to compel disclosure and for appropriate sanctions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(2)(A). "When a party withholds information that is otherwise discoverable under the Federal Rules by claiming a privilege, as [d]efendants have done in this case, the party shall make the claim expressly and shall describe the nature of the documents, communications, or things not produced or disclosed in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, will enable other parties to assess the applicability of the privilege or protection.'" Soto v. City of Concord , 162 F.R.D. 603, 609 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5)).

I. Request for Production of Documents ("RPD")

Plaintiff claims that Short failed to produce the following RPDs: 5, 7, 10, 16-19, and 24. The court will address each request in turn.

A. RPD Numbers 5, 7, 16-19

Plaintiff's RPD Number 5 asks Short to provide a copy of "any and all logs, lists, or other documentation reflecting" grievances filed against Short by Pelican Bay State Prison ("PBSP") inmates for "tampering, interference, confiscation, stoppage, destruction or discarding of mail from January 1, 2006 to the date of [Short's] response." (Docket No. 222, "Pl. Decl." Ex. A at 2.) Plaintiff's RPD Number 7 asks Short to provide a copy of "any and all logs, lists, or other documentation reflecting staff complaints filed against defendant Short." ( Id. at 3.) Plaintiff's RPD Numbers 16-19 request any and all staff complaints, citizen complaints, and general complaints alleging that Short engaged in retaliation or dishonesty before January 4, 2011. ( Id. , Ex. O at 5-6.)

Short objected to these requests, citing a myriad of reasons, including the right of privacy, and state and federal privilege laws. Short also alleges that these requests were unduly burdensome because grievances and staff complaints are logged and filed according to an inmate's name and complainant rather than by a prison official's name. ( Id. , Ex. C at 5, 7; Ex. S at 5-9.) The court agrees that compiling such a log or list would be unduly burdensome. To locate these grievances and staff complaints, Short would need to search thousands of different inmates' files, and pull out only those grievances lodged against Short. Short would also need to track down and search all grievances of inmates who are no longer incarcerated.

Short also alleges that these RPDs are irrelevant. However, "[d]ocuments that are a part of the personnel records of officers defending civil rights actions, while containing sensitive information, are within the scope of discovery." Haney v. Woods , 2013 WL 870665, *2 (E.D. Cal. March 7, 2013). Thus, Short's objection based on relevance is overruled. To the extent that there are relevant documents addressing these RPDs in Short's personnel file, the task does not appear to be unduly burdensome or irrelevant. In this limited situation, plaintiff's motion to compel is GRANTED. Short shall produce relevant documents, including documents from personnel files, that are responsive to RPD Numbers 5, 7, and 16-19. To the extent such information implicates privacy rights, Short may redact identifying personal information from responsive documents.

Thus, the motion to compel RPD Numbers 5, 7, and 16-19 is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Accordingly, within 14 days from the filing date of this order, Short is directed to produce documents responsive to plaintiff's RPD Numbers 5, 7, and 16-19 to the extent these documents are in Short's personnel file, in the manner described above.

B. RPD Numbers 10 and 15

Plaintiff's RPD Number 10 asks for a copy of Short's duty statement or post order for an Institutional Gang Investigations sergeant that outlines and describes his job responsibilities. (Pl. Decl., Ex. C at 5.) Plaintiff's RPD Number 15 asks for a copy of any and all "Employee Positional History" reports for Short. ( Id. , Ex. C. at 10.) In response, Short made general objections, and then answered that he would provide both documents. ( Id. , Ex. C at 8, 10.) On December 9, 2011, defense counsel mailed documents responsive to Request Numbers 10 and 15. (Aguayo Decl. at ¶ 6.) PBSP identified those documents, deemed them confidential, and confiscated them because plaintiff was prohibited from possessing those documents. ( Id. ) On August 6, 2012, the court directed defense counsel to arrange to provide those documents to plaintiff for plaintiff's inspection. (Docket No. 154 at 10.) On August 13, 2013, defense counsel contacted PBSP's litigation coordinator to make such arrangements. (Aguayo Decl. at ¶ 16.) However, on August 20, 2013, the litigation coordinator at PBSP notified defense counsel that plaintiff was prohibited from viewing the documents because the institution deemed them confidential. ( Id. )

Neither Short nor the litigation coordinator have provided any legal reason as to why plaintiff is prohibited from discovering these documents. Moreover, even if such documents were confidential, there is no indication that a redaction of any sensitive information contained in the documents is not feasible in order to comply with the production or inspection of these documents. See, e.g. , Dixon v. LaRosa , 2013 WL 210064, *10 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 17, 2013).

Thus, the motion to compel the production of RPD Numbers 10 and 15 is GRANTED. Accordingly, within 14 days from the filing date of this order, Short is directed to produce documents ...


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