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Sinegal v. Duarte

United States District Court, S.D. California

March 10, 2014

RAMON LADALE SINEGAL, CDCR # J-95722, Plaintiff,
E. DUARTE, et al., Defendants.


JAN M. ADLER, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Ramon Ladale Sinegal, who is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis ("IFP") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), filed a motion to compel discovery on January 21, 2014. [Doc. No. 60]. Defendants Verduzco's and Ortega's Opposition to the motion was filed on February 7, 2014. [Doc. No. 68.] Pursuant to the Court's order, the documents that are the subject of Plaintiff's motion were produced for in camera review. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

Plaintiff seeks to compel the production of documents responsive to request numbers 1 and 4 of his Request for Production of Documents, Set One. [Doc. No. 60, pp. 1-3 of 17.] Request No. 1 calls for "[a]ny and all grievances, complaints, or other documents received by prison staff at Calipatria concerning the mistreatment of inmates by Defendants Verduzco and Ortega, and any memoranda, investigative files, or other documents created in response to such complaints." [Doc. No. 68-1, Ex. A, p. 4 of 38.] Request No. 4 calls for "[a]ny logs, lists, or other documentation reflecting grievances filed by Calipatria inmates against Verduzco and Ortega." Id.

In response to Request No. 1, Defendants produced records of Plaintiff's two administrative grievances against Verduzco and Ortega and one administrative grievance against Verduzco, including the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's ("CDCR") responses thereto, but have withheld from production the following three categories of documents that are responsive to both document requests:

1. Confidential Supplements to the Appeal Inquiries arising from Plaintiff's appeals against Verduzco and Ortega;
2. Appeals submitted by third-party inmates as to Verduzco and Ortega and the Confidential Supplements thereto;
3. A summary list in chart form of inmate appeals against Correctional Officers bearing the last names Verduzco and Ortega.

Defendants have asserted the official information privilege applies with respect to all three categories of documents and also that third party privacy interests necessitate withholding the records of third party administrative grievances, as well as the summary chart. [ Id., Ex. C, p. 19 of 38.]

A. Relevance

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26,

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense-including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. 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). The scope of discovery under the Federal Rules is extremely broad. See, e.g., Kelly v. City of San Jose , 114 F.R.D. 653, 668 (N.D. Cal. 1987). The party opposing discovery bears the burden of resisting disclosure. Miller v. Pancucci , 141 F.R.D. 292, 299 (C.D. Cal. 1992).

B. Official Information Privilege - Log Numbers 1-3

Federal common law recognizes a qualified privilege for official information. Kerr v. United States Dist. Ct. for the Northern Dist. of Cal. , 511 F.2d 192, 198 (9th Cir. 1975). The discoverability of official documents is determined under the "balancing approach that is moderately pre-weighted in favor of disclosure." Kelly , 114 F.R.D. at 661. The party asserting the privilege must properly invoke the privilege by making a "substantial threshold showing." Id . at 669. The party must file an objection and submit a declaration or affidavit from a responsible official with personal knowledge of the matters attested to in the affidavit. Id . The affidavit must include: (1) an affirmation that the agency has generated or collected all of the subject material and that it has maintained its confidentiality; (2) a statement that the official has personally reviewed the material in question; (3) a specific identification of the governmental or privacy interests that would be threatened by disclosure of the material to the plaintiff and/or his or her attorney; (4) a description of how ...

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