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Ford v. Wildey

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 6, 2014

BENNY FORD, Plaintiff,
v.
G. WILDEY, et al., Defendants.

ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL [ECF No. 45]

STANLEY A. BOONE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Benny Ford is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983.

I.

RELEVANT HISTORY

This action is proceeding against Defendant Wildey for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment and against Defendant Marshall for failure to protect in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

On April 24, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel responses to his requests for interrogatories and admissions. Defendants filed an opposition on May 15, 2014.

II.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and he is a state prisoner challenging his conditions of confinement. 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 Rules 240, 251; ECF No. 37, Discovery and Scheduling Order, &5. Further, where otherwise discoverable information would pose a threat to the safety and security of the prison or infringe upon a protected privacy interest, a need may arise for the Court to balance interests in determining whether disclosure should occur. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c); Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart , 467 U.S. 20, 35 n.21, 104 S.Ct. 2199 (1984) (privacy rights or interests implicit in broad purpose and language of Rule 26(c)); Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. United States Dist. Court for the Dist. of Montana , 408 F.3d 1142, 1149 (9th Cir. 2005) (discussing assertion of privilege); Soto v. City of Concord , 162 F.R.D. 603, 616 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (recognizing a constitutionally-based right of privacy that can be raised in discovery); see also Garcia v. Clark, No. 1:10-CV-00447-LJO-DLB PC , 2012 WL 1232315, at *6 n.5 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 12, 2012) (noting inmate's entitlement to inspect discoverable information may be accommodated in ways which mitigate institutional safety concerns); Robinson v. Adams, No. 1:08-cv-01380-AWI-BAM PC, 2012 WL 912746, at *2-3 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 16, 2012) (issuing protective order regarding documents containing information which implicated the safety and security of the prison); Orr v. Hernandez, No. CV-08-0472-JLQ , 2012 WL 761355, at *1-2 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 7, 2012) (addressing requests for protective order and for redaction of information asserted to risk jeopardizing safety and security of inmates or the institution if released); Womack v. Virga, No. CIV S-11-1030 MCE EFB P , 2011 WL 6703958, at *5-6 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 21, 2011) (requiring defendants to submit withheld documents for in camera review or move for a protective order).

However, this is a civil action to which the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply. The discovery process is subject to the overriding limitation of good faith, and callous disregard of discovery responsibilities cannot be condoned. Asea, Inc. v. Southern Pac. Transp. Co. , 669 F.2d 1242, 1246 (9th Cir. 1981) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged 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) (quotation marks omitted). Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Id. (quotation marks omitted).

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. Grabek v. Dickinson, No. CIV S-10-2892 GGH P , 2012 WL 113799, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2012); Womack , 2011 WL 6703958, at *3; 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-AWI-SMS 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. However, the Court is vested with broad discretion to manage discovery and notwithstanding these procedures, Plaintiff is entitled to leniency as a pro se litigation; therefore, to the extent possible, the Court endeavors to resolve his motion to compel on its merits. 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).

B. Motion to Compel

1. Interrogatories

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33(a)(2) provides that an interrogatory may relate to any matter that may be inquired into under Rule 26(b). An interrogatory is not objectionable merely because it asks for an opinion or contention that relates to fact or the application of law to fact, but the court may order that the interrogatory need not be answered until designated discovery is complete, or until a pretrial conference or some other time. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a)(2).

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 33(b)(1)(A) provides the interrogatories must be answered by the party to whom they are directed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(1)(A). Further, each interrogatory must, to the extent it is not objected to, be answered separately and fully in writing under oath and the grounds for objecting to an interrogatory must be stated with specificity. Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3) & (4).

2. Defendant Wildey

a. Interrogatory Number 14 (Set One):

"On the date of 7-16-2009, were you aware that it was unconstitutional for correctional officers to intentionally squeeze a pair of handcuffs around a inmates wrists with all your strength?" (Pl.'s Mot. To Compel, ECF No. 45, Ex. B at 18.[1])

Response:

Defendant objects to this interrogatory as it assumes facts not in evidence specifically that Defendant "intentionally squeezed a pair of handcuffs around any inmate's wrist on July 16, 2009 with all Defendant's strength" or any other date. Without waiving this objection, Defendant responded: it is unconstitutional for a correctional officer to intentionally and maliciously use force on an inmate with the intent of causing serious bodily injury. (Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 45, at Ex. B. at 19.)

Plaintiff's Objection to Response:

Plaintiff argues Defendant Wildey's response to interrogatory number 14 is not a direct response and contains excessive verbiage.

Ruling:

Plaintiff's motion to compel is denied. Defendant Wildey provided a sufficient response to this request for admission by stating his awareness of the unconstitutionality if an officer intentionally and maliciously using force on an inmate with the intent to cause serious bodily injury. Such response is the proper legal definition of excessive force as it applies to Plaintiff's claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Hudson v. McMillian , 503 U.S. 1, 6 (1992) (for claims arising out of the use of excessive physical force, the issue is "whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Wilkins v. Gaddy , 559 U.S. 34, 37, 130 S.Ct. 1175, 1178 (2010) (per curiam) (citing Hudson , 503 U.S. at 7) (internal quotation marks omitted); Furnace v. Sullivan , 705 F.3d 1021, 1028 (9th Cir. 2013)).

b. Interrogatory Number 15 (Set One)

"On 7-16-2009, was it against rules, procedures, or policies of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for a correctional officer to intentionally squeeze a pair of handcuffs around a inmates wrists with all your strength?" (Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 45, Ex. B at 19.)

Response:

Defendant objects to this interrogatory as it assumes facts not in evidence specifically that Defendant "intentionally squeezed a pair of handcuffs around any inmate's wrist on July 16, 2009 with all Defendant's strength, " or any other date. Without waiving this objection, Defendant responded: it is against policy and procedure for a correctional officer to intentionally and maliciously use force on an inmate with the intent of causing serious bodily injury. (Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 45, Ex. B at 19.)

Plaintiff's Objection to Response:

Plaintiff argues Defendant Wildey's response to interrogatory number 15 is not a direct response and ...


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