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Rodgers v. Martin

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 29, 2014

SYNRICO RODGERS, Plaintiff,
v.
C.C. MARTIN, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY (ECF No. 40)

MICHAEL J. SENG, District Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. This matter proceeds against Defendants Martin and Blattel on claims of retaliation and deliberate indifference relating to a November 29, 2010 incident. The deadline for completing discovery expired May 30, 2014.

Before the Court is Plaintiff's June 2, 2014 motion to compel responses to his requests for production, set two, items number 1-4 and to his unenumerated request for a copy of a November 22, 2013 deposition transcript. Plaintiff also seeks his motion costs.

Defendants filed opposition. Plaintiff has not replied to the opposition, and the time for doing so has expired. Local Rule 230( l ).

I. LEGAL STANDARDS - DISCOVERY MOTIONS

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). 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. Id.

However, the Court is vested with broad discretion to manage discovery and notwithstanding these procedures, Plaintiff is entitled to leniency as a pro se litigant; 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).

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 (E.D. Cal. Sep. 21, 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).

All grounds for objection must be stated "with specificity." See Mancia v. Mayflower Textile Services Co., 253 F.R.D. 354, 356 (D.Md. 2008) (boiler-plate objections waived any legitimate objections responding party may have had); Chubb Integrated Sys., Ltd. v. National Bank of Wash., 103 F.R.D. 52, 58 (D.D.C. 1984) (the objecting party must state reasons for any objection, "irrelevant" did not fulfill party's burden to explain its objections); Pulsecard, Inc. v. Discovery Card Services, Inc., 168 F.R.D. 295, 310 (D. Kan. 1996) (objection on grounds of vagueness and ambiguity overruled if reason and common sense to attribute ordinary definitions to terms and phrases provided needed clarity).

II. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL

A. Legal Requirements - Request 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). "Property is deemed within a party's possession, custody, or control' if the party has actual possession, custody, or control thereof or the legal right to obtain the property on demand." Allen v. Woodford, 2007 WL 309945, *2 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 30, 2007), citing In re Bankers Trust Co., 61 F.3d 465, 469 (6th Cir. 1995); accord Evans v. Tilton, 2010 WL 1136216, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 19, 2010).

B. Arguments

Plaintiff argues that he has not yet received documents relating to use of force or a copy of a November 22, 2013 deposition transcript requested in his January 2014 request for production, set two. He claims Defendants' "refusal to answer/produce the documents had no substantial justification." (See ECF No. 40, at 2:2-4.) He seeks an order compelling discovery and costs of this motion.

Defendants assert they responded to the production request in February 2014, objecting to each request and that Plaintiff has not addressed or responded to their objections. They also claim that documents relating to use of force are not relevant to the retaliation and medical indifference claims in issue, are confidential security documents and constitute improper character evidence. They further argue that Plaintiff has equal access to any non-confidential documents within the scope of his request and that Plaintiff is not entitled to use discovery to obtain a free copy of a deposition transcript.

C. Analysis

Defendants do not object to, or claim prejudice from, Plaintiff having filed the instant motion three days after the discovery deadline.[1] Accordingly, and considering Plaintiff's pro se prisoner status, the Court will overlook the untimeliness of the motion and address its merits. See e.g., Williams v. Adams, 2009 WL 1220311, at *1 (E.D. Cal. May 4, 2009) (the court may elect to exercise its discretion to reach the merits of discovery dispute, the moving party's initial burden notwithstanding, where the response is deficient).

Having considered the motion and Defendants' opposition and the relevant discovery requests and responses, the Court rules as follows:

Production Request No. 1:
Any and all incident packages, (as Defined by Corcoran State Prison use of force Policy signed by Defendants and Provided to Plaintiff.) This document includes but is not limited to, crime/incident report, Review Notices, Incident Commander Reviews, Management Reports of use of force, captain's Review of use of force crime/Incident Report Critiques, use of ...

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