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Ford v. Wildey

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 2, 2014

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

ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY [ECF NO. 52]

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. § 1983.

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

On May 29, 2014, Plaintiff filed a second motion to compel responses to his requests for admissions. Defendants filed an opposition on June 17, 2014, and Plaintiff filed a reply on June 27, 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. Request for Production of Documents

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 the following items in the responding party's possession, custody or control: any designated documents or tangible things. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1) (quotation marks omitted). "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, No. CV-F-05-1104 OWW LJO , 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 Bovarie v. Schwarzenegger, No. 08cv1661 LAB (NLS) , 2011 WL 719206, at *4 (S.D. Cal. Feb. 22, 2011); Evans v. Tilton, No. 1:07CV01814 DLB PC , 2010 WL 1136216, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 19, 2010).

In responding to discovery requests, a reasonable inquiry must be made, and if no responsive documents or tangible things exist, Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(g)(1), the responding party should so state with sufficient specificity to allow the Court to determine whether the party made a reasonable inquiry and exercised due diligence, Uribe v. McKesson, No. 08cv1285 DMS (NLS) , 2010 WL 892093, at *2-3 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 9, 2010). If responsive documents do exist but the responsive party claims lack of possession, control, or custody, the party must so state with sufficient specificity to allow the Court (1) to conclude that the responses were made after a case-specific evaluation and (2) to evaluate the merit of that response. Ochotorena v. Adams, No. 1:05-cv-01525-LJO-DLB (PC) , 2010 WL 1035774, at *3-4 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 19, 2010). As with previously discussed forms of discovery, boilerplate objections do not suffice. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(B), (C); Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. , 408 F.3d at 1149.

2. Defendant Wildey's Responses to Plaintiff' Request for Document Production One Through Seven

In request for production number one through seven, Plaintiff requested documents from his central, medical and mental health files. (See Pl's Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 52 at 19-21.) Plaintiff argues these documents are relevant.

Requested Document Number 1:

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) 602 Appeal, Log No. CCI-0-09-01247, filed 7-17-2009, including but not limited to all statements made by Plaintiff, staff and inmates who were interviewed during fact finding inquiry, at all three levels of appeal.

Initial Response:

Defendant object to this request on the grounds that it is vague and ambiguous, overbroad, and it... assumes facts not in evidence, specifically that statements were made by Plaintiff, staff and inmates "interviewed during the fact finding inquiry, at all three levels of appeal." Due to the request being vague, ambiguous and overbroad, documents deemed confidential may be responsive, the disclosure of which would create a hazard to the safety and security of the institution and prison officials. Without waiving objections, after a diligent search, all documents responsive to the request are contained in plaintiff's central file which is available for inspection and copying pursuant to institutional policies and procedures.

Defendant's Reply to Motion to Compel:

Defendant argues that Plaintiff contends these documents are relevant, without providing any explanation as to how or why the records are relevant, and he argues that Defendant Wildey's responses are "incomplete and evasive, " against without providing any authority justifying his argument.

Defendant Wildey's responses are complete because Plaintiff has equal access to documents contained within his central, medical and mental files.

Requests numbers 1-7 all refer to documents that are available in Plaintiff's central file. In fact, in request no. 1, Plaintiff demands a copy of "602 Appeal, Log No. CCI-0-09-01247, " but Plaintiff already has a copy of this grievance because he filed a copy of his grievance and responses in his complaint in this case.

Plaintiff's Response:

Plaintiff claims that he will not be issued the statements of all individuals interviewed without a full disclosure from the defendants or intervention by the courts.

Ruling:

Plaintiff's motion to compel is GRANTED.

Defendant's response to the request does not completely address Plaintiff's full request because there is no indication whether interviews of Plaintiff, staff, and/or inmates exist and/or whether such documentation is within Plaintiff's central file for which he may have access. Thus, based on Defendant's response the Court cannot determine whether Defendant made a reasonable effort to respond. Defendant is correct that Plaintiff did attach a copy of the applicable inmate grievance, and the director's level review indicates that various individuals provided information relating to the incident. Defendant is advised that if confidential issues are involved, Defendant may raise appropriate objection(s) and request in camera review, if necessary. Accordingly, Defendant Wildey will be directed to file a supplemental response to this request.

Requested Document Number 2:

The complete (CDCR 114-A, file and inmate segregation records) limited to Plaintiff, which is located on the facility 4-A, in Unit 2 left officers station.

Initial Response:

Defendant objects to this request on the grounds it is compound, vague, overly broad and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Without waiving objections, documents responsive to this request are contained in Plaintiff's central file which is equally available to plaintiff for inspection and copying pursuant to institutional policies and procedures.

Defendant's Reply to Motion to Compel:

Defendant argues that Plaintiff contends these documents are relevant, without providing any explanation as to how or why the records are relevant, and he argues that Defendant Wildey's responses are "incomplete and evasive, " without providing any authority justifying his argument.

Defendant Wildey's responses are complete because Plaintiff has equal access to documents contained within his central, medical and mental files.

Requests numbers 1-7 all refer to documents that are available in Plaintiff's central file.

Plaintiff's Response:

Plaintiff contends in conclusory terms that he needs this information to provide the court and jury the motive and culpable state of mind involving the defendant's despicable behavior.

Ruling:

Plaintiff's motion to compel is DENIED. As an initial matter, Plaintiff's request is overbroad. It is not limited in time or scope to the events at issue in this action, nor is it limited to the incident involving Defendants Wildey and Marshall on July 16, 2009. Further, Defendant indicates that any such documents are located in his central file for which Plaintiff has equal access. This response complies with Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires that a responding party either state that inspection and related activities will be permitted to state an objection to the request.

Requested Document Number 3:

All CDCR official and unofficial documents created by CDCR employees and CDCR prisoners that contain, mention, construe, or refer to any subject matter of the Plaintiff's allegations against the Defendants G. Wildey and R. Marshall.

Initial Response:

Defendant objects to this request on the grounds it is compound, vague, overly broad and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Due to the overbreadth, documents deemed confidential may be responsive, the disclosure of which would create a hazard to the safety and security of the institution and prison officials. Without waiving objections, after a diligent search, all documents responsive to the request are contained in plaintiff's central file which is available for inspection and copying pursuant to institutional policies and procedures.

Defendant's Reply to Motion to Compel:

Defendant argues that Plaintiff contends these documents are relevant, without providing any explanation as to how or why the records are relevant, and he argues that Defendant Wildey's responses are "incomplete and evasive, " without providing any authority justifying his argument.

Defendant Wildey's responses are complete because Plaintiff has equal access to documents contained within his central, medical and mental files.

Requests numbers 1-7 all refer to documents that are available in Plaintiff's central file.

Plaintiff's Response:

Plaintiff contends he needs to have the full transparency of what CDCR employees knew, prisoners knew, and when it was known involving his injuries as to the assault by Defendants.

Ruling:

Plaintiff's motion to compel is DENIED. Plaintiff request is vague and overbroad. In addition, Defendants submit and Plaintiff does not refute that he has equal access to the documents within his central file and there is no allegations such documentation is outside of such file.

Requested Document Number 4:

Plaintiff's CDCR central files in their entirety, which is located in the case records office at CSP-Corcoran Prison. Also note, Plaintiff has two central files under the same CDCR prison number. I am requesting copies of both central files.

Initial Response:

Defendant objects to this request on the grounds it is burdensome, overly broad and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Due to the overbreadth, documents deemed confidential may be responsive, the disclosure of which would create a hazard to the safety and security of the institution and prison officials. Without waiving objections, non-confidential portions of Plaintiff's central file are equally available to plaintiff for inspection and copying pursuant to institutional policies and procedures.

Defendant's Reply to Motion to Compel:

Defendant argues that Plaintiff contends these documents are relevant, without providing any explanation as to how or why the records are relevant, and he argues that Defendant Wildey's responses are "incomplete and evasive, " without providing any authority justifying his argument.

Defendant Wildey's responses are complete because Plaintiff has equal access to documents contained within his central, medical and mental files.

Requests numbers 1-7 all refer to documents that are available in Plaintiff's central file. In request nos. 4-6, Plaintiff demands his "CDCR central files in their entirety..., "medical files in their entirety..., " and "mental health files in their entirety..." (Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 52 at 19-20.) But Plaintiff has equal access to his central, medical and mental health files, simply by making a request to view the file.

Plaintiff's Response:

Plaintiff contends he is in need of such information to provide the court and jury with the motive and culpable state of mind and the defendant's persistent willingness to attack and injure Plaintiff.

Ruling:

Plaintiff's motion to compel is DENIED. Plaintiff's request is overbroad and unduly burdensome on Defendants. Further, Plaintiff has equal access to his central, medical and mental health files, simply making a request to view the file. (ECF No. 57, Declaration of Kimbrell at ¶¶ 12-14.)

Requested Document Number 5:

Plaintiff's medical files in its entirety. Also note, Plaintiff has at least two medical files. I am requesting them both.

Initial Response:

Defendant objects to this request on the ground it is burdensome, overly broad and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Without waiving objections, plaintiff's medical file is equally available to Plaintiff for inspection and copying pursuant to institutional policies and procedures.

Defendant's Reply to Motion to Compel:

Defendant argues that Plaintiff contends these documents are relevant, without providing any explanation as to how or why the records are relevant, and he argues that Defendant Wildey's responses are "incomplete and evasive, " without providing any authority justifying his argument.

Defendant Wildey's responses are complete because Plaintiff has equal access to documents contained within his central, medical and mental files....

Requests numbers 1-7 all refer to documents that are available in Plaintiff's central file. In request nos. 4-6, Plaintiff demands his "CDCR central files in their entirety..., "medical files in their entirety..., " and "mental health files in their entirety..." (Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 52 at 19-20.) But Plaintiff has equal access to his central, medical and mental health files, simply by making a request to view the file.

Plaintiff's Response:

Plaintiff contends he needs his medical file to demonstrate to the court and jury that Plaintiff did not have any hand or wrist injuries until he was physically assaulted by Defendants.

Ruling:

Plaintiff's motion to compel is DENIED. Plaintiff's request is overbroad and unduly burdensome on Defendant. Further, Plaintiff has equal access to his medical file and he presents no evidence to the contrary.[1]

Requested Document Number 6:

Plaintiff's mental health files in their entirety.

Initial Response:

Defendant objects to this request on the grounds it is burdensome, overly broad and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Without waiving objections, plaintiff's mental health records are equally available to Plaintiff for inspection and copying pursuant to institutional policies and procedures.

Defendant's Reply to Motion to Compel:

Defendant argues that Plaintiff contends these documents are relevant, without providing any explanation as to how or why the records are relevant, and he argues that Defendant Wildey's responses are "incomplete and evasive, " without providing any authority justifying his argument.

Defendant Wildey's responses are complete because Plaintiff has equal access to documents contained within his central, medical and mental files....

Requests numbers 1-7 all refer to documents that are available in Plaintiff's central file. In request nos. 4-6, Plaintiff demands his "CDCR central files in their entirety..., "medical files in their entirety..., " and "mental health files in their entirety..." (Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 52 at 19-20.) But Plaintiff has equal access to ...


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