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Neal v. California City

United States District Court, E.D. California

January 20, 2015

JAMES WILLIAM NEAL, III, et al., Plaintiffs,
CALIFORNIA CITY, et. al, Defendants.


JENNIFER L. THURSTON, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiffs seek modification of the Scheduling Order to permit them to take a deposition after the non-expert discovery deadline. (Doc. 30.) They argue that they need to take a deposition related to a document produced by Defendants after they said initially that they did not have any documents.

Defendants oppose the motion and argued that Plaintiffs should have known of the need to take the deposition weeks before the document was produced and they failed to act diligently to complete the needed discovery. Because the Court finds that Plaintiffs acted with reasonable diligence to obtain the discovery they claim they need, the Court GRANTS the motion to the limited extent of allowing the deposition of Michelle Jones only.

I. Relevant Procedural History

Plaintiffs initiated this action by filing a complaint on February 27, 2014, alleging that Defendants violated their constitutional rights arising under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and for false arrest, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiffs alleged that Mr. Neal was arrested on August 9, 2013, at which time the defendants searched their home unlawfully "as there was neither any probable cause to conduct a search and [sic] nor was there any other legal basis to conduct a search as the Plaintiff was neither on probation or on parole on April 5, 2013 and nor did he consent." ( Id. at 3.) Defendants filed their answers on March 26, 2014 and April 28, 2014. (Docs. 13, 15.)

On May 28, 2014, the parties filed a Joint Scheduling Report, setting forth the requested deadlines for the action. (Doc. 16.) On June 12, 2014, the Court held a conference with the parties and issued its Scheduling Order, adopting the requested non-expert discovery deadline of December 29, 2014. ( Compare Doc. 16 at 7 with Doc. 18 at 1.) In addition, the Court informed the parties that no written discovery motions were to be filed without prior approval from the Court. (Doc. 18 at 4.) To obtain approval, the parties were required to meet and confer regarding the issues in dispute, and seek a telephonic hearing with the Court. ( Id. )

On July 17, 2014, Plaintiffs served a request for production of documents seeking "all documents indicating at the time of [the] search, Plaintiff was on PRCS Supervision." (Doc. 31 at 4.) On August 19, 2014, California City responded by attesting it "had no documents in [its] possession, custody or control." ( Id. ) However, on October 29, 2014, Defendants served a supplemental response, including a document which was, apparently, a CJIS or CLETS printout related to Mr. Neal's supervisory status ("Exhibit C"). The document, printed on April 5, 2013, indicated that he was on PRCS Community Supervision which, according to California Penal Code ยง 3453(f), meant he and his residence was subject to search with or without a warrant.

The parties notified the Court of a discovery dispute related to the taking of a PMK deposition which, in large part, sought information about the document produced in Defendants' supplemental production. Counsel participated in telephonic conferences on December 11 and December 23, 2014. (Docs. 28, 29.) The essential purpose of the deposition was to determine how the document was created and what action, if any, the person took who created/printed the document once it was obtained.

At the initial telephone conference, Plaintiff's counsel agreed to reformulate the deposition notice and Defendants' counsel agreed to review it and respond. (Doc. 28) By the second telephone conference with the Court, much of the previous dispute had been. (Doc. 29) However, though the conference resolved the issues related to the PMK deposition, it did not resolve Plaintiffs' counsel again stated belief of unfairness based upon Defendants' failure to produce the computer print-out timely. Plaintiffs' counsel felt it was imperative for Plaintiffs to be permitted to take the deposition of the dispatcher who reviewed the document described above and reported to Hayes that Mr. Neal was on probation. Because taking the deposition would need to be taken after the discovery deadline and counsel needed to meet and confer on the topic, the Court authorized filing the current motion in the event counsel could not come to an agreement. Id.

On December 28, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their motion, requesting that the Court's scheduling order be amended to allow Plaintiffs to take the deposition of Michelle Jones, the police dispatcher with whom defendant Shannon Hayes spoke to confirm whether Mr. Neal was on PRCS Supervision. (Doc. 31.) Defendants oppose modification of the scheduling order and argue Plaintiffs fail to establish good cause for it. (Doc. 56.)

II. Scheduling Orders

Districts courts must enter scheduling orders in actions to "limit the time to join other parties, amend the pleadings, complete discovery, and file motions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(3). In addition, scheduling orders may "modify the timing of disclosures" and "modify the extent of discovery." Id. Once entered by a court, a scheduling order "controls the course of the action unless the court modifies it." Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(d). Scheduling orders are intended to alleviate case management problems. Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 610 (9th Cir. 1992). As such, a scheduling order is "the heart of case management." Koplove v. Ford Motor Co., 795 F.2d 15, 18 (3rd Cir. 1986).

Scheduling orders are "not a frivolous piece of paper, idly entered, which can be cavalierly disregarded by counsel without peril." Johnson, 975 F.2d at 610 ( quoting Gestetner Corp. v. Case Equip. Co., 108 F.R.D. 138, 141 (D. Maine 1985)). Good cause must be shown for modification of the scheduling order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). The Ninth Circuit explained:

Rule 16(b)'s "good cause" standard primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment. The district court may modify the pretrial schedule if it cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party seeking the extension. Moreover, carelessness is not compatible with a finding of diligence and offers no reason for a grant of relief. Although the existence of a degree of prejudice to the party opposing the modification might supply additional reasons to deny a motion, the ...

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