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Washington v. Essex

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 25, 2015

TRACYE WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
C. ESSEX et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DALE A. DROZD, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Pending before the court are plaintiff's motions to compel. Defendants have filed an opposition to the motions.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is proceeding on an original complaint against defendants Dr. Essex and Dr. Banyas.[1] In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that he was transferred to California Medical Facility ("CMF"), and that during his month-long stay there, defendants Dr. Essex and Dr. Banyas involuntarily medicated him on separate occasions with antipsychotic drugs. At screening, the court found that plaintiff's complaint appeared to state a cognizable claim for relief under the Fourteenth Amendment and ordered service of the complaint on the defendant doctors.[2] (Doc. No. 9) Defendant Dr. Essex has since filed an amended answer to the complaint. (Doc. No. 24)

PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS TO COMPEL

Plaintiff has filed two motions to compel in which he argues that defendant Dr. Essex has not adequately responded to his first and second sets of requests for production of documents. (Pl.'s Mots. to Compel (Doc. Nos. 27 & 31)) In opposition to the motions, defense counsel argues that plaintiff is seeking documents that are not relevant to his claim against defendant Dr. Essex, or he is requesting documents that are equally accessible to him or protected by the official information privilege. (Defs.' Opp'n to Pl.'s Mots. to Compel (Doc. No. 34) at 1-9.)

ANALYSIS

I. Applicable Legal Standards

Under Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b). "Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id.

With respect to requests for production, a party may propound requests for production of documents that are within the scope of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b). Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). A party objecting to a request for production must state the reasons for the objection. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(B).

Under Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "a party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B). The court may order a party to provide further responses to an "evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer, or response." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4).

II. Discussion

The court will deny plaintiff's motions to compel, except to the extent that the court orders defendant Dr. Essex to submit to the court copies of certain documents for in camera review. First, based on the court's review of plaintiff's requests for production of documents and defendants' responses thereto, the court agrees with defense counsel that many of plaintiff's discovery requests seek documents that are irrelevant to plaintiff's due process claim against defendant Dr. Essex. (Defs.' Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, Exs. A & B.) Specifically, in plaintiff's Requests for Documents (Set One) Nos. 1-8, 11-12, and 14 and plaintiff's Request for Documents (Set Two) Nos. 1-2, 4, 6, 11-12, and 14, plaintiff primarily seeks documents from defendant Dr. Essex about defendants John/Jane Does' alleged use of excessive force against him during his cell extraction. However, plaintiff's sole claim against defendant Dr. Essex is based on Dr. Essex's alleged medicating of plaintiff over his objection. Plaintiff has not made any showing as to how documents concerning his cell extraction are relevant to his Fourteenth Amendment claim against Dr. Essex. In fact, plaintiff's cell extraction took place well after defendant Dr. Essex met with plaintiff, and therefore documents concerning his cell extraction would appear to have little or no bearing on plaintiff's claim against defendant Dr. Essex. Under these circumstances, the court will not compel defendant Dr. Essex to produce further documents about defendants John/Jane Does' alleged use of excessive force against him during his cell extraction.[3]

In addition, with respect to plaintiff's Requests for Documents (Set One) Nos. 9-14 and 16-17 and plaintiff's Request for Documents (Set Two) Nos. 3, 7-9, and 11-12, defense counsel argues in opposition to plaintiff's motions to compel that defendant Dr. Essex's responses are complete because the documents plaintiff seeks are not in the defendant's possession, custody, or control, or they are equally available to plaintiff in his medical or central file. Plaintiff is advised that this court cannot order a defendant to produce documents that do not exist or are not in the defendant's possession or control. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1); see also United States v. Int'l Union of Petroleum & Indus. Workers, 870 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir.1989) (a party seeking production of documents bears the burden of showing the opposing party has control over them). Nor will the court order the defendant to produce documents that are equally accessible to plaintiff in his medical or central file. See, e.g., Quezada v. Lindsey, No. 1:10-cv-01402 AWI SAB (PC), 2014 WL 5500800 at *3 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 30, 2014) ("Since any ordinances and laws governing health and safety are public documents, which are equally available to Plaintiff, Defendants cannot be compelled to produce them."); Ford v. Wildey, No. 1:10-cv-01024 LJO SAB (PC), 2014 WL 4354600 at *4 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 2, 2014) ("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...."); Valenzuela v. Smith, No. S 04-cv-0900 FCD DAD P, 2006 WL 403842 at *2 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 16, 2006) (defendants will not be compelled to produce documents that are ...


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