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Moak v. Sacramento County

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 8, 2016

ANDREW MOAK, Plaintiff,



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel. On June 13, 2016, plaintiff filed motions to quash subpoenas issued to the Valley State Prison Litigation Coordinator for plaintiff's non-confidential prison central file, and to "Correctional Health Services, " for all of plaintiff's medical records. (ECF Nos. 27, 28.) Defendant filed an opposition. As discussed more fully below, the court grants plaintiff's motions.

         II. Plaintiff's Claims

         In his pleading, plaintiff alleges that from April 2012 to September 2013, while he was a pretrial detainee housed in the Sacramento County Jail, defendant maintained a policy or custom of allowing a backflushing problem to exist within the plumbing system at the jail, and refused to provide cleaning supplies to sanitize the cell after waste water splashed out of the toilets.

         III. Legal Standard

         "Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . . Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a court, on timely motion, to "quash or modify a subpoena that . . . requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or waiver applies; or subjects a person to undue burden." Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(A)(iii), (iv). "The party who resists discovery has the burden to show that discovery should not be allowed, and has the burden of clarifying, explaining, and supporting its objections." Oakes v. Halvorsen Marine Ltd., 179 F.R.D. 281, 283 (C.D. Cal. 1998).

         "Quashing subpoenas goes against courts general preference for a broad scope of discovery, [but] limiting discovery is appropriate when the burden of providing the documents outweighs the need for it." Call of the Wild Movie, LLC v. Does 1-1, 062, 770 F.Supp.2d 332, 354-355 (D. D.C. 2011) (internal quotations and citation omitted). "When evaluating whether the burden of subpoena compliance is undue, the court balances the burden imposed on the party subject to the subpoena by the discovery request, the relevance of the information sought to the claims or defenses at issue, the breadth of the discovery request, and the litigant's need for the information." Id. (internal quotations omitted); see also Moon v. SCP Pool Corp., 232 F.R.D. 633, 637 (C.D. Cal. 2005) ("Although irrelevance is not among the litany of enumerated reasons for quashing a subpoena found in Rule 45, courts have incorporated relevance as a factor when determining motions to quash."); Fed.R.Evid. 401 (Evidence is relevant if "it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence."). "Whether a burdensome subpoena is reasonable must be determined according to the facts of the case, such as the party's need for the documents and the nature and importance of the litigation." Linder v. Dep't of Def., 133 F.3d 17, 24 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (internal citations and quotations omitted). The court must limit discovery when the "the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1)." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C)(i-iii).

         IV. Two Pending Subpoenas

         A. Correctional Health Services

         In the subpoena directed to "Correctional Health Services, " defendant seeks "any and all medical records of Andrew Moak." (ECF No. 27 at 6.) Plaintiff objects that his medical file at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") is privileged and not relevant to plaintiff's claims brought as a pretrial detainee housed in the Sacramento County Jail. In response, defendant contends that at plaintiff's deposition, defense counsel clarified that this subpoena was directed to the Sacramento County Correctional Health Services, not the CDCR. Defense counsel avers that plaintiff has no objection to the disclosure of his health records from the Sacramento County Correctional Health Services records. (ECF No. 29 at 5.) Plaintiff did not file a reply to defendant's response; however, in his motion to quash, plaintiff notes that defendant sent the subpoena to Valley State Prison Correctional Health Services. (ECF No. 28 at 2.)

         The subpoena does not identify "Correctional Health Services" as the "Sacramento County Correctional Health Services, " or "for the Sacramento County Jail;" the subpoena does not state that the request is for Mr. Moak's medical records from the Sacramento County Jail; and no address for the nonparty subpoenaed is provided on the first page of the subpoena form. (ECF Nos. 28 at 6; 29-1 at 2.) However, defendant provided a copy of the subpoena which bears a proof of service on the second page reflecting that the subpoena was served on Bret Butler, Medical Records Tech, California Health Services, P.O. Box 588500, Elk Grove, CA 95758. (ECF No. 29-1 at 3.) A google search for Correctional Health Services, Elk Grove, brought up a website that appears to be a California state website set up under the receivership established as a result of the Plata v. Schwarzenegger class action against the State of California over the quality of medical care in the state's 33 prisons.[1] The California Correctional Health Care Services, known as "CCHCS, " appears to cover only state prisons, not county jails. Id. The general contact information for this state government website is "California Correctional Health Care Services, P.O. Box 588500, Elk Grove, CA 95658, " the same address as that listed on the proof of service for the instant subpoena. Id.

         Thus, despite defendant's effort to assuage plaintiff's concern that the subpoena was directed to the Sacramento County Correctional Health Services, and not the state prison, the subpoena itself offers no such assurance. Rather, it appears that although the name was correct: "Correctional Health Services, " the subpoena was not served on the proper address.[2] Because the subpoena was directed to an address for the receivership over state prisons, and not to the Sacramento County Jail or the "Correctional Health Services" for Sacramento County, plaintiff's motion to quash the subpoena directed to the Correctional Health Services and mailed to the California Health Services is granted. ...

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