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Yates v. West Contra Costa Unified School District

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 15, 2017



          MARIA-ELENA JAMES, United States Magistrate Judge


         Pending before the Court is the parties' long-standing dispute regarding different discovery requests. The Court previously denied Plaintiff's motion for permission to file a motion to compel and ordered him to meet and confer with Defendant in person to discuss his contentions. See April 20, 2017 Order, Dkt. No. 105. After the parties indicated they had been unable to resolve their disputes, the Court held a telephonic hearing and ordered them to attend a meet and confer conference in the Courtroom. See May 3, 2017 Order, Dkt. No. 108; Minute Entry, Dkt. No. 109. When the parties appeared for the conference, the Court explained that it would not supervise the conference, but expected the parties to discuss their open issues and reduce any remaining disputes in writing. The parties did so, and the Court appends their Joint Letter to this Order.

         Having considered the parties' positions, the relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, the Court issues the following order.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 provides that a party may obtain discovery “regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Factors to consider include “the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Id. Discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable. Id. However, “[t]he parties and the court have a collective responsibility to consider the proportionality of all discovery and consider it in resolving discovery disputes.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 advisory committee notes (2015 amendments). Thus, there is “a shared responsibility on all the parties to consider the factors bearing on proportionality before propounding discovery requests, issuing responses and objections, or raising discovery disputes before the courts.” Salazar v. McDonald's Corp., 2016 WL 736213, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 25, 2016); Goes Int'l, AB v. Dodur Ltd., 2016 WL 427369, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 4, 2016) (citing advisory committee notes for proposition that parties share a “collective responsibility” to consider proportionality and requiring that “[b]oth parties . . . tailor their efforts to the needs of th[e] case”).


         A. Plaintiff's Responses to Defendant's Discovery

         Defendant propounded Special Interrogatories and Inspection Demands on Plaintiff. Plaintiff's responses to the Defendant's Discovery are attached as Exhibit 1 to the Joint Letter. Two of the documents the parties discuss in the Joint Letter are attached as exhibits thereto: Plaintiff's email of March 22, 2017 is attached as Exhibit 2; WCCUSD00131 is attached as Exhibit 3.

         1. Special Interrogatories 1 and 2

         Plaintiff responded to Defendant's special interrogatories by handwriting one or two word responses on the interrogatories themselves. In response to Special Interrogatory 1, which asks Plaintiff to itemize his economic damages, Plaintiff answered “Benefits.” Joint Letter, Ex. 1. He provided further detail in his email of March 22, 2017. See id., Ex. 2. In response to Special Interrogatory 2, which asks Plaintiff to identify witnesses to can corroborate each element of economic damages,, he answered “Benefits Documents.” Id., Ex. 1. Based on the March 22, 2017 email clarifying his responses, the notations “Rosa Loza” and “Alissa Wilkinson” also respond to this interrogatory, although that is unclear from the face of the response.

         At the beginning of the May 12, 2017 meet and confer conference, the Court explained to Plaintiff that he needed to provide formal, typewritten responses to Defendant's discovery requests and that he could not simply hand write or email responses to defense counsel. Plaintiff indicated he understood. In the Joint Letter, Plaintiff explains the March 22, 2017 email provides additional itemization of his damages, and that he also provided additional information during his deposition. The fact Plaintiff offered additional information to defense counsel does not relieve him of his obligation under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to respond to these special interrogatories “fully in writing under oath.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3).

         Plaintiff shall “fully” respond to these two special interrogatories no later than May 22, 2017. In a formal pleading captioned with this case name and number and titled “Amended Responses to Special Interrogatories 1 and 2, ” Plaintiff shall type the text of Special Interrogatories 1 and 2; he shall write out his full responses immediately below each interrogatory; and he shall sign his amended responses under penalty of perjury. Plaintiff's pro se status does not excuse him from complying with the rules of discovery. See McNeil v. Hayes, 2014 WL 1125014, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 20, 2014) (“Pro se litigants are not relieved of their obligation to follow the rules governing discovery[.]”). Plaintiff's refusal to provide formal amended responses after indicating he understood the Court's explicit instruction to do so suggests he is abusing the discovery process.

         2. Inspection ...

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