United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS
(ECF NO. 107)
MICHAEL J. SENG, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis
in this civil rights action brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1983. The action proceeds on Plaintiff's Eighth
Amendment excessive force claim against Defendants Cope,
Gonzales, Lozano, Smith, and Stane, and on a Fourteenth
Amendment due process claim against Defendant Crounse.
the Court is Plaintiff's May 3, 2017 motion for
sanctions. (ECF No. 107.) Defendant filed an opposition. (ECF
No. 112, 114.) Plaintiff filed no reply. The matter is
submitted. Local Rule 230(l).
Procedural and Factual History
April 5, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in part
Plaintiff's motion to compel. (ECF No. 102.) Therein, the
Court ordered Defendants to provide a further, limited
response to Plaintiff's Request for Pr oduction of
Documents No. 19 by providing Plaintiff with Office of
Investigative Affairs (“OIA”) files pertaining to
the incident at issue in this case.
April 13, 2017, Defendants served their further response.
(ECF No. 105.) Their response indicated that no such records
exist. (See ECF No. 107.)
3, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for sanctions. He
claims that Defendants' supplemental response is
deficient. He points to a letter he received from an
Investigative Services Unit (“ISU”) and Internal
Affairs Lieutenant, discussing a letter sent by
Plaintiff's father to the Office of Internal Affairs.
That letter states, “The allegations were forwarded to
Investigative Services Unit (ISU) and Internal Affairs (IA)
Lieutenant P. Chanelo for an inquiry. The inquiry has been
completed and the outcome has been forwarded to Martin Biter,
Warden, for review and recommendation.” (ECF No. 107 at
4.) Plaintiff also points to a letter received by his father,
stating that the “Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) is
in receipt of your Citizens' Complaint, ” and that
the complaint was forwarded to the Warden.
their opposition, Defendants acknowledge that records
pertaining to the complaint made by Plaintiff's father
were not produced to Plaintiff. They state that additional
research was conducted in relation to the instant motion,
three responsive letters were identified, and they were
produced to Plaintiff as a supplemental response. Because
they documents were not part of an OIA investigation, and
instead were maintained by ISU, they were provided to
Plaintiff as a supplemental response to his Request for
Production No. 41.
moves for sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
26(g)(3). Rule 26(g) requires the Court to impose sanctions
on a party or attorney that improperly certifies, without
justification, that a discovery response is complete and
correct and that a reasonable inquiry was made with respect
to the legal and factual basis for the response. The
reasonableness of the inquiry is measured by an objective
standard; there is no required showing of bad faith. S ee
Zimmerman v. Bishop Estate, 25 F.3d 784, 790 (9th Cir.
1994); Nat'l Ass'n of Radiation Survivors v.
Turnage, 115 F.R.D. 543, 555 (N.D. Cal. 1987).
“The sanction may include an order to pay the
reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by
Court has engaged in lengthy and tedious review of discovery
requests and responses, privilege logs and confidential
documents in this case. (See ECF No. 102.) At the
heart of Plaintiff's discovery requests were two matters:
(1) documents pertaining to Defendants' disciplinary
history, and (2) documents pertaining to the investigation of
the incident at issue in this case. In regard to the latter,
Plaintiff's Request for Production No. 41 sought
“Any and all information, written statements pertaining
to or relevant to the Incident on July 13, 2013.” When
Plaintiff did not receive internal investigative documents
through Defendants' discovery responses, he filed a
motion to compel. (ECF No. 83.) That motion specifically
identified the letter sent by his father to the Office of
Internal Affairs, and at issue on the instant motion, as the
source of his belief that additional documents existed that
had not been disclosed by Defendants or listed on their
privilege log. (ECF No. 83 at 6-7, 149-50.) The Court granted
the motion to compel in part, and ordered Defendants to
provide Plaintiff with the OIA files or to provide the files
to the Court for in camera review. (ECF No. 102.)
light of this history, Plaintiff's father's complaint
letter was known to be at issue in this case at least by the
time Plaintiff filed his motion to compel, if not before.
Nonetheless, Defendants apparently did not attempt to locate
documents relating to the complaint when they opposed the
motion to compel or when they provided supplemental responses
based on the Court's order on that motion. It is of grave
concern to the Court that but for Plaintiff's knowledge
of the letter and his persistence in seeking it and related
documents, the ISU material may never have come to light. The
Defense is cautioned against providing discovery responses
that champion form over substance in a way that interferes
with the parties', and the Court's, a bility to get
to the core issue in this case.
the Court's concern and its dismay and frustration with
this oversight, the Court cannot conclude that the response
was objectively unreasonable. The Court's order on the
motion to compel did not specifically address these letters
(if only because it appeared, from the face of the
correspondence, that the letters had been sent to the OIA and
that production of OIA records would also produce documents
relevant to Plaintiff's father's complaint).
Furthermore, Plaintiff's discovery requests were
assembled pro se, and were somewhat confusing and overbroad.
The vast majority ...