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Aleman v. Acosta

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 6, 2017

HECTOR ALEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O K. ACOSTA., et al ., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' OBJECTIONS TO DISCOVERY ORDER

          Lawrence J. O'Neill, UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Hector Aleman (“Plaintiff”) is a prisoner in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Rentieria, Ledesma, Nuno, Fierros, Montalvo, Acosta, and Garcia (“Defendants') on Plaintiff's failure to protect claim. (ECF No. 15, p. 2.)

         Defendants have filed an objection with this Court contesting portions of the Magistrate Judge's order following the initial scheduling conference that ordered production of certain categories of documents. For the reasons described below, Defendants' objection is overruled.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On February 1, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued an order requiring initial disclosures and setting a mandatory scheduling conference. (ECF No. 23.) The order directed the parties to exchange certain categories of information consistent with Rule 26 of Federal Rules of the Civil Procedure prior to the Rule 16 scheduling conference. (Id. at 2.) The order further directed the parties to “be prepared to informally discuss the following issues” and included “The location of potentially relevant documents; . . . Discovery each party intends to take, if any, in addition to the discovery ordered above.” (Id. at 3.) Finally, the order directed the parties to file a scheduling conference statement addressing the issues listed above as well as any other issues that the parties believe would assist in the scheduling of the case. (Id.)

          On April 21, 2017, Defendants Garcia, Renteria, Nuno, Montalvo, Fierros, and Ledesma filed their scheduling conference statement. (ECF No. 33.) These Defendants indicated that they had complied with the Magistrate Judge's February 1, 2017 order by “providing Plaintiff with the names and available contact information for thirty individuals likely to have discoverable information that Defendants may use to support their claims or defenses.” (Id. at 2.) Additionally, the Defendants provided Plaintiff with eleven categories of documents that they were intending to use support their claims or defenses. (Id.) Plaintiff also filed a scheduling conference statement, which included a list of documents that may be used to support his claims. (ECF No. 35)

         The Magistrate Judge held the mandatory Rule 16 scheduling conference on June 15, 2017. Plaintiff appeared pro se and Defendants appeared through counsel. (ECF No. 41.) During the conference, the Magistrate Judge discussed the categories of documents based on the parties' initial scheduling reports and asked whether the parties had such documents and whether they had been exchanged. (See, e.g., ECF No. 46, pp. 10:18-11:7 (“THE COURT: Mr. Lodholz, do you also have all of the documents and photographs and evidence that relate to the RVR and disciplinary proceedings? MR. LODHOLZ: I believe so, Your Honor.”)). The Court then discussed documents that may be obtained in the future within these categories and a provided a procedure for production or raising objections to such production. (Id. at 12:23-13:18 (“THE COURT: Okay. Well, I'll, I'll modify that to say that if you obtain other documents related to the criminal case, I am going to order you either to produce them to Mr. Aleman or inform him of any objections that you have so he could litigate. . . . MR. TERHORST: . . . I think if there's something that does come up that's confidential for reasons that we cannot disclose, I'll be happy to put it in a privilege log so that way, at least there's a record of what we have. THE COURT: Yes. Okay. Objection or put in a privilege log. You just need to make it clear that if you've obtained a document and for some reason believe it's not subject to discovery, obviously you need to tell Mr. Aleman that.”).

         Based on input from the parties, the Magistrate Judge identified certain categories of documents that the Magistrate Judge found to be “so clearly relevant to the issues here that I want to make sure that they, that they are part of our discovery.” (Id. at 14.) Each of these categories was discussed on the record and the parties were given an opportunity to object to such categories. Notably, Defendants did not object to any of the categories of documents. Indeed, Defense counsel represented that Defendants had already provided all documents within these categories to the best of their knowledge. The Court also specified that a party could maintain objections based on privilege or confidentiality as to documents falling within those categories so long as those objections were disclosed to the other party. The Court concluded this discussion by explaining:

So I am going to issue an order that, that confirms, though, that to the extent they have not been exchanged -- but to be clear, it sounds like they have -- that all parties are to produce or confirm that the other side has documents -- and the wording can be in my, more exact in my order -- but it will be trying to get the RVR, the 602 exhaustion, the criminal case, and any internal institutional investigations. But again, it sounds -- and I'm, and I'm happy to hear that -- that the parties already have that. As always, for those documents and for all documents -- I'll reiterate -- if for some reason any party thinks that they don't need to produce it for any reason, they need to notify or if it's for a privilege, they need to give a privilege log.

(Id. at 22:6-18).

         After the scheduling conference, the Court issued a “Rule 16 discovery order following initial scheduling conference.” (ECF No. 42.) As part of that order, the Magistrate Judge listed the same five categories of documents that the parties were to produce (if they had not already produced them) “[i]In an effort to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive disposition of this action, and after consideration of factors in Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” (Id.) The Magistrate Judge further provided the parties a mechanism to preserve objections to producing confidential information. (Id.)

         On June 29, 2017, Defendants Fierros, Garcia, Ledesma, Montalvo, Nuno, and Renteria filed the instant Rule 72(a) objections to the Magistrate Judge's June 16, 2017 order. (ECF No. 49.) Specifically, these Defendants object to the Magistrate Judge's authority under Rule 16 to issue the order. (Id.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a), when reviewing a magistrate judge's order, “[t]he district judge in the case must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” See also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Local Rule 303. Under the clearly erroneous standard of review, a district court may overturn a magistrate judge's ruling “ ‘only if the district court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.' ” Computer Economics, Inc. v. Gartner Group, Inc. ., 50 F.Supp.2d 980, 983 (S.D.Cal.1999) (quoting Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Indus. ...


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