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Goolsby v. County of San Diego

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 25, 2019

COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, et al., Defendants.


          Hon. Nita L. Stormes United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is plaintiff, Thomas Goolsby's (“Plaintiff”) motion to compel further responses from Defendant, the County of San Diego (“Defendant”), to discovery he propounded. ECF No. 107.[1] The Court issued a briefing schedule and ordered the parties to meet and confer, and then file a notice of resolution or opposition to the motion if the parties were unable to reach agreement. ECF No. 110. The parties were able to resolve their disputes regarding Requests for Production Nos. 34, 62, and 67. ECF No. 115. Plaintiff submitted revised moving papers. ECF No. 114. Defendant timely submitted its opposition to the requests which remain in dispute: Interrogatory Nos. 3-9; Requests for Admission Nos. 9-10; and Requests for Production Nos. 2-3, 5-12, 15, 20, 24, 26, 30-31, 33-34, 37-38, 42, 45-47, 56-57, 60-61, 63, 78-79, 81-87, and 95. ECF Nos. 116, 116-2. After due consideration and for the reasons provided in this order, the Court denies in part and grants in part the motion to compel.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a prisoner currently incarcerated at California State Prison, Corcoran, who filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action, alleging violations of his constitutional rights during his stay in San Diego County Jail. Following motion practice, Plaintiff has 2 remaining claims: (1) a Fourteenth Amendment claim against the County of San Diego regarding placement in administrative segregation (see ECF No. 97 at 6, 10), and (2) an Eighth Amendment claim against the County based on lack of out of cell exercise (see ECF No. 97 at 8, 10).


         Rule 26 permits discovery of “any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Information need not be admissible to be discoverable. Id. Once the propounding party establishes that the request seeks relevant information, “[t]he party who resists discovery has the burden to show discovery should not be allowed, and has the burden of clarifying, explaining, and supporting its objections.” Superior Commc'ns v. Earhugger, Inc., 257 F.R.D. 215, 217 (C.D. Cal. 2009); see Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975) (requiring defendants “to carry heavy burden of showing why discovery was denied”).

         “The 2015 amendments to Rule 26(b)(1) emphasize the need to impose ‘reasonable limits on discovery through increased reliance on the common-sense concept of proportionality.'” Roberts v. Clark County Sch. Dist., 312 F.R.D. 594, 603 (D. Nev. 2016). The fundamental principle of amended Rule 26(b)(1) is “that lawyers must size and shape their discovery requests to the requisites of a case.” Id. Discovery and Rule 26 is intended to provide parties with “efficient access to what is needed to prove a claim or defense, but eliminate unnecessary or wasteful discovery.” Id. This requires active involvement of federal judges to make decisions regarding the scope of discovery. Id. To the extent that the discovery sought is “unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive, ” the court is directed to limit the scope of the request. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2). Limits should also be imposed where the burden or expense outweighs the likely benefits. Id. How and when to so limit discovery, or to “issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, ” remains in the court's discretion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1).


         Plaintiff propounded discovery including nine Interrogatories, ten Requests for Admissions (“RFA”), and 95 Requests for Production of Documents (“RFP”). ECF No. 116 at 2.[2] Following meet and confer efforts, disputes remain for two RFAs, seven interrogatories, and 32 RFPs.

         A. Requests for Admission

         The two RFAs in dispute are similar, as are the arguments related to them and so they are addressed together. Plaintiff's requests state:

RFA No. 9: Admit or deny you were aware Plaintiff was not receiving Outside Out-of-Cell exercise while housed at San Diego Central between December 12, 2016 and May 17, 2017.
RFA No. 10: Admit or deny you were aware Plaintiff was not receiving Out-of-Cell exercise between February 7, 2017 and May 17, 2017 while in San Diego County Sheriff's department Custody.

         Defendant represents that since the meet and confer, it has amended responses to deny both RFAs completely, including specifically denying any awareness, which was the focus of Plaintiff's initial reason to compel further responses. See ECF No. 116-2 at 2-3. A denial is a permissible answer pursuant to Rule 36. Plaintiff's motion to compel further responses is denied.

         B. Interrogatories

         Plaintiff argues that Defendant failed to provide complete responses to several interrogatories. ECF No. 107, 114. Defendant counters that as phrased, the interrogatories assume facts and are otherwise argumentative, but also states that Defendant has provided amended responses that respond fully and render any dispute moot. ECF No. 116 at 5.

         Interrogatory No. 3

         Interrogatory No. 3 asks Defendant to “state why Plaintiff was not allowed to personally appear or attend classification hearings….” ECF No. 116-2 at 4. Defendant's amended response states, inter alia, that the “processes do not involve in person meetings, so Plaintiff was not prohibited from personally appearing.” Id. at 5. The supplemental response appears to respond fully. Plaintiff's motion to compel further response is denied.

         Interrogatory Nos. 4 & 5

         Plaintiff's motion takes issue with Defendant's incorporation of business records in response to Interrogatories 4 and 5. Here, Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 4 asks Defendant to “state every occasion plaintiff received out-of-cell exercise” between certain dates, and Interrogatory No. 5 asks the same question specific to “outside out-of-cell exercise.” ...

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