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Moody v. County of Santa Clara

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

July 23, 2019

DON MOODY, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA, et al., Defendants.



         The parties have submitted to the Court four discovery disputes regarding plaintiff Don Moody's requests for production of documents to the County of Santa Clara (“County”). Dkt. Nos. 82, 83, 84, 85. The Court has considered the parties' submissions and finds the disputes are suitable for resolution without oral argument.

         As explained below, the Court resolves each dispute in the County's favor.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Moody is the former Public Guardian for the County. He served in that position for six years, from September 2008 until he was placed on leave, with a recommendation for his termination, in September 2014. Dkt. No. 52 ¶¶ 17, 32. Mr. Moody claims that he was immediately required to turn over his badge and work phone and was escorted out of the building where he worked, in full view of the public and co-workers, leading others to conclude wrongly that he was untrustworthy. Id. ¶¶ 34, 39.

         Mr. Moody's employment subsequently was terminated. He alleges that defendants leaked information to the media about his termination and his “walkout.” Id. ¶¶ 36-38. He says he never witnessed anyone else in his office terminated in this fashion and alleges that he was stigmatized by this treatment. Id. ¶ 39. He claims that, as a result, he was unable to find other full-time employment for about a year after his termination and still has not found work in his chosen profession. Id. ¶ 43.

         Although a Skelly hearing[1] was held prior to his termination, Mr. Moody claims that he was not allowed to introduce evidence, call or cross-examine witnesses, or obtain testimony under oath. Id. ¶ 41. Because the hearing would result in an internal, non-publicized decision, Mr. Moody further claims that the Skelly hearing was insufficient to clear his name. Id. He also contends that the appeal of his termination was insufficient and failed to comport with due process because the appeal hearing did not occur until over 20 months after his termination and “walkout.” Id. ¶ 42.

         Mr. Moody filed this suit against the County and Bruce Wagstaff, the Director of the County's Social Services Agency who recommended Mr. Moody's termination. The operative Second Amended Complaint asserted two claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (1) a procedural due process claim challenging the adequacy of Mr. Moody's Skelly hearing and appeal hearing, and (2) a substantive due process claim based on the alleged “walkout” and leak to the press of negative information about Mr. Moody. Id. ¶¶ 44-64, 65-69.

         The Court dismissed Mr. Moody's procedural due process claim without leave to amend, finding that Mr. Moody failed to plausibly allege that he did not receive a constitutionally adequate name-clearing hearing to challenge the basis for his termination. Dkt. No. 59 at 7-9. Thus, Mr. Moody's sole remaining claim for relief is one for alleged deprivation of his substantive due process rights.

         With respect to his substantive due process claim, Mr. Moody asserts that defendants deprived him of his property interest in continued employment with the County, as well as his liberty interest in the right to work in his chosen profession, by publicly humiliating him when they allegedly escorted him out of the building where he worked and leaked negative information about him and his termination to the press. Dkt. No. 52 ¶¶ 65-69; Dkt. No. 51 at 14-15.


         A party may obtain discovery of any matter that is relevant to a claim or defense and that is “proportional to the needs of 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). For good cause shown, the Court may also issue an order protecting a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, and may order the discovery produced in a manner that restricts its disclosure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1); 37(a)(5)(C).


         The parties' joint submissions address four discovery disputes, which ...

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