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Johnson v. Kelley

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 17, 2019

LEE KELLEY, Defendant.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges defendant was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Before the court is plaintiff’s motion to compel. For the reasons set forth below, this court will grant the motion in part.


         This case is proceeding on plaintiff’s original complaint, filed here on July 13, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that when he was incarcerated at California State Prison, Sacramento in 2017, he was seen by defendant, a nurse there, for severe shoulder pain. Defendant refused to refer plaintiff to a doctor or otherwise treat his pain. As a result, plaintiff suffered shoulder pain for several months until he was transferred to Kern Valley State Prison. At Kern Valley, he was diagnosed by a doctor with impingement syndrome.

         On screening, this court found plaintiff stated a potentially cognizable Eighth Amendment claim against defendant. (ECF No. 8.) On January 29, 2019, defendant answered the complaint. (ECF No. 17.) After a settlement conference did not resolve this action, the court issued a discovery and scheduling order on April 11, 2019. (ECF No. 27.) Among other things, the order set a deadline of August 9, 2019 for all discovery, including motions to compel discovery.

         In a document dated August 11 and filed here on August 19, plaintiff moves to compel defendant to respond to plaintiff’s request for production of documents. (ECF No. 33.) Defendant opposes the motion. (ECF No. 34.)


         I. Legal Standards

         Under Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “a party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B). The court may order a party to provide further responses to an “evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer, or response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4). “District courts have ‘broad discretion to manage discovery and to control the course of litigation under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16.’” Hunt v. County of Orange, 672 F.3d 606, 616 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Avila v. Willits Envtl. Remediation Trust, 633 F.3d 828, 833 (9th Cir. 2011)).

         The party moving to compel bears the burden of informing the court (1) which discovery requests are the subject of the motion to compel, (2) which of the responses are disputed, (3) why the party believes the response is deficient, (4) why any objections are not justified, and (5) why the information sought through discovery is relevant to the prosecution of this action. McCoy v. Ramirez, No. 1:13-cv-1808-MJS (PC), 2016 WL 3196738, at *1 (E.D. Cal. June 9, 2016); Ellis v. Cambra, No. 1:02-cv-5646-AWI-SMS PC, 2008 WL 860523, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 27, 2008). The reach of Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which governs requests for production, “extends to all relevant documents, tangible things, and entry upon designated land or other property.” Clark v. Vega Wholesale Inc., 181 F.R.D. 470, 472-73 (D. Nev. 1998) (citing 8A C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2206, at 381).

         The purpose of discovery is to “remove surprise from trial preparation so the parties can obtain evidence necessary to evaluate and resolve their dispute.” United States v. Chapman University, 245 F.R.D. 646, 648 (C.D. Cal. 2007) (quotation and citation omitted). Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure offers guidance on the scope of discovery permitted:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged information 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. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

         “Relevance for purposes of discovery is defined very broadly.” Garneau v. City of Seattle, 147 F.3d 802, 812 (9th Cir. 1998). “The party seeking to compel discovery has the burden of establishing that its request satisfies the relevancy requirements of Rule 26(b)(1). Thereafter, the party opposing discovery has the burden of showing that the discovery should be prohibited, and the burden of clarifying, explaining or supporting its objections.” Bryant v. Ochoa, No. 07cv200 JM (PCL), 2009 WL 1390794, at *1 (S.D. Cal. May 14, 2009) (internal citation omitted).

         II. Plaintiff’s Request for Documents and ...

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