United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER: (1) GRANTING MOTION TO QUASH DEPOSITION
SUBPOENA AND FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER REGARDING DEPOSITION OF
MINOR D.C. [ECF NO. 110]; AND (2) GRANTING MOTION FOR
RECONSIDERATION OF THE COURT'S OCTOBER 2, 2019 MINUTE
ORDER [ECF NO. 135]
JILL L. BURKHARDT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is a motion to quash deposition subpoena and for
protective order regarding the deposition of minor D.C. and a
motion for reconsideration of the Court's October 2, 2019
Minute Order. (ECF Nos. 110, 135.) Non-party minor D.C
requests that the Court quash a deposition subpoena served on
him by Defendant County of San Diego (“Defendant”
or “County”) and enter an order protecting D.C.
from being deposed in this action. Defendant opposes.
(See ECF Nos. 113, 125.)
Court held a hearing on the motion on October 2, 2019.
Following the hearing, the Court ordered the parties to meet
and confer and file a joint supplemental statement informing
the Court of their respective positions on the location for
D.C.'s deposition. (ECF No. 129.) On October 9, 2019, the
parties filed a joint supplemental statement in which D.C.
and Plaintiffs indicated that they intended to move for
reconsideration and/or file objections to the Court's
October 2, 2019 Minute Order and therefore did not
participate substantively in the meet and confer. (ECF No.
133.) Thereafter, D.C. filed a motion for reconsideration of
the Court's October 2, 2019 Minute Order and a
supplemental brief in support of his motion to quash and for
a protective order. (ECF No. 135.) Defendant filed an
opposition to the motion for reconsideration on October 23,
2019. (ECF No. 141.)
reasons set forth below, the motion to quash deposition
subpoena and for protective order regarding the deposition of
minor D.C. is GRANTED and the motion for
reconsideration of the Court's October 2, 2019 Minute
Order is GRANTED.
Katy Williams (“Williams”), Gary Evans
(“Evans”), and minor plaintiffs A.C., Am.E., and
Aa.E., by and through their Guardian ad Litem, John Garter
(collectively, “Plaintiffs”), filed this action
against Defendant alleging claims for: (1) Monell
liability based upon violations of Plaintiffs' Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983; and (2) injunctive relief. (See ECF No. 24
is the natural mother of A.C., Am.E., and Aa.E (collectively,
“Minor Plaintiffs”). (Id. at ¶ 8.)
Williams has another minor child, D.C., born in 2012, who is
not a plaintiff in this action. (Id.) Evans is the
natural father of Am.E. and Aa.E. (Id. at ¶ 9.)
Williams and Evans share custody of Am.E. and Aa.E, and
Williams has sole custody of A.C. (Id. at
¶¶ 10-11.) On April 24, 2017, the Court appointed
Mr. John Garter as Guardian ad Litem for Minor Plaintiffs.
(See ECF No. 4.)
2013, Defendant first became acquainted with Williams and her
children after an incident involving D.C.'s father, Jason
Clark (“Clark”). (FAC at ¶ 12.) Clark became
violent with Williams and threatened to kill her.
(Id.) As a result, Williams obtained a restraining
order against Clark. (Id.)
2014, the County of San Diego Health and Human Services
Agency (“HHSA”) filed a petition on D.C.'s
behalf alleging D.C. sustained bruises to his head,
“which would not ordinarily be sustained except as a
result of the unreasonable acts of D.C.'s
father[.]” (Id. at ¶ 13.) Juvenile
dependency proceedings commenced shortly thereafter. (See
id.) D.C. lived with Williams during this time, and
Clark was no longer able to have unsupervised visits with his
son. (See id.) Clark then began making “false
allegations against Williams and her boyfriend.”
(Id. at ¶¶ 14-15.)
January 2016, Clark reported a bruise near D.C.'s eye to
HHSA. (See Id. ¶ 18.) D.C. “hit his left
eye on a corner of a kitchen island while playing with Minor
Plaintiff Aa.E.” (Id. at ¶ 18.) Social
worker Daniel Bernal (“Bernal”) inspected the
bruise on January 8, 2016. (Id.) During Bernal's
investigation, Bernal informed Williams that he wished to
interview minor plaintiff Aa.E. alone, but Williams did not
consent to such an interview. (Id. at ¶ 19.) On
January 11, 2016, Evans and Williams' attorney sent a
letter to the County, HHSA, and Bernal, indicating that
“Minor Plaintiffs were represented by counsel and that
no interviews of Minor Plaintiffs A.C., Am.E. or Aa.E. should
take place without counsel present.” (Id. at
January 12, 2016, D.C. sustained additional injuries to his
head when “he ran into a doorknob at his home[.]”
(Id. at ¶ 21.) Williams took D.C. to the
hospital, and the doctor discharged D.C., indicating that
D.C. had “sustained a ‘normal childhood
injury.'” (Id.) Clark, once again,
reported the incident to the HHSA hotline. (See id.)
January 19, 2016, Bernal traveled to A.C.'s middle
school, instructed staff to remove her from her classroom,
and “detained her against her will” without court
order or parental consent, knowledge, or presence.
(Id. at ¶ 22.) That same day, Bernal also
visited Am.E. and Aa.E.'s elementary school, instructed
staff to remove them from their classrooms, and
“detained them against their will” without court
order, or parental consent, knowledge, or presence.
(Id. at ¶ 23.) Once the children were removed
from their classrooms, Bernal, social worker Janet Barragan
(“Barragan”), and social worker Miriam Partida
(“Partida”) “interrogated” the
children, despite the fact that Bernal, the County, and HHSA
“were informed in writing” that Evans and
Williams “did not want their minor children to be
interviewed by social workers with the County and HHSA
without a parent and/or attorney being present at that
interview.” (Id. at ¶ 24.) Notably, there
were not, nor have there ever been, any allegations that
Minor Plaintiffs were abused or neglected by their parents,
or any other individuals. (See id.)
the interviews, the social workers inquired about whether the
Minor Plaintiffs' felt safe at home, how their parents
disciplined them and D.C., and whether D.C. “was an
active child.” (Id. at ¶ 25.) The social
workers did not inform the Minor Plaintiffs that they could
decline to be interviewed, nor were they given a choice about
being interviewed “once they were detained and
confronted by the County workers.” (Id. at
¶ 26.) Further, the Minor Plaintiffs “were not
informed that they could have a parent and/or an attorney
present for the interviews.” (Id.) At the time
of the interviews, the social workers “did not have
exigency, Court Order, parental consent, knowledge or
presence, or even reasonable suspicion that the Minor
Plaintiffs were the subject of abuse or neglect.”
(Id. at ¶ 27.)
“continues to make false allegations” and, on
December 29, 2017, social worker Lisette Alvarez
(“Alvarez”) contacted Williams to inquire about
conducting an in-person interview regarding disciplinary
issues involving the Minor Plaintiffs and D.C. (Id.
at ¶ 28.) On January 11, 2018, Alvarez “reiterated
her intent” to interview Williams and her children
regarding Clark's latest allegations regarding D.C.
(See Id. ¶ 29.) Williams indicated that she
agreed to a meeting with herself, D.C., and her counsel, but
that she would not agree to interviews of her other children.
(See id.) Alvarez, however, “refused
to agree not to go to the schools” of the
Minor Plaintiffs pursuant to Defendant's “policies
that allowed her to conduct such interviews[.]”
(Id. (emphasis in original).) Based on these
allegations, Plaintiffs commenced the instant action.
Rule of Civil Procedure 45 governs discovery of nonparties by
subpoena. Fed.R.Civ.P. 45; see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
30(a)(1) (“[A] deponent's attendance [at a
deposition] may be compelled by subpoena under Rule
45”). The Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 45 state
that “the scope of discovery through a subpoena is the
same as that applicable to Rule 34 and the other discovery
rules, ” which in turn is the same as under Rule 26(b).
Advisory Committee Notes to 1970 Amendment; Fed.R.Civ.P.
34(a). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b) allows a party
to obtain discovery concerning “any nonprivileged
matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense
and proportional to the needs of the case.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1); see also Moon v. SCP Pool
Corp., 232 F.R.D. 633, 637 (C.D. Cal. 2005) (noting
“courts have incorporated relevance as a factor when
determining motions to quash a subpoena”).
“Relevancy, for the purposes of discovery, is defined
broadly, although it is not without ultimate and necessary
boundaries.” Gonzales v. Google, Inc., 234
F.R.D. 674, 679-80 (N.D. Cal. 2006) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
provides that “[o]n timely motion, the court for the
district where compliance is required must quash or modify a
subpoena that . . . subjects a person to undue burden.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(A)(iv). The question of “whether
a subpoena is burdensome depends on the facts of the
case.” Lillie v. ManTech Int'l. Corp., No.
2:17-cv-02538-CAS-SSX, 2019 WL 653085, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Feb.
15, 2019) (quoting Green v. Baca, 226 F.R.D. 624,
653-54 (C.D. Cal. 2005), order clarified, No. CV
02-204744 MMM (MANx), 2005 WL 283361 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 31,
2005)). “[A] court determining the propriety of a
subpoena balances the relevance of the discovery sought, the
requesting party's need, and the potential hardship to
the party subject to the subpoena.” ATS Prod., Inc
v. Champion Fiberglass, Inc., 309 F.R.D. 527, 531 (N.D.
Cal. 2015) (quoting Gonzales, 234 F.R.D. at 680);
see also Amini Innovation Corp. v. McFerran Home
Furnishings, Inc., 300 F.R.D. 406, 409 (C.D. Cal. 2014)
(“In determining whether a subpoena poses an undue
burden, courts weigh the burden to the subpoenaed party
against the value of the information to the serving
party.” (internal quotations and citation omitted)).
However, “if the sought-after [information is] not
relevant . . . then any burden whatsoever imposed .
. . would be by definition ‘undue.'”
Compaq Computer Corp. v. Packard Bell Elec., Inc.,
163 F.R.D. 329, 335-36 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (emphasis in
for the unwanted burden thrust upon non-parties is a factor
entitled to special weight in evaluating the balance of
competing needs, ” and a court may quash a subpoena
where the court determines that the same evidence could be
obtained from a party to the litigation. Amini Innovation
Corp., 300 F.R.D. at 409-10; see also Lemberg Law
LLC v. Hussin, No. 16-mc-80066-JCS, 2016 WL 3231300, at
*5 (N.D. Cal. June 13, 2016) (“The Ninth Circuit has
long held that nonparties subject to discovery requests
deserve extra protection from the courts.” (citing
United States v. C.B.S., Inc., 666 F.2d 364, 371-72
(9th Cir. 1982))).
party issuing the subpoena must demonstrate that the
information sought is relevant and material to the
allegations and claims at issue in the proceedings.”
Optimize Tech. Sols., LLC. v. Staples, Inc., No.
14-mc-80095-LHK (HRL), 2014 WL 1477651, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Apr.
14, 2014) (citation omitted). The party moving to quash the
subpoena bears the “burden of persuasion” under
Rule 45(d)(3). Moon, 232 F.R.D. at 637 (citations
omitted). “[B]road discretion is vested in the trial
court to permit or deny discovery.” Hallett v.
Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002); see also
Exxon Shipping Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 34
F.3d 774, 779 (9th Cir. 1994) (“Rule 26(c) and Rule
45([d])(3) give ample discretion to district courts to quash
or modify subpoenas causing ‘undue
non-party moving to quash a subpoena may also seek a
protective order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 45, Advisory Committee Notes,
1937 Adoption (“Under this amendment, the person
subpoenaed may obtain the protection afforded by any of the
orders permitted under Rule 30(b) [the provisions of Rule
30(b) were transferred to Rule 26(c)] or Rule 45(b)”).
Pursuant to Rule 26, a “court may, for good cause,
issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance,
embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense,
” arising out of a discovery request. Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(c)(1); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C).
District courts have “broad latitude” to issue a
protective order. Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v.
Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 2002).
The party seeking a protective order has the burden of
proving “good cause, ” which requires a showing
“that specific prejudice or harm will result” if
the protective order is not granted. In re Roman Catholic
Archbishop of Portland in Or., 661 F.3d 417, 424 (9th
11, 2019, Defendant served a deposition subpoena on D.C., who
is a minor and non-party to this case. (ECF Nos. 110-3; 113
at 3.) D.C. is currently seven years old. (ECF No. 110-1 at
2.) D.C. was three years old on January 19, 2016 when
Defendant interviewed the Minor Plaintiffs. (Id.)
Defendant contends that it is entitled to ...