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Bernal v. Beard

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 16, 2019

RUBEN RODRIGUEZ BERNAL, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          ALLISON CLAIRE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff's motion to compel discovery from defendant Arana (ECF No. 40), which defendant has opposed (ECF No. 41).

         I. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that defendants Weeks and Arana conspired to retaliate, and actually retaliated against him, for filing complaints against Weeks. Plaintiff alleges that they retaliated by searching his cell, seizing property and paperwork, and writing him up on fictious grounds. ECF No. 1 at 6-8.

         II. Motion to Compel

         Plaintiff's motion seeks to compel further responses to interrogatories. ECF No. 40. Defendant Arana opposes the motion to compel on the grounds that plaintiff failed to meet and confer regarding the disputes prior to filing his motion, and that his claims of deficiency are unintelligible and insufficient. ECF No. 41.

         A. Standards Governing Discovery

         The scope of discovery under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) is broad. Discovery may be obtained as to “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). “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Id. The court, however, may limit discovery if it is “unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive;” or if the party who seeks discovery “has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery;” or if “the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C). The purpose of discovery is to “make a trial less a game of blind man's bluff and more a fair contest with the basic issues and facts disclosed to the fullest practicable extent, ” United States v. Procter & Gamble Co., 356 U.S. 677, 682 (1958) (citation omitted), and “to narrow and clarify the basic issues between the parties, ” Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 501 (1947).

         Where a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33, the party seeking discovery may move for compelled disclosure. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a). “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, 2009 WL 1390794 at * 1 (S.D. Cal. May 14, 2009) (citations omitted); see also Nugget v. Hydroelectric, L.P. v. Pac. Gas & Elec. Co., 981 F.2d 429, 438-39 (9th Cir. 1992) (upholding denial of motion to compel because moving party did not show the request fell within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1)). The opposing party is “required to carry a heavy burden of showing why discovery was denied.” Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975).

         A. Failure to Meet and Confer

         Defendant argues that the motion to compel should be denied because plaintiff failed to comply with the requirement to meet and confer under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a) and Local Rule 251. ECF No. 41 at 2. The scheduling order issued by the court explicitly excused the parties from the requirements of Local Rule 251. ECF No. 35 at 5, ¶ 5. Furthermore, while it is true that the requirement outlined in Rule 37(a) has not been explicitly excused, and the court encourages parties to attempt to resolve disputes prior to seeking court intervention, because of plaintiff's pro se, incarcerated status, it will not be enforced here and will not provide grounds for denying the motion.

         B. Request for Interrogatories

         Plaintiff's motion to compel seeks to compel further responses to Interrogatories 2, 3, 4, and 6, ECF No. 40, which will each be addressed in turn.

Interrogatory No. 2: State the names, titles and duties of all staff members who had responsibility to conduct a special search of quarters, “B” yard library on the 11 of July 2015, if those duties are set forth in any job description or ...

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