United States District Court, E.D. California
MOIZEZ M. MUNOZ, Plaintiff,
UNDERWOOD, et al., Defendants.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE
ORDER, WITHOUT PREJUDICE (ECF NO. 52)
Munoz (“Plaintiff”) is a state prisoner
proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in
this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. On December 4, 2019, the Court issued a scheduling
order in this action. (ECF No. 49). On December 12, 2019,
Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground
that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative
remedies. (ECF No. 50). On December 16, 2019, Defendants
moved for a protective order “stay[ing] discovery in
this matter, including discovery that has already been
propounded, until the Court rules on Defendants' motion
for summary judgment.” (ECF No. 52, p. 1). For the
reasons that follow, Defendant's motion for a protective
order will be denied.
point out that if their motion for summary judgment is
granted, Plaintiff's case will be dismissed. Without a
protective order staying discovery, “Defendants could
be required to respond to excessive discovery requests that
will ultimately prove to be moot. Requiring Defendants to
respond to discovery at this time would be unduly burdensome
and would constitute a waste of scarce administrative
resources. None of the discovery already served appears to
relate [to] the subject of whether Plaintiff exhausted his
administrative remedies. Moreover, as to potential future
discovery, these individual Defendants would not be able to
respond to inmate appeal processing questions in any
event.” (Id. at 5).
court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party
or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue
burden or expense…, ” by “forbidding the
disclosure or discovery.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1)(A).
Ninth Circuit has held that, when dealing with an exhaustion
issue, “[i]f discovery is appropriate, the district
court may in its discretion limit discovery to evidence
concerning exhaustion, leaving until later-if it becomes
necessary-discovery directed to the merits of the
suit.” Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1170
(9th Cir. 2014).
Court has considered the issues and determined it will not
exercise its discretion to limit discovery in this case at
this time, and Defendants' motion will be denied.
move for a protective order because responding to discovery
“would be unduly burdensome and would constitute a
waste of scarce administrative resources.” (ECF No. 52,
p. 5). Defendants are correct that there is some burden in
having to respond to discovery requests, but nothing in
Defendants' motion suggests that the burden is undue.
Defendants are also correct that there is a risk that
resources will be wasted if the case is not stayed, because
the discovery requested may not be relevant if the case is
dismissed for failure to exhaust.
the Court finds that this risk does not outweigh the
potential prejudice to Plaintiff if this case is stayed. The
Court held a scheduling conference in this case on December
2, 2019. (ECF Nos. 47). The Court heard brief argument
regarding the exhaustion issue and discussed with the parties
whether discovery should be stayed pending the outcome of the
exhaustion issue. While Defendants had not yet formally moved
for a protective order, the Court's reasoning for going
forward with discovery on the merits of the case
notwithstanding the exhaustion issue remains valid. In short,
the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies in this
case is not a simple one and its resolution will take a
substantial amount of time.
motion for summary judgment confirms this. Defendants'
motion, with exhibits and attachments, is over 100 pages. The
Court will have to review these filings, as well as
Plaintiffs filings in response. An evidentiary hearing may be
required. In any event, the Court will have to issue findings
and recommendations to District Judge Dale A. Drozd. After
the findings and recommendations are issued, the parties will
have time to object, and Judge Drozd will conduct a de
this process will take a substantial amount of time, and not
allowing discovery to be conducted during this time would
likely be prejudicial to Plaintiff. It is also not so clear
on the face of the motion that Defendants will prevail on
their motion to warrant staying discovery at this time.
based on the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED that Defendants'
motion for protective order is DENIED without
 If it appears highly likely that
Defendants' will prevail on their motion, such as if
findings and recommendations are issued to grant the motion,