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Skinner v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 30, 2014

James E. Skinner, Plaintiff,
v.
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

LAWRENCE O. ANDERSON, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery, in which Plaintiff seeks an order compelling Defendant Alvarez to produce additional documents. (Doc. 145) Defendant has filed a Response and Plaintiff has filed a Reply. (Docs. 150, 151)

The discovery at issue in this motion pertains to Plaintiff's claim in Count I of his First Amended Complaint, the sole remaining claim, in which Plaintiff alleges he is being deprived of basic necessities in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff complains of inadequate plumbing in his cell, unsanitary conditions in his cell and other areas, and the failure to provide cleaning supplies to address the unsanitary conditions. Plaintiff claims that for nine months he was housed in a cell in which the base of the toilet leaked every time it was used, which caused flooding, and that he was not provided adequate supplies to address the problem. He further claims that when he was eventually moved to a different cell in a different housing unit, the walls of the cell appeared to have blood and dried feces on them. He claims that during the several months he was there, he repeatedly requested supplies to clean his cell but received adequate supplies on only one occasion. Plaintiff also claims that outdoor recreation cages and an outer stairwell were covered with cat waste and pigeon droppings. He claims these contaminants were then tracked back to his cell. Plaintiff claims he informed Defendants of these issues but they failed to take any action to resolve the problems.

In this Motion to Compel, Plaintiff identifies three requests for production to which he claims Defendant Alvarez failed to adequately respond. He asks the Court to order Defendant Alvarez to produce more documents responsive to the requests. Defendant Alvarez argues in the response that his responses to the requests for production were sufficient and the objections he has asserted are proper.

A. Legal Standards for Discovery

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides that "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense... Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. All discovery is subject to the limitations imposed by Rule 26(b)(2)(C)." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). These limitations reflect that, in addition to being relevant, discovery must also be proportional to the issues and needs of the case. Kaiser v. BMW of North America, LLC, 2013 WL 1856578, at *3 (N.D. Cal. May 2, 2013) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C)). Rule 26(b)(2)(C) provides:

On motion or on its own, the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by these rules or by local rules if it determines that:
(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive;
(ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or
(iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.

Thus, the court must "strike[ ] the proper balance between permitting relevant discovery and limiting the scope and burdens of the discovery to what is proportional to the case." Kaiser, 2013 WL at *3. Moreover, "[b]road discretion is vested in the trial court to permit or deny discovery, and its decision to deny discovery will not be disturbed except upon the clearest showing that denial of discovery results in actual and substantial prejudice to the complaining litigant." Hallet v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Goehring v. Brophy, 94 F.3d 1294, 1305 (9th Cir. 1996)).

B. Application

Plaintiff's first request for production to Defendant Alvarez states:

Produce any and all documents that in any way relates to or otherwise references Browning Unit sanitation of inmate housing areas, by any name, whether cluster, cell or pod, to include but not limited to: Post Orders, Policies, Plans, Protocols, Procedures, Correctional Standards, Correctional Service Laws, Cluster Cleaning Equipment Master Inventory and Check Out Forms, Browning Unit Daily Activity Schedules, Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) documents and videos, Audits, Incident Reports, Memorandums, Town Hall Meeting documents and all staff sanitation duties.

(Doc. 145 at 6) In response, Defendant's counsel produced approximately 1300 pages of documents that had nothing to do with Browning Unit. Counsel claims he knew this when he produced the documents. (Doc. 150 at 3) His explanation, oddly, is that "these are the documents in counsel's possession that were redacted and ready to be disclosed." ( Id. ) He subsequently produced another 1400 documents pertaining to Browning Unit. Plaintiff claims in his reply, however, that the documents provided are so heavily redacted, they are useless.

Regardless, the Court exercises its broad discretion over discovery matters and finds that, applying Rule 26(b)(2)(C), Plaintiff's request is completely disproportional to what is appropriate for this case. The Court finds the "burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues." See 26(b)(2)(C)(iii). The Court will order no further production of documents in response to this request.

In his second request, Plaintiff directs Defendant Alvarez to "[p]roduce any and all Browning Unit documents related to or otherwise reference [sic] sanitation which require your signature." (Doc. 145 at 8-9) In response, Defendant's counsel again referenced the same documents that had nothing to do with Browning Unit that he produced in response to the first request.

Plaintiff's second request for production, however, contains no time frame and it requests all documents related to sanitation (signed by Alvarez), even though Plaintiff's one remaining claim addresses very specific sanitation issues. Plaintiff's request is overly broad and unduly burdensome in light of the narrow issues in this case. The Court will order no further production of documents in response to this request.

Finally, Plaintiff's third request seeks incident reports written by CO II Johnson for Sgt. Mendoza on January 17, 2014 regarding Plaintiff's complaints about inadequate sanitation supplies. (Doc. 145) In another careless response, Defendant's counsel simply wrote, "Will Supplement." (Doc. 150 at 4)

In response to the motion to compel, Defendant's counsel now claims the requested document is irrelevant, even though no objection was asserted in the response to the discovery request. Defendant's counsel acknowledges he and Defendant Alvarez have reviewed the document. He asserts, however, that they find it to be not relevant, though he provides no good reasons to support that conclusion. Defendant's relevancy objection is without merit. Counsel will be ordered to produce any documents responsive to Plaintiff's third request within one week.

Accordingly,

IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery, doc. 145, is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The Motion is granted as to Plaintiff's third request for production to Defendant Alvarez. Defendant's counsel shall produce any documents responsive to the request no later than Monday, July 7, 2014. The Motion is denied as to Plaintiff's other two requests for production.


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