Branch v. Grannis, et al.,

Filing 168

ORDER Denying Plaintiff's 154 Motion to Compel signed by Magistrate Judge Gary S. Austin on 05/16/2015. (Flores, E)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 1:08-cv-01655-AWI-GSA-PC LOUIS BRANCH, 12 ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF‟S MOTION TO COMPEL (Doc. 154.) Plaintiff, 13 vs. 14 D. UMPHENOUR, et al., 15 Defendants. 16 17 18 19 20 21 I. BACKGROUND 22 Louis Branch ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis 23 with this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed the Complaint 24 commencing this action on July 7, 2008. (Doc. 1.) This action now proceeds on the Third 25 Amended Complaint, filed by Plaintiff on July 10, 2013, against defendants Umphenour, 26 Szalai, and Alvarez (“Defendants”) for deliberate indifference to a serious risk to Plaintiff‟s 27 safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and against defendant Umphenour for retaliation 28 in violation of the First Amendment. (Doc. 94.) 1 1 On October 21, 2013, and February 21, 2014, the Court issued Scheduling Orders 2 establishing a deadline of June 21, 2014, for the parties to complete discovery, including the 3 filing of motions to compel. (Docs. 109, 120.) On November 7, 2014, the Court reopened 4 discovery, for limited purpose, until January 30, 2015. (Doc. 151.) The discovery deadlines 5 have now expired. 6 On January 29, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel interrogatory responses. (Doc. 7 154.) On February 19, 2015, Defendants filed an opposition to the motion to compel. (Doc. 8 159.) On March 5, 2015, Plaintiff filed a reply to the opposition. (Doc. 163.) Plaintiff‟s motion to compel is now before the court. 9 10 II. 11 12 PLAINTIFF=S ALLEGATIONS1 At the time of the events at issue, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Avenal State Prison (ASP) in Avenal, California, and Defendants were employed as correctional officers at ASP. 13 In June 2004, Plaintiff submitted a sworn declaration that he had witnessed an inmate 14 being battered and assaulted by an ASP Officer. (Third ACP, Doc. 94 at 9 ¶20.) Defendant 15 Umphenour confronted Plaintiff and said he “would be „dealt with‟ for submitting „a false 16 declaration against an officer.‟” (Id. at 9 ¶21.) Immediately thereafter, ASP officials caused 17 Plaintiff to be transferred within the prison five times in two weeks “amid the calumny and 18 obloquy that [p]laintiff was a „snitch‟ and a „baby raper.‟” (Id. at 9 ¶22.) Each of Plaintiff‟s 19 verbal and written pleas resulted in Plaintiff being transferred to another facility or building. 20 (Id. at 9 ¶23.) 21 After Plaintiff was transferred to Building 250 he was stabbed four times, bludgeoned 22 about the head, and beaten to semi-consciousness while defendants Umphenour, Szalai, and 23 Alvarez watched without intervening. (Id. at 9-10 ¶25.) Plaintiff was hospitalized and then 24 placed in segregation. (Id. at 10 ¶26.) 25 /// 26 /// 27 28 1 This summary includes Plaintiff‟s allegations against defendants Umphenour, Szalai, and Alvarez in the Third Amended Complaint upon which this action now proceeds. 2 1 III. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS 2 Under Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[p]arties may obtain discovery 3 regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense. Fed. R. 4 Civ. P. 26(b). “Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears 5 reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Id. 6 With respect to interrogatories, a party may propound interrogatories related to any 7 matter that may be inquired into under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b). Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 33(a)(2). 9 Under Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “a party seeking discovery may 10 move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection.” Fed. R. Civ. 11 P. 37(a)(3) (B). The court may order a party to provide further responses to an “evasive or 12 incomplete disclosure, answer, or response.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(4). “District courts have 13 „broad discretion to manage discovery and to control the course of litigation under Federal Rule 14 of Civil Procedure 16.‟” Hunt v. County of Orange, 672 F.3d 606, 616 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting 15 Avila v. Willits Envtl. Remediation Trust, 633 F.3d 828, 833 (9th Cir. 2011)). Generally, if the 16 responding party objects to a discovery request, the party moving to compel bears the burden of 17 demonstrating why the objections are not justified. E.g., Grabek v. Dickinson, No. CIV S–10– 18 2892 GGH P., 2012 WL 113799, at *1 (E.D.Cal. Jan. 13, 2012); Ellis v. Cambra, No. 1:02–cv– 19 05646–AWI–SMS (PC), 2008 WL 860523, at *4 (E.D.Cal. Mar. 27, 2008). This requires the 20 moving party to inform the Court which discovery requests are the subject of the motion to 21 compel, and, for each disputed response, why the information sought is relevant and why the 22 responding party's objections are not meritorious. Grabek, 2012 WL 113799, at *1; Womack v. 23 Virga, No. CIV S–11–1030 MCE EFB P., 2011 WL 6703958, at *3 (E.D.Cal. Dec. 21, 2011). 24 The moving party also bears the burden of demonstrating Aactual and substantial prejudice@ 25 from the denial of discovery. See Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002) 26 (citations omitted). 27 Plaintiff is entitled to leniency as a pro se litigator; therefore, to the extent possible, the 28 Court endeavors to resolve his motion to compel on its merits. Hunt v. County of Orange, 672 3 1 F.3d 606, 616 (9th Cir. 2012), Surfvivor Media, Inc. v. Survivor Productions, 406 F.3d 625, 2 635 (9th Cir. 2005), Hallett, 296 F.3d at 751. 3 A. 4 Plaintiff asserts that “[i]n accordance with the court‟s extension of the discovery 5 deadline to 01/30/2015, plaintiff submitted 18 Interrogatories (see Appendix J, Interrogatory 6 Requests & Responses).” (Motion to Compel, Doc. 154 at 2:24-25.) Plaintiff argues that 7 Defendants‟ answers to Interrogatory Requests Nos. 1 and 2 are evasive and incomplete 8 because Defendants “fail and refuse to identify the person who signed the General Chronos 9 defendants submitted as evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact (defendants‟ alibi 10 whereabouts during the attempted murder of plaintiff).” (Id. at 3:1-4.) Plaintiff argues that 11 “defendants‟ answers willfully misconstrue the request for „INFORMATION‟ with „General 12 Chrono‟, to evade plaintiff‟s Interrogatory Requests Nos. 7-16.” (Id. at 3:8-10.) Plaintiff also 13 argues that “defendants‟ answers to Interrogatories #7 and #16, („Normally, General Chronos 14 are not reported to CDCR Headquarters.‟ and „Typically a General Chrono would not be 15 attached to an incident report‟) are certifiably disingenuous [because] CDCR Policy established 16 in their Operations Manual §51030.4.1 requires „all‟ and „any‟ „INFORMATION‟ relating to 17 an incident to be forwarded to the Central Office (Headquarters) using the AOD 837 Log 18 Number (ASP FA2 04 07 0160) that is designated for plaintiff‟s incident.” (Id. at 3:14-20.). 19 Finally, Plaintiff argues that Defendants inappropriately invoke an attorney-client privilege as 20 the reason for not providing an answer to Interrogatories #17 and #18. Plaintiff requests the 21 court to compel further Responses to Interrogatories Nos. 1, 2, and 7-18. 22 23 Plaintiff=s Motion To Compel Defendants oppose Plaintiff‟s motion on the ground that they properly responded and/or objected to Plaintiff‟s first set of interrogatories to Officers Szalai and Alvarez. 24 B. 25 Plaintiff has not met his burden of informing the court, for each disputed response, why 26 the information sought is relevant and why the responding party's objections are not 27 meritorious. Plaintiff fails to inform the court to whom he propounded the Interrogatories, and 28 he has not submitted copies of the Interrogatories and Responses at issue. Plaintiff refers to Discussion 4 1 “Appendix J, Interrogatory Requests and Responses,” but no attachments, appendices, or 2 copies of the Interrogatories and Responses were submitted in support of the motion to compel. 3 (Motion at 2:24-25.) The parties‟ pleadings, in themselves, do not offer sufficient information 4 for the court to fairly resolve Plaintiff‟s motion to compel on the merits.2 Therefore, Plaintiff‟s 5 motion to compel must be denied. 6 VI. 7 8 CONCLUSION Based on the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff=s motion to compel, filed on January 29, 2015, is DENIED. 9 10 11 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: May 16, 2015 /s/ Gary S. Austin UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 In their opposition, Defendants identify the discovery at issue as their Responses to Plaintiff‟s “first set of interrogatories to Officers Szalai and Alvarez,” asserting that Plaintiff seeks the name and title of the third-party who signed certain General Chronos; whether the information contained in the General Chronos was reported to various third parties; and information pertaining to why defendants failed to inform defense counsel of the existence of the General Chronos. Defendants refer individually to several of the Interrogatories and Responses at issue; however, they have not reproduced them or submitted copies of them. 5

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