Bell v. Lee et al

Filing 116

ORDER RE (1) MOTION TO QUASH, (2) APPLICATION FOR ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE, AND (3) IN CAMERA REVIEW 91 94 . (Illston, Susan) (Filed on 5/11/2017)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 VINCENT KEITH BELL, Plaintiff, 8 9 v. 10 KEN LEE, et al., United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Case No. 13-cv-05820-SI Defendants. ORDER RE (1) MOTION TO QUASH, (2) APPLICATION FOR ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE, AND (3) IN CAMERA REVIEW Re: Dkt. Nos. 91, 94 12 13 14 Plaintiff Vincent Keith Bell moves to quash document subpoenas served on his former 15 criminal counsel, Alexandria Carl, and private investigator, Marcel Myres. Motion to Quash (Dkt. 16 No. 91). Defendants filed a Notice and Application for an Order to Show Cause for Contempt of 17 Court Citation for Alexandria Carl and Marcel Myres for Failure to Serve Proper Responses to 18 Rule 45 Subpoenas, or in the Alternative, Motion to Stay Civil Proceedings. Dkt. No. 94. For the 19 reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES plaintiff’s motion to quash, GRANTS defendants’ 20 request to compel production pursuant to the subpoenas, as modified herein, and DENIES 21 defendants’ request for an order to show cause. 22 The hearing on defendants’ motion to stay remains set for May 12, 2017. The parties 23 should be prepared to discuss: 1) the current status of the criminal proceeding against plaintiff; 24 2) the potential implications to plaintiff’s Fifth Amendment rights from this case; 3) whether 25 plaintiff opposes a stay in light of the Court’s ruling on the motion to quash; and 4) the recently 26 filed discovery disputes (Dkt. Nos. 111, 113). Materials responsive to the subpoenas need not be 27 produced until after the Court hears and resolves the motion to stay. 28 1 Additionally, the parties previously filed a discovery dispute regarding production of 2 documents related to past use of force accusations against defendants. Dkt. No. 88. The Court 3 ordered defendants to produce excessive force complaints against them for the past five years 4 (April 2012 – April 2017) and agreed to review in camera any complaints predating April 2012. 5 Dkt. No. 99. Defendants produced materials for in camera review on April 21, 2017. Having 6 reviewed the materials, the Court ORDERS defendants to produce to plaintiff the SFSD Internal 7 Affairs Files A09132 (bates stamped 502 – 678) and A08166 (bates stamped 999 – 1013). 8 BACKGROUND 9 Since December 2012, Bell has been in the custody of the San Francisco Sheriff’s 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Department at the San Francisco County Jail awaiting trial on pending criminal charges.1 In 12 December 2013, he filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that several deputies at the 13 jail used excessive force against him on August 13, 2013.2 Dkt. Nos. 1, 5. Bell proceeded pro se 14 in this matter until counsel was appointed on October 24, 2016. Dkt. No. 68. The issues related to 15 the pending motions arise from events occurring before the appointment of counsel. 16 Defendants initially noticed Bell’s deposition for June 26, 2015. Declaration of Elizabeth 17 K. McCloskey (Dkt. No. 91-1), Ex. 1 (Dkt. No. 91-2). The deposition subpoena requested that 18 Bell bring various documents, including “[a]ll photographs related to or relevant to the subject 19 matter of the incidents alleged . . . .” Id. Bell purportedly did not have access to a computer to 20 review defendants’ electronic discovery and he did not appear for deposition on that date. 21 McCloskey Decl., Ex. 2 at 5:20 – 6:7. However, Alexandria Carl, Bell’s criminal defense counsel 22 at the time, appeared and stated, “[M]y attendance at his deposition is solely for the purpose of 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 The People of the State of California v. Brackens, et al., Case No. 12031967. Defendants indicated that trial was scheduled to begin April 21, 2017. Declaration of Susan J. Kawala (Dkt. No. 95) ¶ 3. Bell is currently appearing pro per in the criminal matter. 2 Bell also alleged claims for retaliation and due process violations during disciplinary hearings. The Court previously granted defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment on these claims. Dkt. No. 48. 2 1 ensuring the exercise of his Fifth Amendment rights as it relates to his pending criminal matter.” 2 Id. at 5:16-19. 3 On August 13, 2015, defendants deposed Bell. See McCloskey Decl., Ex. 3; First 4 Declaration of Brian P. Ceballo (Dkt. No. 96), Ex. A. Carl appeared on Bell’s behalf, but the 5 parties seemingly dispute whether her role was again limited to asserting Bell’s Fifth Amendment 6 rights. See Pl.’s Motion to Quash (Dkt. No. 91) at 3; Ceballo Decl. ¶¶ 4-5. In response to 7 defendants’ request, Bell asked Carl to bring certain materials in her possession to the deposition 8 and he did not review the materials before the deposition. McCloskey Decl., Ex. 3 at 18:20-24, 9 21:7-9. Among these materials, Bell presented 16 photographs (three duplicates), which were marked as deposition Exhibits A-1 through A-13. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Id. at 22:5-6. Bell represented that the photographs showed his injuries resulting from the alleged use of excessive force. See, e.g., id. at 12 24:18-25, 25:1-10, 28:22-23. When asked when the photographs were taken, Bell stated August 13 14, 2013—the day after the underlying incident. Id. at 21:22-25, 23:9-11, 27:23-25. He also 14 asserted that his investigator took the photographs. Id. at 33:1-4. 15 In preparation for a deposition subpoena, counsel for defendants requested and received 16 from Carl the contact information for Marcel Myres, the former private investigator for Bell’s 17 criminal case. Second Declaration of Brian P. Ceballo, Ex. B (Dkt. No. 101-3). On October 7, 18 2015, defendants served a subpoena on Myres, Bell’s private investigator for his criminal case, 19 seeking production of “[a]ny and all billing records for the period of time June 2013 through 20 September 2013 pertaining to work performed on behalf of Alexandria Karl as it relates to 21 plaintiff Vincent Keith Bell.” McCloskey Decl., Ex. 4 (Dkt. No. 91-5). That day, Carl emailed 22 defendants’ counsel that she had instructed Myres not to disclose any privileged materials or work 23 product, including copies of his billing records and communications with Carl. Second Ceballo 24 Decl., Ex. B. 25 26 On December 14, 2015, defendants deposed Myres.3 McCloskey Decl., Ex. 6 (Dkt. No. 91-7); Second Ceballo Decl., Ex. D (Dkt. No. 101-5). It appears that no one attended the 27 3 28 Bell claims that he did not receive notice of Myres’s deposition. Pl.’s Mot. to Quash at 4. However, defendants produced the notice of Myres’s December 14, 2015 deposition served on 3 1 deposition on behalf of Bell. Id. Myres testified that he took the photographs of Bell in June 2 2013, but was not certain about the date. McCloskey Decl., Ex. 6 at 11:5-10, 24:17-15. Myres 3 also stated that he ended his work on Bell’s case in “late July 2013.” Id. at 10:13. Given the discrepancy in Bell’s and Myres’s testimony regarding the dates the photographs 5 were taken, defendants issued document subpoenas to Carl and Myres seeking billing records and 6 invoices. 7 photographs taken of Vincent Bell in 2013.” McCloskey Decl., Ex. 7 (Dkt. No. 91-8). From Carl, 8 defendants seek “[i]nvoices and billing records pertaining to photographs taken of Vincent Bell in 9 August of 2013.” McCloskey Decl., Ex. 8 (Dkt. No. 91-9). Carl and Myres filed objections to the 10 subpoenas, asserting that the material was covered by the attorney-client privilege and work 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 4 product doctrine. Kawala Decl., Exs. C, D. Defense counsel then requested that Carl and Myres 12 provide a privilege log. Kawala Decl., Exs. E, F. Carl responded on behalf of herself and Myres, 13 stating that a privilege log is not necessary because “[t]here is no question that invoices and billing 14 records, which would describe the nature of the services provided, are protected.” Kawala Decl., 15 Ex. G. From Myres, defendants subpoenaed “[i]nvoices and billing records pertaining to 16 Bell now moves to quash the subpoenas, arguing that they seek material covered by the 17 attorney-client privilege. Pl.’s Mot. to Quash (Dkt. No. 91). Defendants request an order to show 18 cause why Carl and Myres should not be held in contempt of court for failure to provide privilege 19 logs and, alternatively, move to stay these civil proceedings pending the termination of the 20 criminal case against Bell. Defs.’ Mot. (Dkt. No. 94). 21 22 23 LEGAL STANDARD “[P]re-trial discovery is ordinarily ‘accorded a broad and liberal treatment.’” Shoen v. 24 Shoen, 5 F.3d 1289, 1292 (9th Cir. 1993). “Parties may obtain discovery regarding any 25 nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs 26 27 28 plaintiff on October 30, 2015. Second Ceballo Decl., Ex. C (Dkt. No. 101-4). 4 1 of the case . . . . Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to 2 be discoverable.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). A court must limit the scope of discovery when: 3 4 5 (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 6 7 8 9 (iii) the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1). Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(a)(1)(C), a party may serve upon a nonparty a subpoena, commanding the non-party to produce documents. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 subpoena, the non-party may file a motion to quash or modify the subpoena with the issuing court. 12 Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(d)(3); S.E.C. v. CMKM Diamonds, Inc., 656 F.3d 829, 832 (9th Cir. 2011). 13 “Ordinarily a party has no standing to seek to quash a subpoena issued to someone who is not a 14 party to the action, unless the objecting party claims some personal right or privilege with regard 15 to the documents sought.” Crispin v. Christian Audigier, Inc., 717 F. Supp. 2d 965, 973 (C.D. 16 Cal. 2010). Under Rule 45(d)(3), the district court must quash or modify a subpoena that: Upon receipt of the 17 (i) fails to allow a reasonable time to comply; 18 (ii) requires a person to comply beyond the geographical limits specified in Rule 45(c); 19 20 (iii) requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or waiver applies; or 21 (iv) subjects a person to undue burden. 22 Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(d)(3). The party seeking to quash a subpoena bears the “burden of persuasion.” 23 In re Apple Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66669, at *4 (N.D. Cal. May 2, 2012); Moon v. SCP Pool 24 Corp., 232 F.R.D. 633, 637 (C.D. Cal. 2005). 25 26 DISCUSSION 27 The Court must decide whether the requested invoices and billing records are covered by 28 the attorney-client privilege and, if so, whether Bell waived that privilege. The Ninth Circuit has 5 1 “recognized that the identity of the client, the amount of the fee, the identification of payment by 2 case file name, and the general purpose of the work performed are usually not protected from 3 disclosure by the attorney-client privilege.” Clarke v. Am. Commerce Nat. Bank, 974 F.2d 127, 4 129 (9th Cir. 1992). However, “correspondence, bills, ledgers, statements, and time records which 5 also reveal the motive of the client in seeking representation, litigation strategy, or the specific 6 nature of the services provided, such as researching particular areas of law, fall within the 7 privilege.” Id. Plaintiff is correct that billing records and invoices in general may contain privileged 9 information. However, at the core of their request, defendants are seeking Carl’s and Myres’s 10 billing records to establish the date on which the photographs were taken. Unlike plaintiff’s cited 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 8 case, defendants here already know the “specific nature of the services provided”: 12 photographs of Bell. See Real v. Continental Group, Inc., 116 F.R.D. 211, 214 (N.D. Cal. 1986). 13 Both Bell and Myres disclosed that Myres took the photographs at issue. Bell has not put forth 14 any reason for why the privilege should apply to the date that service was rendered. The Court 15 finds that, at least under these circumstances, disclosing the date that the photographs were taken 16 as reflected in the billing records and invoices will not reveal Bell’s litigation strategy or the 17 specific nature of the services provided. Therefore, this information is not privileged and the 18 Court need not reach the issue of waiver. taking 19 Bell also argues that defendants have no need for the requested information because he has 20 offered to not rely on the photographs in any way in this case so long as defendants withdraw the 21 subpoenas. Pl.’s Mot. to Quash at 7. Although Bell’s offer obviates defendants’ need to defend 22 against the use of the photographs as affirmative proof of Bell’s excessive force claim, it does not 23 address the issue of Bell’s credibility. Thus, the requested material is still relevant, despite Bell’s 24 offer to not rely on the photographs. Whether or not the subpoenaed materials are ultimately 25 admissible at trial is an issue for another day, but they are at least discoverable. 26 However, the Court finds it appropriate to modify the subpoenas. Defendants state that the 27 “documents requested in this case pertain to billing records only related to when the 16 28 photographs, offered as evidence by Plaintiff, were taken.” Defs.’ Opp’n (Dkt. No. 100) at 5. Yet 6 1 the subpoenas are not so narrowly drawn. Rather, they seek the records related to any photographs 2 taken of Bell (rather than just those produced at his deposition) in either August 2013 or all of 3 2013. Defendants are not entitled to production of billing records to the extent that they reveal 4 other services provided by Bell’s former criminal defense team or Bell’s litigation strategy. See 5 Clarke, 974 F.2d at 129. Therefore, the subpoenas are modified to request the following: 6 7 Invoices and billing records pertaining to only the photographs identified by Bell during his deposition (marked deposition Exhibits A-1 through A-13). 8 If further clarification is needed, these photographs are available on the record in this case. See 9 Second Ceballo Decl., Ex. A (Dkt. No. 101-2). Any information unrelated to the photographs at 10 issue that is reflected on responsive billing records and invoices may be redacted. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Finally, the Court denies defendants’ application for an order to show cause for why Carl 12 and Myres should not be held in contempt for failure to produce documents or serve privilege 13 logs. A contempt of court citation is not warranted here. Defendants cannot reasonably argue that 14 they do not know the nature of the documents withheld such that they have been prejudiced by not 15 receiving a privilege log. 16 CONCLUSION 17 18 The Court, therefore, DENIES plaintiff’s motion to quash, GRANTS defendants’ request 19 to compel production in accordance with the subpoenas, as modified by this Order, and DENIES 20 defendants’ request for an order to show cause for contempt of court citation. The hearing on 21 defendants’ request to stay this action remains set for hearing on May 12, 2017. Carl and Myres 22 need not produce materials responsive to the subpoenas until after the Court issues a decision on 23 the motion to stay. 24 25 26 27 28 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: May 11, 2017 ______________________________________ SUSAN ILLSTON United States District Judge 7

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