Woodson v. Rodriguez et al

Filing 119

ORDER REGARDING 114 MARCH 1, 2011 JOINT DISCOVERY LETTER. Signed by Judge Beeler on 3/10/11. (lblc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/10/2011)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 12 For the Northern District of California UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT Northern District of California Oakland Division THOMAS RAY WOODSON, Plaintiff, v. J. RODRIGUEZ, et al., No. C 07-04925 CW (LB) ORDER REGARDING MARCH 1, 2011 JOINT DISCOVERY LETTER [ECF No. 114] 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Citations are to the Clerk's Electronic Case File (ECF) with pin cites to numbers at the top (as opposed to the bottom) of the page. C 07-04925 CW (LB) ORDER RE 3/1/11 DISCOVERY LETTER 1 Defendants. _____________________________________/ I. INTRODUCTION This case involves Plaintiff Thomas Ray Woodson's claim that prison guards at Salinas Valley State Prison used excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. 1983 during a search of his cell in March 2006. See Complaint, ECF No. 1.1 The district court referred discovery disputes to this court. II. PENDING DISCOVERY DISPUTE The parties originally filed a joint discovery letter on January 12, 2011 in which Plaintiff sought disclosure by Defendants of its operational policies about alarms. 1/12/11 Discovery Letter, ECF No. 105 at 1-2. In its February 15, 2011 order, this court ordered Defendants to submit the alarm policy for in camera review and also for the parties to submit a joint letter brief if they had any 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 12 For the Northern District of California additional facts relevant to the court's inquiry. 2/15/11 Order, ECF No. 112 at 7. Pursuant to that order, the parties submitted a joint discovery letter on March 1, 2011. 3/1/11 Discovery Letter, ECF No. 114. Plaintiff argues that the alarm protocol is relevant because evidence produced by Defendants indicates that someone sounded a personal alarm during the March 23, 2006 incident at issue in this case. Id. at 1. Therefore, Plaintiff is entitled to know the policies and procedures pertaining to the triggering of an alarm and the appropriate response thereto. Id. Plaintiff also argues that the alarm procedures are relevant to determining whether the conduct of the officers involved in the incident exceeded the scope of reasonable conduct that is outlined in the alarm policy. Id. at 2. Lastly, Plaintiff contends that Defendants have failed to demonstrate that the official privilege should apply because they have not shown why the July 1, 2010 protective order is inadequate to address their concerns. Id. Defendants respond stating that the alarm protocol contains "critical prison-security information that, if disclosed, could endanger prison staff and inmates and compromise tactical responses to prison emergencies." Id. Furthermore, the alarm response is irrelevant because the issue in this case is whether the officers involved in the incident used excessive force. The alarm protocol does not make Plaintiff's claim of excessive force any more or less probable. Id. at 3. Likewise, information concerning the number of officers present during the incident does not make Plaintiff's excessive force claims any more or less probable. Id. Defendants also argue that Plaintiff has already deposed all guards involved and the alarm protocol will not assist him in determining the officers' states of mind during the incident. Id. at 3-4. After considering the parties' arguments and reviewing the alarm protocol itself, the court holds that the protocol is not relevant to a claim or defense, and therefore, it is not discoverable. This case is about whether five officers used excessive force on Plaintiff in violation of the Eight Amendment to the Constitution. Plaintiff deposed the officers involved and obtained discovery regarding the incident, including incident reports. According to Sergeant Kircher and Officer Cano, Sergeant Kircher ordered Officer Cano to sound the alarm, and Officer Cano did. Officers then responded to the alarm. The facts about the incident matter to whether or not the officers used excessive force, C 07-04925 CW (LB) ORDER RE 3/1/11 DISCOVERY LETTER 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 12 For the Northern District of California and the alarm protocol itself does not contain information bearing on the ultimate inquiry under the Eighth Amendment about whether the officers acted "maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986) (quotation and citation omitted). Moreover, the alarm protocol contains security information that if released, would compromise tactical responses to prison alarms and endanger the safety of inmates, correctional officers, and other prison staff. See Ibanez v. Miller, No. CIV S-06-2668 JAM EFB P, 2009 WL 3481679, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 22, 2009). The serious consequences of disclosure teamed with the attenuated relevance of the alarm protocol supports the court's conclusion that it is not discoverable. See id. at *3 (holding that alarm protocols were not discoverable where its relevance to the plaintiff's claims was attenuated). Plaintiff suggests that a protective order would be sufficient to address Defendants' concerns. ECF No. 114 at 2. The court disagrees. The alarm protocol is not relevant (or at best is marginally relevant), and the consequences of disclosure are serious. In this situation, the protective order will not adequately address Defendants' concerns for safety and security. Accordingly, Plaintiff's request for the alarm protocol is denied. III. CONCLUSION Plaintiff's request for disclosure of the alarm protocol is denied. This disposes of ECF No. 114. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: March 10, 2011 _______________________________ LAUREL BEELER United States Magistrate Judge 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 C 07-04925 CW (LB) ORDER RE 3/1/11 DISCOVERY LETTER 3

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