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Lafleur v. Leglue

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 10, 2017

LONDI L. LAFLEUR
v.
KARLEEN LEGLUE, ET AL.

          ORDER

          RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court are the Motion for Protective Order (R. Doc. 69) filed by Defendants Sheriff Jason Ard and Warden Perry Rushing on May 5, 2017, and the Motion to Compel (R. Doc. 74) filed by Plaintiff on May 30, 2017. Opposition (R. Doc. 73) to the Motion for Protective Order was filed by Plaintiff on May 30, 2017, and Opposition (R. Doc. 86) to the Motion to Compel was filed by Defendants on June 9, 2017. With leave of court granted on June 12, 2017 (R. Doc. 82), Defendants Ard and Rushing filed their Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion for Protective Order (R. Doc. 85). With leave of Court granted on June 29, 2017 (R. Doc. 89), Plaintiff filed a Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion to Compel (R. Doc. 90).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Londi L. Lafleur (“Lafleur”) initiated this action with the filing of her Complaint on April 20, 2016. (R. Doc. 1). On October 21, 2016, Plaintiff propounded her First Set of Interrogatories (R. Doc. 74-2), First Set of Requests for Production of Documents (R. Doc. 74-3), and First Set of Requests for Admission of Fact (R. Doc. 74-4) (collectively, “Discovery Requests”) on Defendant Sheriff Jason Ard (“Ard”). Defendant Ard provided his initial responses to Plaintiff's Discovery Requests on March 3, 2017. Then, on May 5, 2017, Defendant Ard supplemented his discovery with additional written responses and document production.

         Meanwhile, certain depositions were scheduled and conducted on May 1, 2017. Although the parties dispute the sufficiency of the meeting, a discovery conference was held on May 2, 2017. On May 3, 2017, counsel for Plaintiff provided Defendant with an Index of Deficiencies. Defendant filed his Motion for Protective Order (R. Doc. 69) on May, 5, 2017, and Plaintiff filed her Motion to Compel (R. Doc. 74) on May 30, 2017. Both motions have been fully briefed.

         II. Law and Analysis

         “Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). To be relevant, “information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The scope of discovery is not without limits, however, and the court may protect a party from responding to discovery when: (i) it is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or obtainable from some other less-burdensome source; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had the opportunity by discovery in the action to obtain the information sought; or (iii) the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1). Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2).

         A party may withhold information which would be otherwise discoverable on the basis of privilege. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). A party withholding information on the basis of privilege must expressly make the claim and describe the nature of the document being withheld. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5).

         Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the service of written interrogatories. A party seeking discovery under Rule 33 may serve interrogatories on any other party and the interrogatory “may relate to any matter that may be inquired into under Rule 26(b).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a)(2). “If the answer to an interrogatory may be determined by examining . . . a party's business records (including electronically stored information), and if the burden of deriving or ascertaining the answer will be substantially the same for either party, the responding party may answer by: (1) specifying the records that must be reviewed, in sufficient detail to enable the interrogating party to locate and identify them as readily as the responding party could; and (2) giving the interrogating party a reasonable opportunity to examine and audit the records and to make copies, compilations, abstracts, or summaries.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(d).

         Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the discovery of documents and tangible items. A party seeking discovery must serve a request for production on the party believed to be in possession, custody, or control of the documents or other evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). The request is to be in writing and must set forth, among other things, the desired items with “reasonable particularity.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(1)(A).

         The rules governing discovery are accorded a broad and liberal treatment to achieve their purpose of adequately informing litigants in civil trials. Hebert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 176 (1979). It is well established that the scope of discovery is within the sound discretion of the trial court. E.g., Quintero v. Klaveness Ship Lines, 914 F.2d 717, 724 (5th Cir. 1990) (“the district court has wide discretion in determining the scope and effect of discovery”).

         A. Rule 37 Conference

         Rule 37(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that any motion to compel “must include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to make disclosure or discovery in an effort to obtain it without court action.” Failure to comply with the meet and confer requirement may constitute sufficient reason to deny a motion to compel. Shaw Grp. Inc. v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., No. 12-257, 2014 WL 4373197, at *3 (M.D. La. Sept. 3, 2014); see also Forever Green Athletic Fields, Inc. v. Babcock Law Firm, LLC, No. 11-633 (M.D. La. July 2, 2014) (denying motion to compel where defense counsel made a single attempt by email to meet and confer and did not do so in a good faith effort to resolve the dispute without court intervention).

         Plaintiff's Motion to Compel contains a certification that “[u]ndersigned counsel hereby certifies that he has spoken in good faith with counsel for Defendants in an effort to resolve the discovery disputes raised in this motion before filing of same.” (R. Doc. 74 at 1). Plaintiff provides no further information with regard to the timing or content of the conference. Defendant, however, concedes that a Rule 37 meet-and-confer was held on May 2, 2017 and that Plaintiff provided an “Index of Deficiencies” on May 3, 2017, but posits that those two facts are insufficient to meet the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1).

         Other than somewhat conflicting statements made by counsel in briefing, the Court has no way of knowing the content of the May 2, 2017 conference held, but counsel for Plaintiff does certify a good faith effort to resolve the dispute prior to seeking court intervention. A brief telephone conference regarding certain specific items, followed by a written list of deficiencies that exceeds those topics, without further dialogue, is not sufficient under Fed.R.Civ.P. 37. Further, Defendant states on multiple occasions in his Opposition that, had Plaintiff conferred with Defendant as to all issues raised in her Motion to Compel, court intervention may not have been necessary. (R. Doc. 86 at 3, 6, 7, 10, 15).

         The Court orders the parties, in the future, to make all reasonable efforts to resolve discovery disputes prior to seeking court intervention, and notes that all efforts to resolve such discovery disputes should cover all of the potential disagreements upon which a party will file a motion if not resolved, and any such motion shall be limited to the discovery disputes the parties raised but were unable to resolve. Should any subsequent discovery disputes arise, followed by a proper meet-and-confer between the parties resulting in continued disagreement necessitating intervention by the Court, any Rule 37 certificate shall specifically set forth (1) how the conference was scheduled and agreed upon, (2) who participated in the conference, (3) when the conference took place, (4) whether the conference was conducted by phone or in person, (5) the duration of the conference, (6) the specific, itemized topics that were addressed at the conference, and (7) whether any issues were resolved by the parties.

         In light of the extensive briefing and upcoming deadlines, the Court will address the discovery at issue as appropriate under the circumstances despite the apparent insufficiency of the Rule 37 conference.

         B. Discovery Requests at Issue[1]

         1. Training Materials

         Plaintiff's Interrogatory Nos. 4, 5, and 6, and Request for Production Nos. 1, 2, and 3[2]seek information regarding training and educational materials provided by LPSO, as well as policies and procedures of LPSO. Defendant responded that such requests were overly broad, irrelevant, and not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.[3]The Interrogatories and Responses at issue are as follows:

INTERROGATORY NO. 4
Describe in detail all education, instructions, and training provided by or on behalf of LPSO to its employees relating to their work at LPSO during the period of Karleen Leglue's employment at LPSO. This is deemed to include but not be limited to any directives, guidelines, rules, policies or procedures for:
a. Handling and treatment of persons in custody of LPSO;
b. Use of force by LPSO employees on persons in custody;
c. Reporting and investigation of suspected criminal activity by LPSO employees;
d. Providing access to medical care for persons in custody of LPSO.
RESPONSE TO INTERROGATORY NO. 4
Defendant objects to Interrogatory No. 4 as overly broad and as seeking irrelevant information that is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Subject to said objections, defendant states that correctional officers are trained through the Louisiana Police Officer Standards and Training program. Defendant further directs plaintiff to the documents produced in response to Request for Production No. 1.
INTERROGATORY NO. 5
Describe in detail all directives, guidelines, regulations, rules, policies or procedures applicable to the work being performed by deputies for LPSO on January 26, 2016. This is deemed to include but not be limited to any directives, guidelines, rules, policies or procedures for:
a. Handling and treatment of persons in custody of LPSO;
b. Use of force by LPSO employees on persons in custody;
c. Reporting and investigation of suspected criminal activity by LPSO employees;
d. Providing access to medical care for persons in custody of LPSO.
RESPONSE TO INTERROGATORY NO. 5
See objections and response to Interrogatory No. 4.
INTERROGATORY NO. 6
How does LPSO define “excessive force” for its employees as that term relates to the use of force by LPSO employees on persons in the[ir] custody?
RESPONSE TO INTERROGATORY NO. 6
Defendant objects to Interrogatory No. 6 as seeking irrelevant information that is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Subject to said objection, the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office Operations Manual defines excessive force as “Any physical force which exceeds the degree of physical force permitted pursuant to State law. The use of excessive physical force shall be presumed when an officer continued to apply physical force ...

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