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Johnson v. East Baton Rouge School System

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

January 19, 2018

TABBATHA JOHNSON
v.
EAST BATON ROUGE SCHOOL SYSTEM

          ORDER

          RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Compel (R. Doc. 55) filed on October 20, 2017. The motion is opposed. (R. Docs. 56, 65).

         Also before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Depose Plaintiff Beyond the Discovery Deadline (R. Doc. 71) filed on December 7, 2017. The motion is opposed. (R. Doc. 87). Defendant has filed a Reply. (R. Doc. 99).

         Also before the Court is Defendant's Second Motion to Compel (R. Doc. 78) filed on December 15, 2017. The motion is opposed. (R. Doc. 100).

         Oral argument on the foregoing motions was held on January 9, 2018. (R. Doc. 108).

         I. Background

         Tabbatha Johnson (“Plaintiff”) is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. (R. Doc. 3). Plaintiff brings this employment discrimination against Plaintiff's former employer, East Baton Rouge School System (“Defendant”), pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and various Louisiana state statutes. (R. Docs 1, 40).

         Plaintiff alleges that while employed at Glasgow Middle School, a data breach occurred and staff members were coerced into participating in a cover up. Plaintiff alleges that her employment was terminated in retaliation for her refusal to participate in the cover up. Plaintiff raises a wide-range of claims “[b]ased on [whistleblower protection] for public employees, retaliation/reprisal, conspiracy, COBRA notification violation, harassment, racial discrimination, defamation, and forgery.” (R. Doc. 40 at 1). With regard to damages, Plaintiff seeks reinstatement of her employment, lost income and benefits, statutory penalties, damages related to emotional stress, and punitive and compensatory damages. (R. Doc. 40 at 4).

         On July 7, 2017, Defendant served Plaintiff with eleven interrogatories and sixteen requests for production, and requested available dates for a deposition. (R. Doc. 55-1).

         On August 11, 2017, Defendant inquired into the status of Plaintiff's discovery responses and available deposition dates. (R. Doc. 55-2). Plaintiff requested an extension to provide responses in light of her desire to obtain third-party discovery, and subsequently agreed to provide responses by August 20, 2017. (R. Doc. 55-4). In her written responses provided on August 20, 2017, Plaintiff objected to the discovery requests on the basis that they were overly broad, unduly burdensome, not proportional to the needs of the case, and/or the information sought was protected pursuant to the work product doctrine. (R. Doc. 55-5). Defendant represents that Plaintiff did not produce any documents or dates for her deposition. (R. Doc. 55-14 at 3).

         On August 24, 2017, Defendant sent Plaintiff a letter requesting supplemental discovery responses, including a privilege log, and deposition dates by September 1, 2017. (R. Doc. 55-6).

         On August 29, 2017, the Court held a telephone status conference at Defendant's request (R. Doc. 45), and subsequently extended the non-expert discovery deadline to December 15, 2017 (R. Doc. 47).

         On September 5, 2017, Plaintiff informed Defendant that she was working on providing “complete responsive documents” and a privilege log. (R. Doc. 55-7).

         On September 20, 2017, Plaintiff provided her supplemental responses and a privilege log identifying 12 withheld documents. (R. Doc. 55-10). Defendant represents that Plaintiff produced six documents and failed to provide an available date for her deposition. (R. Doc. 55-14 at 4).

         On September 27, 2017, the parties held a discovery conference, and Plaintiff agreed to supplement certain responses by October 6, 2017. (R. Doc. 55-11).

         On October 6, 2017, Plaintiff provided second supplemental responses for Interrogatory Nos. 1-11, and Request for Production Nos. 1-11. (R. Doc. 55-12). Among other things, Plaintiff stated that she has “no reason” to amend her previous responses to the requests for production and certain interrogatories. Plaintiff indicated that she was available to have her deposition taken on November 1, 2, or 3. Plaintiff subsequently produced 10 responsive documents and copies of two subpoenas. (R. Doc. 55-13).

         On October 20, 2017, Defendant filed its First Motion to Compel. (R. Doc. 55). Defendant seeks supplemental productions in response to Interrogatory Nos. 2, 3, 5, 8, 11, and Request for Production Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, and 15. Defendant also seeks an order allowing them to depose Plaintiff after the supplemental responses have been provided. In opposition, Plaintiff represents that she “has now produced nearly fifty pages of responsive documents.” (R. Doc. 56). Plaintiff does not, however, provide any substantive arguments in support of her refusal to provide supplemental responses to the foregoing discovery requests.

         On December 3, 2017, Plaintiff provided Defendant with an updated privilege log identifying additional withheld audio recordings and her EEOC charge. (R. Doc. 78-17).

         On December 7, 2017, Defendant filed its motion requesting that it be allowed to depose Plaintiff beyond the current discovery deadline of December 15, 2017. (R. Doc. 71). In opposition, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant has been negligent in not securing documents necessary to take Plaintiff's deposition and that there is not good cause for modification of the discovery deadline. (R. Doc. 87).

         On December 15, 2017, Defendant filed its Second Motion to Compel. (R. Doc. 78). Defendant seeks an order compelling Plaintiff to “(a) produce responsive documents that are complete and legible, (b) supplement her Initial Disclosures to comply with FRCP 26(a), (c) produce copies of subpoenas served on third parties and information received in response to those subpoenas, and (d) produce audio recordings and the EEOC charge of Walita Paul. . . .” (R. Doc. 78 at 1).

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Legal Standards

         “Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged 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). The court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery 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 proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C).

         “The court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). Rule 26(c)'s “good cause” requirement indicates that the party seeking a protective order has the burden “to show the necessity of its issuance, which contemplates a particular and specific demonstration of fact as distinguished from stereotyped and conclusory statements.” In re Terra Int'l, Inc., 134 F.3d 302, 306 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting United States v. Garrett, 571 F.2d 1323, 1326 n.3 (5th Cir. 1978)).

         Rules 33 and 34 provide a party with 30 days after service of the discovery to respond or object. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(2) and 34(b)(2)(A). If a party fails to respond fully to discovery requests made pursuant as to Rules 33 and 34 in the time allowed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the party seeking discovery may move to compel disclosure and for appropriate sanctions under Rule 37. An “evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer, or response must be treated as a failure to disclose, answer or respond.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4).

         Rule 16(b)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows for the modification of a scheduling order deadline upon a showing of good cause and with the judge's consent. The Fifth Circuit has explained that a party is required “to show that the deadlines cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party needing the extension.” Marathon Fin. Ins. Inc., RRG v. Ford Motor Co., 591 F.3d 458, 470 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting S&W Enters., LLC v. Southtrust Bank of Ala., NA, 315 F.3d 533, 535 (5th Cir. 2003)).

         B. Defendant's First Motion to Compel (R. Doc. 55)

         1. Plaintiff's Previous Legal Proceedings and Work History

         Interrogatory Nos. 2, 3, 5, and 11 seek information regarding Plaintiff's previous legal proceedings and work history. The discovery requests, and Plaintiff's most recent supplemental responses, are as follows:

Interrogatory No. 2:
Please list each and every grievance, lawsuit or other legal or administrative proceeding, including criminal charges, EEOC charges, workers' compensation claims and unemployment claims, in which plaintiff has been a party, including the caption of the lawsuit or proceeding, the court or agency in which it was pending, the case or matter number, the general nature of the case or proceeding, and the outcome.
Plaintiff's October 6, 2017 Response to Interrogatory No. 2:
Plaintiff objects because it is overly broad. Because it seeks information that is irrelevant and not proportional to the needs of the case. Plaintiff will produce copies of Social security determination and unemployment claims since termination.
Interrogatory No. 3:
For all employers for whom plaintiff has worked subsequent to the date on which her employment with the School System ended, please state:
a. the name of the employer;
b. the address and telephone number of the employer;
c. the dates of plaintiff's employment;
d. plaintiff's rate of pay and total earnings received from the employer; and
e. if plaintiff is no longer employed with the employer, the reason for her termination.
Plaintiff's October 6, 2017 Response to Interrogatory No. 3:
Plaintiff will subpoena documentation to produce for this request. Plaintiff will ...

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