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June Medical Services LLC v. Gee

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

October 23, 2018

JUNE MEDICAL SERVICES, LLC, d/b/a HOPE MEDICAL GROUP FOR WOMEN, on behalf of its patients, physicians, and staff, ET AL.
v.
REBEKAH GEE, in her official capacity as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, ET AL.

          ORDER

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

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' First Motion to Compel Discovery. (R. Doc. 129). The Motion is Opposed. (R. Doc. 146). Plaintiffs have filed a Reply. (R. Doc. 156). Oral argument was held on September 20, 2018. (R. Doc. 191).

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs initiated this litigation with the filing of their Complaint (R. Doc. 1) on July 1, 2016. They filed a First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (R. Doc. 22) on December 16, 2016, and a Second Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (R. Doc. 88) on December 8, 2017. Defendants filed their Answer (R. Doc. 90) to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint on December 22, 2017.

         Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief, challenging the constitutionality of six bills passed by the Louisiana Legislature during its 2016 Regular Session, as well as two emergency regulations. (R. Doc. 1 at 2). Plaintiffs are comprised of three medical doctors, appearing on behalf of themselves and their patients, as well as June Medical Services, LLC, d/b/a Hope Medical Group for Women (“Hope”), a women's reproductive health clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana. (R. Doc. 88 at 5).

         Plaintiffs assert that the six bills passed and two emergency regulations impose unconstitutional requirements on women seeking abortions, women's ability to obtain-and doctors' ability to provide-certain types of abortions at particular points past the last menstrual period, and the availability of abortion services in Louisiana. Plaintiffs also assert that these bills and regulations violate their due process and equal protection rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (R. Doc. 88 at 34-39).

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Legal Standard

         “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).

         Rule 34 provides a party with 30 days after service of the discovery to respond or object. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(2)(A). If a party fails to respond fully to discovery requests made pursuant to Rule 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).

         B. Analysis

         Plaintiffs do not seek to compel response to any particular production request they propounded to Defendant Landry, but rather argue that Landry “unilaterally limited his search to e-mails” for the year prior to the initiation of this litigation. (R. Doc. 129-1 at 1). Plaintiffs suggest that, by not searching for documents beyond emails, Defendant Landry failed to make a reasonable inquiry to find responsive documents. (R. Doc. 129-1 at 3). Defendants' position is that Landry's search was reasonable, including interviews to identify the potential sources of responsive documents, and the email search of 23 custodians. (R. Doc. 146 at 1-2). Defendants argue that any additional search “would be unlikely to uncover responsive documents that would not also be captured by a search of email, ” and “would likely only lead to a privilege log, which in turn would not disclose details of many documents.” (R. Doc. 146 at 2-3).

         Counsel for Defendant Landry reiterated at oral argument their position that anything responsive but not privileged would be duplicative of what the search of email returned, and that anything else would be privileged. However, counsel for Plaintiffs noted that they possessed a letter dated June 8 that was not produced. Upon questioning, counsel for Defendant Landry confirmed that this letter was also sent to other abortion providers, and was responsive to Plaintiffs' production requests, but could not explain why it had not been produced.

         The Court also questioned counsel regarding whether Defendant Landry had provided Plaintiffs with the search terms and methodology used to locate responsive documents. Counsel for Defendant Landry indicated that information had not been provided, and suggested that the justification for same ...


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