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Lewis v. Smith

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 21, 2018

CALVIN LEWIS
v.
RANDY SMITH, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE SHERIFF OF ST. TAMMANY PARISH

         SECTION: “M” (4)

          ORDER

          KAREN WELLS ROBY, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion to Compel (Rec. Doc. 11) filed by the Plaintiff, Calvin Lewis, seeking to compel Defendant, Sheriff Randy Smith, to adequately respond to Plaintiff's Request for Production of Documents. The Motion is opposed. Rec. Doc. 13. Oral argument was heard on November 14, 2018.

         I. Background

         a. The Complaint

         This matter was filed by a former Captain of the St. Tammany Parish Deputy who was terminated after he began an intimate relationship with a female who was in the prison work release program. He filed this suit against the Sheriff Randy Smith contending that the fraternization policy[1] which prohibited deputies from engaging in relationships with felons is unconstitutional because it is selectively applied to African Americans. He concedes in the complaint that he lives with his girlfriend and her two children and that doing so violates the office policy. He concedes that he was given a chance to comply with the policy or suffer termination. He opted for termination rather than leave his family. Rec. Doc. 1. He now contends that the fraternization policy violated his First and Fifth Amendment rights and are actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that they are constitutionally overbroad and vague, and selectively enforced.

         b. The Contested Discovery

         Lewis propounded Request for Production of Documents on Sheriff Smith which were largely responded with objections. Lewis now seeks to compel the Sheriff to respond and also to pay his attorneys fees and costs. Rec. Doc. 11.

         The Sheriff opposes the Motion, contending that (1) many of the disputed Request for Production of documents are now moot because they supplemented their response; (2) other Request for Production of Documents may be responded to once the Court enters Consent Protective Order (also filed on the day of his opposition); (3) the disputed Requests are overbroad and burdensome because Lewis failed to reasonably narrow his Requests; and (4) irrelevant because it seeks detailed personal information, including entire personnel files, of individuals not a party to this action. Rec. Doc. 13.

         II. Standard of Review

          Discovery of documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things is governed by Rule 34. Rule 34 allows a party to request the production of “any designated documents or electronically stored information” or “any tangible things.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1). Rules 33 and 34 allow a party to ask interrogatories and request production to the extent of Rule 26(b).

         Rule 26(b)(1) provides that parties may obtain discovery regarding relevant information to any claim or defense as long as it is nonprivileged. Rule 26(b)(1) specifies that “[i]nformation within the scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discovered.” Rule 26(b)(1) also specifies that discovery must be “proportional to the needs of the case, considering the important 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.” Id.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 37 provides that “[a] party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection. This motion may be made if: ... (iii) a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule 33, or (iv) a party fails to respond that inspection will be permitted-or fails to permit inspection-as requested under Rule 34.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B). An “evasive or incomplete” answer or production is treated the same as a complete failure to answer or produce. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4).

         A motion to compel under Rule 37(a) must also “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 ...


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