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Jones v. Skolnik

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 12, 2014

HOWARD SKOLNIK, et al., Defendants.


VALERIE P. COOKE, District Judge.

Before the court are several discovery motions: defendant Mustafaa's motion for protective order (#279/296);[1] plaintiff's motion to compel discovery from defendant Mustafaa (#281); defendant Schultz's motion for a protective order (#284); plaintiff's motion to compel defendant Berry to answer deposition questions (#293); and plaintiff's motion to compel Berry to produce documents and for sanctions (#302).

I. Legal Standards

Generally, parties "may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Information that may not be admissible at trial is nevertheless discoverable if it is "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Id.

The district court has broad discretion in controlling discovery. Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002). Rule 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that the court may, for good cause, issue an order forbidding or limiting certain discovery in order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression or undue burden or expense. Rule 26(b)(2)(C) provides that on motion or on its own, the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by the rules if it determines that (i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.

Requests for admissions are "first, to facilitate proof with respect to issues that cannot be eliminated from the case, and second to narrow the issues by eliminating those that can be. The rule is not to be used in an effort to harass the other side...." Conlon v. United States, 474 F.3d 616, 622 (9th Cir. 2007). Requests for admission are designed to limit factual issues in the case. Tracchia v. Tilton, 2008 WL 5382253 *2 (E.D.Cal.2008); citing Henry v. Champlain Enterprises, Inc., 212 F.R.D. 73, 77 (N.D.N.Y.2003). "Although the rule permits a party to ask another party to admit the truth of the application of law to facts, ' requests for admission should not be used to demand that the other party admit the truth of a legal conclusion, '" Tracchia, 2008 WL 5382253 *2, quoting Disability Rights Council v. Wash. Metro. Area, 234 F.R.D. 1, 3 (D.C.Cir.2006); Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(1).

The party seeking the protective order bears the burden of persuasion under Rule 26(c). Russo v. Lopez, 2012 WL 1463591 *3 (D. Nev. 2012), citing U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Caesars Entertainment, Inc., 237 F.R.D. 428, 432 (D.Nev.2006). In order to meet that burden, the movant must demonstrate a particular need for the protection sought. The rule requires more than "broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning." Id. The movant must point to specific facts that support the request, "as opposed to conclusory or speculative statements about the need for a protective order and the harm which will be suffered without one." Id. A mere showing that the discovery may involve some inconvenience or expense is insufficient to establish good cause under Rule 26(c). Id. ; see also, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Tracinda Corporation, 175 F.R.D. 554, 556 (D.Nev.1997).

II. Defendant Mustafaa's Motion for Protective Order

On April 10, 2014, defendant Mustafaa filed a motion for protective order, seeking relief from responding to plaintiff's Fourth and Fifth Sets of requests for admission in their entirety (#279). Plaintiff opposed (#298), and defendant replied (#308).

Mustafaa attaches to his motion five sets of requests for admissions propounded on him by plaintiff: set one - sixty requests; set two - nineteen requests; set three - twelve requests; set four - twelve requests; set five - eighteen requests, for a total of one hundred twenty-one requests (#296, Exhibits B-F). He states that he has responded to the first three sets, providing ninety-one responses (#296, p. 3). Plaintiff has also propounded two sets of requests for interrogatories on Mustafaa, for a total of twenty requests, four sets of requests for production, for a total of forty-four requests, as well as numerous discovery dispute letters and motions. Id.

Mustafaa argues that plaintiff, a pro se inmate litigant, has monopolized the discovery process, leaving defendants little time to propound discovery on him. Id. While the court is not unsympathetic to defendant's position, courts do not readily grant protective orders against an entire set of discovery requests on the grounds that the number of requests is excessive. Russo, 2012 WL 1463561 *3, citing Lurensky v. Wellinghoff, 258 F.R.D. 27 (D.D.C.2009). Thus, the court has considered each of defendant's specific objections in turn and, good cause appearing, rules as set forth below.

The motion for protective order is granted as to the following Requests for Admissions ("RFA"): Fourth Set: #s 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 100, 101, 102; Fifth Set: #s 104, 105, 107-117, 121. The court shall not require Mustafaa to respond to the RFAs listed above.

The motion for protective order is denied as to the following RFAs: Fourth Set: #s 98, 99, 103; Fifth Set: #s 106, 118, 119, 120. Mustafaa shall respond to these RFAs ...

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