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Williams v. Corecivic, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 21, 2018

KENNETH W. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CORECIVIC, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Gerald L. Rushfelt U.S. Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court upon a motion, entitled Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion to Compel Discovery (ECF 42). Defendants ask the Court to overrule objections and order Plaintiff to supplement his responses to their discovery requests and to his Rule 26 disclosures. Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition (ECF 44), to which Defendants have replied (ECF 47). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

         I. Relevant Background

         Plaintiff filed this action, alleging Defendants discriminated against him while he was employed by CoreCivic of Tennessee, LLC.[1] On December 20, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to compel Plaintiff's Rule 26 disclosures.[2] Defendants alleged these disclosures had several deficiencies, including lack of specificity in his document categories, and failures to provide either a computation of damages or documents relating to damages.[3] Defendants say they notified Plaintiff of these perceived deficiencies, but he failed to supplement or confer in good faith about these concerns.[4] Plaintiff responded that he had acted in good faith and that any deficiencies were the result of his forced relocation after Defendants terminated his employment.[5]

         The Court held a hearing on January 9, 2018.[6] After considering Defendants' motion and hearing argument from the parties, the Court granted the motion and ordered Plaintiff to serve upon Defendants initial disclosures that fully complied with Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1)(A) within 14 days. Plaintiff submitted his supplemental Rule 26 disclosures on January 22, 2018.[7]

         After receiving an extension of time, Defendants filed the pending motion to compel Plaintiff to provide supplemental Rule 26 disclosures and respond to Defendants' First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production. Defendants say they have satisfied their preliminary obligations, as required by D. Kan. Rule 37.2.[8] They attached several emails between counsel, which also show that counsel discussed Plaintiff's responses and Defendants' suggested deficiencies by telephone.[9] The Court therefore finds the parties properly conferred.

         Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) sets out the general scope of discovery. It states:

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.

         Considerations of both relevance and proportionality now govern the scope of discovery.[10] Relevant information is “any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on” any party's claim or defense.[11] The 2015 amendment to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1) deleted the requirement that information must be “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, ” because it was often misused to define the scope of discovery and had the potential to “swallow any other limitation.”[12]

         “When the discovery sought appears relevant, the party resisting discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevancy by demonstrating that the requested discovery (1) does not come within the scope of relevancy as defined under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevancy that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.”[13]

         When the discovery sought is “overly broad on its face or when relevancy is not readily apparent, the party seeking the discovery has the burden to show the relevancy of the request.”[14]A request is overly broad on its face “if it is couched in such broad language as to make arduous the task of deciding which of numerous documents may conceivably fall within its scope.”[15] The Court considers the overall wording of a request in determining whether it is overly broad.[16]

         To succeed on a “vague and ambiguous” objection, the objecting party “must show that more tools beyond mere reason and common sense are necessary to attribute ordinary definitions to terms and phrases utilized.”[17]

         II. Analysis

         Defendants first argue Plaintiff makes general, conditional, and form objections to their discovery requests. They ask the Court to find these objections waived. They also ask the Court to compel further responses to their interrogatories and requests for production and to Plaintiff's supplemental Rule 26 disclosures.

         Plaintiff does not address many of Defendants' arguments in his response. He more simply says he has complied with the Order of January 9, 2018 and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, without any examples to support his statement. He says he has not withheld any documents or information “but simply asserted objections to certain discovery request (sic) to preserve them for trial.”[18] He also says he “even asked Defendants' counsel what they would propose is an adequate response that does not waive any objections on behalf of Plaintiff”, yet received no response.[19]

         A. General objections

         Plaintiff included a “general objections” section in his responses to both the interrogatories and the requests for production of documents.[20] Plaintiff then included objections to each of Defendants' discovery requests, but also provided an answer “subject to and without waiving the objection” to all but one interrogatory (No. 15), and all but one request for production (No. 26). Defendants do not ask the Court to compel supplemental responses to Interrogatory No. 15 or Request for Production No. 26.

         For his “general objections” to the interrogatories, Plaintiff states he “objects to interrogatories seeking information protected by the attorney-client privilege, the work product doctrine, or other applicable privilege or immunity.”[21] He also objects to the use of terms “such as ‘each, ' ‘any, ' and ‘all' because they are facially overbroad.”[22] Plaintiff then states he “incorporates these General Objections into each answer that follows.”[23] However, Plaintiff does not object to any particular interrogatory as facially overbroad. Finding none of the interrogatories to be facially overbroad, the Court rejects Plaintiff's objections that they are “vague and unsupported”[24]

         For his “general objections” to Defendants' requests for production of documents, Plaintiff states he objects to each request “insofar as” it calls for documents that are not in his control, that were prepared for or in anticipation of litigation, that constitute work product or contain attorney-client communications or another privilege, that are publicly available, that “do not specifically refer to the events which are the subject matter of this litigation, ” and that are not relevant “nor reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”[25]

         In the District of Kansas, “general objections are considered ‘overly broad and worthless unless the objections are substantiated with detailed explanations.'”[26] Our Court has consistently held that “a general objection that objects to a discovery request ‘to the extent' that it asks the responding party to provide documents or information protected by the attorney-client privilege or work product immunity is tantamount to asserting no objection at all.”[27]

         Plaintiff objects “insofar as” and/or “to the extent that” each request for production at issue is either overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague, ambiguous, not relevant, or subject to some kind of privilege. Plaintiff has made no meaningful effort to show how any of these general objections apply to any specific request. Thus, these objections are “mere hypothetical or contingent possibilities.”[28]

         Plaintiff further uses boilerplate language such as the interrogatory “is over broad, unduly burdensome and seeks information that is neither relevant nor reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”[29] Yet Plaintiff fails to explain how any interrogatory is overbroad, unduly burdensome, or irrelevant. He also protests that a word or phrase is vague and ambiguous, but does not explain how he finds them vague or ambiguous or why the word or phrase requires a definition other than what common sense would dictate.

         As the objecting party, Plaintiff has failed to argue or show that any interrogatories or requests for production are irrelevant, overbroad, unduly burdensome, vague, or ambiguous on their face. Therefore, he has the burden to establish how each interrogatory and request is inadequate. He has not met that burden. His boilerplate, general objections are improper. The Court deems these objections waived and overrules them.

         B. Conditional objections

         In all of his responses to the interrogatories and requests for production of documents at issue, Plaintiff includes a conditional objection before his answer. “Conditional objections occur when ‘a party asserts objections, but then provides a response ‘subject to' or ‘without waiving' the stated objections.'”[30]

         As with general objections, it is well settled in this district that “conditional answers are invalid and unsustainable.”[31] As discussed by Judge O'Hara, the practice of responding to discovery requests with conditional objections “is manifestly confusing (at best) and misleading (at worse), and has no basis at all in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”[32] When a party responds that it is producing documents “‘subject to and without waiving its objections, ' the requesting opponent ‘is left guessing as to whether [the producing party] has produced all documents, or only produced some documents and withheld others on the basis of privilege.'”[33]Objections may not thus be reserved; “they are either raised or they are waived.”[34] This Court and others have held “whenever an answer accompanies an objection, the objection is deemed waived and the answer, if responsive, stands.”[35] Accordingly, the Court deems these objections waived and overrules them.

         C. ...


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