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Doe v. USD No. 237

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 26, 2019

JANE DOE, and ANGELA HARRISON, Plaintiffs,
v.
USD No. 237, THE SMITH CENTER SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          TERESA J. JAMES U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         On March 7, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion for Protective Order from Plaintiff's Rule 30(b)(6) Notice (ECF No. 109). The motion is fully briefed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

         I. Relevant Background[1]

         This case involves allegations that Defendant Brock Hutchinson, while employed as a teacher and coach by Defendant USD No. 237, sexually harassed Plaintiff Jane Doe and other minor female students at Smith Center High School. On February 21, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Notice Duces Tecum to Take the Deposition of a Designated Agent of Defendant Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(2) and 30(b)(6)[2] (“the Notice”). Defendants argue the topics identified in the Notice go beyond the relevant temporal scope, are duplicative of prior discovery requests, are overly broad, vague, and ambiguous, and as such, Defendants seek an order quashing the Notice. In response, Plaintiffs argue their topics are not overly broad and are proportional to the needs of the case, and therefore, there is no basis to quash the Notice.

         II. Legal Standard

         Defendants seek a protective order under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c), which states the court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense. The order may forbid inquiry into certain matters, or limit the scope of disclosure or discovery to certain matters.[3] “The party seeking the protective order has the burden of demonstrating good cause for it. To establish good cause, the moving party must offer a particular and specific demonstration of fact, as distinguished from stereotyped and conclusory statements. Whether to enter a protective order lies within the court's discretion.”[4] Rule 26(c) “does not permit the court to issue such an order to protect a party from having to provide discovery on topics merely because it's argued those topics are overly broad or irrelevant, ” as irrelevancy and overbreadth objections are “more appropriately addressed in the context of a motion to compel.”[5] Additionally, a protective order that would preclude a deposition altogether is rarely granted.[6]

         III. Analysis

         A. Alleged Violation of the Amended Scheduling Order

         Defendants first argue Plaintiffs scheduled the deposition without consulting Defendants and thus scheduled it at a time that was not convenient. They say Plaintiffs did not attempt to confer regarding the deposition and instead unilaterally filed the Notice in violation of the Amended Scheduling Order and court guidelines.[7] They note that Plaintiffs' counsel offered to reschedule the deposition to a mutually agreeable date but refused to withdraw the Notice.[8]

         Plaintiffs respond that in addition to offering to reschedule the deposition to a mutually agreeable date, they selected the originally scheduled date merely as a place holder given the relatively brief time remaining until the discovery deadline of April 30, 2019.[9] Thus, they needed to serve the Notice when they did so as to serve it 30 days in advance per Rule 30(b)(6).[10]

         The Court finds Defendants have failed to meet their burden as to this point. Plaintiffs have already agreed to reschedule the deposition to a mutually agreeable date and time. They scheduled the deposition merely as a place holder given the time constraints of Rule 30(b)(6). The motion is denied on this point.

         B. Specific Deposition Topics

         1. Temporal Scope, Hutchinson's Relationship with Jane Doe Witness, and Topic Nos. 1-4

         The Court previously ruled on many of the issues discussed in Defendants' motion in its order[11] on Plaintiffs' motion to compel and Defendants' motion for protective order. The Court has ruled that the relevant temporal scope in this case is 2003 to the present.[12] The Court has also ruled that further discovery into Hutchinson's relationship with Jane Doe Witness is relevant, allowing otherwise relevant and proportional discovery on this topic.[13] Therefore, Defendants' motion is denied as to these points.

         Topic No. 1 requests the identification of and contents of the complete personnel file of Hutchinson maintained by the School District. The Court compelled production of this in its prior order, [14] so Defendants' motion on this topic is denied.

         Topic Nos. 2-3 request the identification of and contents of the complete file on Hutchinson maintained by any School District administrator or any principal. Similarly, the Court previously ruled all of Hutchinson's personnel files, regardless of whether created or maintained by the School District, principal, Athletic Department, or any other administrator are relevant. Thus, these are proper deposition topics. However, in accordance with the Court's prior order, “all documents, ” or here, “complete files, ” is overly broad, vague and ambiguous insofar as it requests “all documents and/or records relating to Hutchinson without limitation.”[15]Therefore, only “Hutchinson's personnel files (including all nonprivileged phone messages, emails, recordings, notes, memoranda, statements, investigations and communications contained in them), regardless of where and by whom they are maintained, ” are proper deposition topics.[16]

         Similarly, with regard to Topic No. 4, which requests the identification and contents of any document referencing Hutchinson created or maintained by former principal Boeve, “any document” is overly broad. Topic No. 4 shall be limited to Hutchinson's personnel file(s) and any document regarding complaints or reprimands of Hutchison for comments or actions involving students. The motion is otherwise denied as to these topics.

         2. Topic No. 6

         Topic No. 6 requests the identification and contents of any document referencing Jane Doe Witness[17] and Hutchinson. Defendants argue this is duplicative to Plaintiffs' previous discovery requests and would therefore cause annoyance, oppression and/or undue burden and expense.[18] Plaintiffs argue the topic seeks information about the School District's knowledge of Doe Witness and Hutchinson's relationship, which is relevant to establishing ...


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