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D'Onofrio v. SFX Sports Group

January 23, 2008

AUDREY (SHEBBY) D'ONOFRIO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SFX SPORTS GROUP, INC. ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Facciola United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Before the court is Plaintiff's Second Motion to Compel Discovery, and for Sanctions [#35] ("Motion"). This case was referred to me by Judge John D. Bates for management of the discovery process.

I. Background

This lawsuit involves claims by plaintiff, Audrey (Shebby) D'Onofrio, that she received disparate treatment from her employer, SFX Sports Group, Inc. ("SFX"),*fn1 based upon her gender. Plaintiff also alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and was terminated in retaliation for her protected activities. She brings this lawsuit under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), the Equal Pay Act, and the District of Columbia Family Medical Leave Act.

A. Procedural History of Discovery Disputes

The discovery issues raised by plaintiff in her Motion have been before the Court in one fashion or another for quite some time, beginning on September 15, 2006, when plaintiff filed her Motion To Compel Discovery, for Sanctions and for Enlargement of Time for Discovery [#16] ("First Motion"). In her First Motion, plaintiff argued, in part, that defendants' responses to interrogatories and discovery requests were wholly inadequate. Following a conference call held on September 20, 2006, Judge Bates denied the First Motion without prejudice and instructed the parties to report back to the Court after "meet[ing] to discuss outstanding discovery issues." Bates Order, 9/20/06.

Plaintiff informed the court in the Joint Status Conference Report [#18], filed on October 10, 2006, that continued discussion with defendants had not resolved many of the issues set forth in her First Motion. Id. at 2-4. A status conference was held on October 26, 2006, after which Judge Bates issued an order setting forth a schedule to address disputed discovery issues. Bates Order, 10/26/06.

On November 8, 2006, plaintiff filed her Memorandum Regarding Electronic Discovery Issues and Enlargement of Time for Discovery [#25], in which she informed the Court of issues surrounding her desire to employ a forensics expert. Id. at 1-2. The parties discussed other unresolved discovery disputes at a status conference on November 9, 2006, after which Judge Bates issued an order extending the discovery schedule. Bates Order, 11/9/06. These issues were once again discussed during a telephone conference on January 4, 2007. After the conference, Judge Bates ordered the parties to meet and confer and submit to the Court proposed discovery schedules. Bates Order, 1/4/07.

On January 19, 2007, plaintiff filed her Memorandum Regarding Discovery Conference and Status of Discovery [#29], in which she notified the Court that the parties had once again met but had made no further progress resolving their various discovery disputes. Id. at 1. Plaintiff again expressed her desire for Court action to compel discovery, and, if necessary, "a complete forensic search of the electronic data system maintained by the Defendants." Id. at 6.

The Court held another status conference on January 29, 2007. In an attempt to break the logjam, Judge Bates ordered both parties to undertake certain discovery obligations on or before February 20, 2007. Bates Order, 1/29/07 at 1. The parties were instructed that they could move the Court to compel discovery only if, "after meeting their obligation to work openly and collegially with opposing counsel," either party feels that responsive information has been withheld. Id. at 2.

On March 14, 2007, plaintiff filed her Status Report [#32], in which she complained of the defendants' "meager" progress in complying with its discovery obligations, and the "startling disclosure" that e-mails -- previously represented by defendants to not be retrievable -- had been retrieved. Id. at 1. She complained of the format in which these e-mails had been produced, and alleged that testimony taken from several sources suggested that the defendants engaged in improper conduct concerning discovery. Id. at 2-7.

Another status conference was held on March 21, 2007, after which Judge Bates ordered defendants to supplement their interrogatory answers and discovery production no later than April 20, 2007. Bates Order, 4/20/07. Unsatisfied with defendants' supplemental production, plaintiff filed the instant motion on May 17, 2007.

II. Outline of this Opinion

As indicated above, discovery in this case has been fractious. The disputes have ranged from the serious (allegations of willful obliteration of evidence) to the mundane (the failure to confer prior to filing the Motion*fn2 ), and at times it seems as if no discovery request or response has gone unchallenged. This opinion will therefore have to deal with many issues, seriatim, as they have arisen. The table of contents that follows is presented in the hopes of bringing some order out of the chaos:

I. Background

A. Procedural History of Discovery Disputes

II. Outline of this Opinion

III. Electronically Stored Information

A. Business Plan

1. Rule 34 -- "If Necessary"

2. Request for Specific Forms of Production

B. E-Mails

C. Spoliation of Electronic Records

IV. Other Issues Relating to Plaintiff's Discovery Requests

A. Information Pertaining to Plaintiff

B. Similarly Situated Employees

C. Other Complaints of Discrimination

D. Services Provided after Plaintiff's Departure

E. Organizational Documents / Job Descriptions / Qualifications

F. Applicant and Employment Market Pool

G. Disclosure of Financial Information

H. Production of the Names of Witnesses

V. Privilege Log

VI. ...


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