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Pederson v. Preston

June 11, 2008

ROGER O. PEDERSON PLAINTIFF,
v.
STEVEN C. PRESTON ADMINISTRATOR, SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on the plaintiff's Motion [24] to Compel Discovery. Upon consideration of plaintiff's motion, defendant's response [26] thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record herein, the Court finds that the motion will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The motion will be GRANTED with respect to Interrogatories Nos. 8-9, 13, 15-18, and 23 and Requests for Production Nos. 3-4, 7, 12, 14 and 19. Defendant shall respond to these interrogatories fully and unambiguously and produce all requested documents. The motion will be DENIED with respect to InterrogatoriesNos. 5, 10, 19-21, and 24-25 and Requests for Production Nos. 15--18. The motion will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part with respect to Interrogatories Nos. 2 and 22. The Court's reasoning is set forth below.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Mr. Pederson, comes before this Court seeking an order to compel discovery from defendant, Mr. Preston, administrator of the Small Business Association (SBA). In the underlying case before the Court, plaintiff alleges violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for age, race, and sex discrimination. In 2002, plaintiff, a four-year employee of SBA, applied for a GS-14 Examiner position and was refused the promotion. Plaintiff asserts that Selectee, a Hispanic female twelve years his junior, was a "less qualified but younger person" whose selection "was consistent with statements of [SBA's] intentions to hire young examiners." (Compl. ¶ 9.)

Plaintiff filed his Motion to Compel Discovery on February 27, 2008, seeking an order from this Court: (1) directing defendant to respond in full to plaintiff's Interrogatories Nos. 2, 5, 8, 9--10, 13, 15--25; and (2) directing defendant to produce all documents as requested including, but not limited to, plaintiff's Requests for Production of Documents Nos. 3--4, 7, 12, 14--19.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Trial courts have considerable discretion when handling discovery matters. Food Lion Inc. v. United Food and Commercial Workers Int'l Union, 103 F.3d 1007, 1012 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (citing Brune v. Internal Revenue Serv., 861 F.2d 1284, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1988)). The scope of discovery in civil actions is broad, allowing for discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to a claim or defense. See FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(1). The term "relevance" at the discovery stage is broadly construed to include information which is not admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. See id. All discovery is subject, however, to the limitations imposed by Rule 26(b)(2)(c). See id. Furthermore, discovery of matters not "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence" are not within the scope of discovery. Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 352 (1978) (internal citation omitted). Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a "[o]n notice to other parties and all affected persons, a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery." FED. R. CIV. P. 37(a)(1).

B. Defendant's General Objections to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel

Prior to filing this motion to compel, plaintiff attempted to contact defendant on four (4) occasions between February 15, 2008 and February 21, 2008, twice by phone and twice by email. (Pl.'s Mot. to Compel at 4.) Defendant asserts that, pursuant to Rule 37(a), plaintiff prematurely filed his motion by failing to identify specific objections to particular responses in any of his messages. FED. R. CIV. P. 37(a)(1); (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. to Compel at 1.) Defendant further asserts that his counsel was away from the office on medical leave through February 19, 2008 and had two pressing deadlines within a week of his return; as such, defendant argues that plaintiff's filing five (5) business days after leaving his first telephone message did not provide defendant with reasonable or adequate time to respond. Id. at 3--4. The Court overrules defendant's objection of insufficient notice. Plaintiff's messages clearly sought to initiate a discussion rather than demand an immediate formal reply. (See Email from Pederson to Interrante (Feb. 21, 2008), Ex. C to Pl.'s Mot. to Compel at 1.) The Court is satisfied that plaintiff, in allowing five (5) business to pass before filing a motion to compel, provided defendant with sufficient notice and ample time to respond to plaintiff either by phone or email.

Defendant then attacks plaintiff's suggestion that defendant did not make a good faith effort to fully respond to discovery requests. (Def.'s Resp. at 4.) Plaintiff bases this accusation on the inconsistency between defendant's multiple time extensions and subsequent responses, most of which plaintiff deems "non-responsive or inadequate." (Pl.'s Mot. to. Compel at 3.)

Plaintiff further points to defendant's request that plaintiff sign a Protective Order despite producing no documents that require this shield. (Id.) The Court is not satisfied that either of these claims support an allegation of bad faith against defendant. Without some further evidence in support of this claim, defendant shall be afforded a presumption of good faith.

C. Sufficiency of Defendant's Responses to Plaintiff's Interrogatories

Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a party may serve on any other party interrogatories related to any matter that may be inquired into under Rule 26(b). FED. R. CIV. P. 33(a)(2). Each interrogatory must, to the extent it is not objected to, be answered separately and fully in writing under oath. See FED. R. CIV. P. 33(b)(3). Plaintiff claims that defendant's responses to Interrogatory Nos. 2, 5, 8, 9--10, 13, and 15--25 are particularly deficient and asks this Court, pursuant to Rule 37, to require defendant to provide full and complete responses.

1. Interrogatory No. 2

Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 2 asks defendant to "[i]dentify each and every document that is in [defendant's] possession and is related, in whole or part, to the issues raised in this case and these interrogatories, excluding any documents contained in the Report of Investigation." (Pl.'s Mot. to Compel at 4.) Defendant objects on the basis that Interrogatory No. 2 is vague, overly broad, and unduly burdensome. (Def.'s Resp. at 13.) Upon reviewing Interrogatory No. 2, this Court is satisfied that ...


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