Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

DL v. Dist. of Columbia

June 27, 2008

DL*FN1 , ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on plaintiffs' Motion [91] to Compel defendants' responses to Plaintiffs' First, Second, and Third Sets of Requests for Production of Documents and Plaintiffs' First Set of Interrogatories, and for expenses pursuant to Rule 37(a)(5)(A) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and defendants' Motion [95] to Compel Discovery. Upon consideration of plaintiffs' motion [91], defendants' opposition [97], plaintiffs' reply [101], and defendants' motion [95], plaintiffs' opposition [98] and defendants' reply [99], and the entire record herein, plaintiffs' motion [91] will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART and defendants' motion [95] will be DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs filed the present suit on July 21, 2005, alleging that defendant District of Columbia ("District") failed in its duty to provide a free and appropriate public education ("FAPE") to children ages three through five living in the District. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that the District has failed to identify, locate, evaluate, and offer special education and related services to certain children in violation of, inter alia, the Individuals with Disabilities and Education Act ("IDEA"), codified at 20 U.S.C. 1400, et seq., Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, codified at 29 U.S.C. 794(a), 42 U.S.C. 1983.

Plaintiffs served their First Set of Requests for Production of Documents ("Plaintiffs' First Document Request") on December 28, 2005. (See Pl.'s Mem. Ex. A.) The District filed its Response ("Response to Plaintiffs' First Document Request") on January 27, 2006. (See Pl.'s Mem. Ex. D.) This response included a set of fifteen "boilerplate" objections entitled "General Objections." (Id. at 1-2.)

On July 10, 2006 plaintiffs filed a Motion [41] to Compel Defendants' Responses to Plaintiffs' First Set of Requests for Production of Documents. On August 1, 2006, the District filed its Motion [45] to Compel Discovery Production of Documents by Plaintiffs. On August 25, 2006 this Court certified the case to proceed as a class action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) and denied without prejudice plaintiffs' Motion [41] to Compel and District's Motion [45] to Compel, subject to the parties' consideration of the impact of class certification and opportunity to meet and confer to resolve remaining differences. (See Ct. Order [59].)

On September 17, 2007 plaintiffs served Plaintiffs' Second Set of Requests for Production of Documents ("Plaintiffs' Second Document Request"). (See Pl.'s Mem. Ex. B.) On October 17, 2007, the District served its Response ("Response to Plaintiffs' Second Document Request"), which included the same list of "General Objections." (Pl.'s Mem. Ex. F at 1-2.). On September 28, 2007 plaintiffs served Plaintiffs' First Set of Interrogatories ("Plaintiffs' First Interrogatories") and Third Set of Requests for Production of Documents ("Plaintiffs' Third Document Request"). (See Pl.'s Mem. Ex. C.) On October 29, 2007 the District served Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs' First Set of Interrogatories ("Response to Plaintiffs' First Interrogatories") (See Pl.'s Mem. Ex. G), and Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs' Third Set of Requests for Production of Documents ("Response to Plaintiffs' Third Document Request"). (See Pl.'s Mem. Ex. H.) The District's responses to Plaintiffs' First Interrogatories and Third Document Request repeated many of the "General Objections" raised by the District in previous responses. (See Pl.'s Mem. Ex. G, 1-4; Pl.'s Mem. Ex. H, 1-3.)

The District has charitably characterized the nature of its production of documents as "rolling"(Pl.'s Mem. Ex. I, 1) or "continuing." (Def's Opp'n 2). Plaintiffs conducted an initial review of documents on February 1, 2006. (Pl.'s Mem. 4.) Subsequent to that review, during the period spanning between February 28, 2006 and January 30, 2008, the District provided ten supplemental responses to plaintiffs' document requests. (Id. at 4-5.) Notably, of the seventeen documents provided in the District's Tenth Supplemental Production of January 30, 2008, eight are from 2006 or before. (Id. at 5-6.)

On February 4, 2008 plaintiffs filed a Motion [91] to Compel Defendants' Responses to Plaintiffs' First, Second, and Third Sets of Requests for Production of Documents and Plaintiffs' First Set of Interrogatories, and requested the Court order the District to pay plaintiffs' reasonable expenses incurred in making the motion to compel, including attorneys' fees, pursuant to Rule 37(a)(1). Plaintiffs' motion was followed, on March 6, 2008, by the District's Eleventh Supplemental Production, which contained more than 6000 pages of responsive documents. (See Def.'s Opp'n Ex. A, 43-51.) Plaintiffs' motion was also followed by an opposition [97] filed March 10, 2008, and a reply [101] filed March 25, 2008.

On February 27, 2008, the District filed a Motion [95] to Compel Discovery. The District's motion was followed by an opposition [98] filed March 12, 2008, and a reply [99] filed March 18, 2008.

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 the 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). 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 "[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. District's General Objections are Invalid

"The party objecting to . . . discovery bears the burden of 'show[ing] why discovery should not be permitted.' " Alexander v. F.B.I., 194 F.R.D. 299, 302 (D.D.C. 2000) (Lamberth, J.) (quoting: Alexander v. FBI, 193 F.R.D. 1, 2-3 (D.D.C. 2000)). A party objecting to a document request must "includ[e] the reasons" for the objection. Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(2)(B). This requirement enables the requesting party to evaluate and determine whether to challenge the objection raised. When faced with general objections, the applicability of which to specific document requests is not explained further, "[t]his Court will not raise objections for [the responding party]," but instead will "overrule[] [the responding party's] objection[s] on those grounds." Tequila Centinela, S.A. de C.V. v. Bacardi & Co., Ltd., 242 F.R.D 1, 12 (D.D.C. 2007) (Lamberth, J.).

Similarly, "[t]he grounds for objecting to an interrogatory must be stated with specificity. Any ground not stated in a timely objection is waived unless the court, for good cause, excuses the failure." Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(4).

The District begins each of its responses to plaintiffs' discovery requests with a list of boilerplate "general objections." (See Pl.'s Mem. Exs. D, F, G, H.) The District fails to explain with any specificity how these general objections are applicable to particular discovery requests. For example, the District responds to forty-three of the forty-four requests contained in Plaintiffs' First Document Requests by stating:"[s]ubject to the General Objections above, the District will produce documents responsive to this request." (See Pl. Mem. Ex. D.) This standardized response is varied in only three instances: twice through the addition of the phrase "if any" (Id. at Responses 16, 43), and once through the addition of the phrase "[s]ee also responses to other requests." (Id. at Response 9.) The answer provides no indication as to the specific nature or amount of material being withheld on the basis of the general objections.

The District takes a similar approach in responding to Plaintiffs' Second Document Request. Of the five responses, four make reference to various of the general objections, without elaboration or explanation. (See Pl. Mem. Ex. F., Responses 2-5.) The remaining response makes the same sweeping reference to general objections common to the District's response to Plaintiffs' First Document Request. (Id. at Response 1.)

The District's response to Plaintiffs' First Interrogatories also begins with a list of eighteen general objections. (See Pl.'s Mem. Ex. G.) The responses that follow frequently reference individual general objections without explanation or elaboration. Several refer plaintiffs to the entire body of documents disclosed to date (Pl.'s Mem. 32), without specifying which particular documents are responsive to the interrogatories. (Pl.'s Mem. Ex. G., Responses 1, 5, 6, 7, 8.) Other responses refer plaintiffs to the District's pleadings or other documents produced. (See Pl.'s Mem. Ex. G, Responses 1, 2, 5, 6.) The District's Response to Plaintiffs' Third Document Request continues the same pattern of making nonspecific reference to a list of general objections

Before discussing in greater detail several of the general objections as raised in response to specific discovery requests, the Court notes that the District's "boilerplate" general objections to plaintiffs' discovery requests, without more, fail to satisfy the District's burdens under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to justify its objections to discovery. The District's general objections are not applied with sufficient specificity to enable this court to evaluate their merits.

In situations such as these, this Court will overrule District's objections in their entirety. Accordingly, all of the District's general objections, when not referenced in response to specific discovery requests, are overruled. The District shall not rely on any general objection as a basis for withholding further discovery.

C. District's Remaining Objections

1. District's Objection to Production of Documents Created Before 2003

Throughout their discovery requests, plaintiffs have requested documents created from 2000 to the present. Plaintiffs correctly assert that to prevail in their § 1983 action, they must establish a "custom or practice" that caused the alleged violation. Indeed, "[i]n any § 1983 action against a municipality such as the District of Columbia, the burden is on the plaintiffs to establish that the municipality has a custom or practice that caused the alleged constitutional or statutory violation." Johnson v. District of Columbia, 190 F. Supp. 2d 34, 47 (D.D.C. 2002); see also Walker v. District of Columbia, 969 F.Supp 764, 797 (D.D.C. 1997). Plaintiffs have satisfied their burden of demonstrating the relevance of documents from 2000 to the present to the case at bar. (See Pl.'s Mem. 14-16). In the opinion of this Court, discovery of documents for the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.