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Donohoe v. Bonneville Int'l Corp.

February 27, 2009

LEO DONOHOE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BONNEVILLE INT'L CORP., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard W. Roberts United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Leo Donohoe brings this action against his former employer Bonneville International Corporation, alleging that Bonneville discriminated against him on the basis of his age, in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401 et. seq. Donohoe has filed five sets of objections to discovery rulings made by the magistrate judge. Because Donohoe has not shown error in rulings denying him leave to multiply his allotted number of depositions, his objections will be overruled except as to leave to depose Paul White, Jory Steiber, and Ralph Renzi. In addition, because Donohoe for the most part has not shown that issuing a protective order and denying his motion to compel was error, his objections to these rulings will be overruled except to the extent the rulings were based upon an erroneous finding that the parties' joint discovery plan contained a binding stipulation limiting each side to thirty document requests per side.

BACKGROUND

Donohoe, who was over forty during the events relevant to this action, contends that Bonneville, his former employer, discriminated against him because of his age by improperly including him in the Reduction in Force ("RIF") conducted in Bonneville's Washington, D.C. office, and by subsequently selecting Matt Spacciapoli, a younger, allegedly less-qualified individual, for the position of Director of National Sales/Sports Sales Manager over Donohoe.

During the course of discovery, Donohoe filed two motions seeking leave to increase the number of depositions permitted for each party under the scheduling order from seven to twenty-five. The magistrate judge denied both motions. In addition, Donohoe filed a motion to compel Bonneville to respond to certain documents requests, and Bonneville filed a motion for a protective order to bar such discovery. The magistrate judge denied Donohoe's motion to compel and granted Bonneville's motion for a protective order barring discovery of the contested documents, with the exception that Donohoe could inquire into Bonneville's headquarters' role in the January 2006 RIF in Washington, D.C. through a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Bonneville. Donohoe has filed five sets of objections to the magistrate judge's discovery rulings.

DISCUSSION

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a) and Local Civil Rule 72.2(b) allow a party to seek reconsideration of a magistrate judge's decision in a discovery dispute. "On review, the magistrate judge's decision is entitled to great deference unless it is clearly erroneous or contrary to law, that is, if on the entire evidence the court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Moore v. Chertoff, 577 F. Supp. 2d 165, 167 (D.D.C. 2008) (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Graham v. Mukasey, 247 F.R.D. 205, 207 (D.D.C. 2008); LCvR 72.2(c) ("Upon consideration of objections filed . . . , a district judge may modify or set aside any portion of a magistrate judge's order under this Rule found to be clearly erroneous or contrary to law.").

"Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). "Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id.; see United States ex rel. Fargo v. M&T Mortgage Corp., 235 F.R.D. 11, 21 (D.D.C. 2006) ("Rule 26(b)(1) entitles parties to broad discovery, permitting discovery that is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." (quotations omitted)); Peskoff v. Faber, Civil Action No. 04-526 (HHK/JMF), 2006 WL 1933483, at *2 (D.D.C. July 11, 2006) (finding that a party's discovery request was not overly broad where it was relevant, meaning that it was reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of evidence relating to plaintiff's claim). "For the purposes of discovery, relevancy is broadly construed and encompasses any material that bears on, or that reasonably leads to other matters that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case." Alexander v. F.B.I., 194 F.R.D. 316, 325 (D.D.C. 2000). Moreover, because discrimination is "particularly hard to prove . . . , discovery in these cases is necessarily broad." Mitchell v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 208 F.R.D. 455, 459 (D.D.C. 2002).

Although discovery rules "are to be accorded a broad and liberal treatment," Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507 (1947), under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(2)(C), discovery should be limited by the court if it determines that: (i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C).

I. MOTIONS FOR LEAVE TO TAKE ADDITIONAL DEPOSITIONS

Donohoe objects to the denial of his two motions for leave to increase the number of depositions permitted under the scheduling order in this case. Donohoe's original motion sought leave to increase the number of depositions permitted from seven to twenty-five before a single deposition had been taken in this case, naming only fifteen potential deponents, and without proffering any specific need for each deposition. The magistrate judge denied this motion because, among other reasons, the motion was premature because Donohoe had not exhausted his permitted seven depositions. Donohoe's objections to this ruling identify no legal error, and instead put forth additional arguments never presented to the magistrate judge. Because Donohoe has not shown the denial of his first motion to be clearly erroneous, his objections will be overruled.

Donohoe's renewed motion for leave to increase the number of depositions permitted again sought to increase the number of permitted depositions from seven to twenty-five. Incorporating by reference the arguments made in his previous objections to the magistrate judge's ruling, Donohoe identified the seven depositions taken or noticed under the original scheduling order, listed an additional fifteen potential witnesses, and briefly described his need to depose these individuals. In his reply in support of his renewed motion, in the event that the magistrate judge would not grant leave to take up to twenty-five depositions, he requested leave to depose thirteen "essential witnesses" beyond his seven allocated depositions.*fn1 Bonneville opposed leave for any additional depositions, arguing that, among other reasons, the depositions would be duplicative or "merely cumulative" of other evidence obtained in discovery; Donohoe had not shown that he had exhausted less burdensome means to obtain information sought from these depositions nor had he showed that these depositions would likely reveal new information; and the additional depositions "would unnecessarily drive up the costs of discovery well beyond its already substantial level." (Def.'s Opp'n to Pl.'s Objns. to Order Denying Leave to Take Add'l Deps. ("Def.'s May 16 Opp'n") at 13; Def.'s Consol. Opp'n to Pl.'s Supp. Objns. and Opp'n to Pl.'s Renewed Mot. for Add'l Deps. ("Def.'s June 26 Opp'n") at 5, 7.) Adopting Bonneville's arguments as the court's reasoning, the magistrate judge denied Donohoe's renewed motion for leave to increase the number of permitted depositions. Donohoe filed objections to this ruling, contending that he has ...


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