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Lurensky v. Wellinghoff

June 16, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Facciola U.S. Magistrate Judge


This case was referred to me by Judge Kennedy for the purpose of handling all discovery and discovery-related disputes. Before me are several motions: the defendant's Motion for a Protective Order With Respect to Plaintiff's Request for Production of Documents and for an Order Limiting the Number of Rule 34 and Rule 36 Requests That Each Party May Serve [#19, 20] and the plaintiff's Motion to Compel the Production of Documents [#23].

I. Background

Plaintiff Marcia Lurensky brings this action, proceeding pro se, against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e*fn1 et seq., and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq. Plaintiff alleges five causes of action: discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, and disability; retaliation; and a hostile work environment. Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") [#34] ¶ 1.

Plaintiff was employed since 1990 as an attorney in FERC's Office of General Counsel. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. Plaintiff alleges that after opposing certain employment practices, a protected activity, she was targeted in a retaliatory manner and subjected to a hostile work environment and discrimination. Am. Compl. ¶ 31. Specifically, plaintiff alleges she was subject to retaliatory acts including the monitoring of her computer and documents, substandard performance evaluations, and a denial of administrative leave, compensatory time, and reassignment, among others. Am. Compl. ¶ 35. Regarding her claim of hostile work environment, plaintiff additionally alleges that she was treated negatively by other employees and was subjected to hostile acts. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 23, 36. Plaintiff's allegation of disability discrimination is based largely on the revocation of accommodations for her disability. Am. Compl. ¶ 32. Plaintiff alleges religious discrimination based on a denial of religious compensatory time and/or administrative leave for Jewish holidays. Am. Compl. ¶ 33. Finally, plaintiff alleges gender discrimination based on retaliatory allegations of sexual harassment lodged against her. Am. Compl. ¶ 34.

On March 3, 2009, plaintiff served on defendant 109 document requests per Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn2 Defendant subsequently moved for this protective order quashing plaintiff's request on the basis that it is too voluminous and seeking to limit to thirty each the number of Rule 34 document requests and Rule 36 requests for admissions submitted per party. Plaintiff cross-moved to compel defendant to respond to her request for production.

II. Analysis

The scope of discovery permitted in civil actions is broad, permitting discovery of any material relevant to a claim or defense, including material inadmissible at trial but reasonably likely to lead to admissible evidence. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Historically, Title VII plaintiffs have been allowed a very broad scope of discovery. Pleasants v. Allbaugh, 208 F.R.D. 7, 9 (D.D.C. 2002). Trial courts are afforded considerable discretion in managing the discovery process. Tequila Centinela, S.A. de C.V. v. Bacardi & Co. Ltd., 247 F.R.D. 198, 201 (D.D.C. 2008) (citing Food Lion Inc. v. United Food and Commercial Workers Int'l Union, 103 F.3d 1007, 1012 (D.C. Cir.1997).

A. Defendant's Motion for Protective Order and to Limit Number of Rule 34 and 36 Requests

Defendant argues that it should be relieved of responding to plaintiff's requests for document production on the grounds that the large number of requests is disproportionate to the litigation. Memorandum in Support of Defendant's Motion for Protective Order [#19] ("Def.'s Mem.") at 1. Defendant does not object to any individual request. Rather, it lodges what essentially is a blanket objection against the request as a whole as overly broad and burdensome, calling it "scorched earth" litigation. Defendant's Reply in Support of Motion for Protective Order [#27] at 1. Defendant urges the court to quash plaintiff's entire request.

Plaintiff counters that each of the 109 requests are relevant and material to her causes of action and necessary to meeting her burden of proof. Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Motion for Protective Order [#24] ("Pl.'s Opp.") at 23. Plaintiff further argues that her request for production comports with Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because each request is set forth with particularity. Pl.'s Opp. at 4.

1. Rule 34 Requirements

Rule 34 plainly states that objections to requests for production must be made on an individual basis. Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(2)(B) ("For each item or category, the response must ... state an objection to the request, including the reasons.") (emphasis added). Inasmuch as the defendant's motion is an attempt at a blanket objection to the ...

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