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Valerie Kline v. John Berry

June 1, 2012

VALERIE KLINE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN BERRY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alan Kay United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

On May 11, 2012, the undersigned held a hearing on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Responses to Interrogatories and Production of Documents [22], Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Responses to Requests for Admission [29] and Defendant's Motion for Leave to File Under Seal Exhibit 5 of Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Responses to Requests for Admissions [33]. At the hearing, Plaintiff withdrew her objection to Defendant's Motion for Leave to File Under Seal, stating that she does not object to Exhibit 5 of Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel [32] being filed under seal. Therefore, Defendant's Motion for Leave to File Under Seal will be granted. Plaintiff's two Motions to Compel will be granted-in-part and denied-in-part.

I. BACKGROUND

This case is an employment discrimination action based on Plaintiff Valerie Kline's ("Plaintiff" or "Ms. Kline") employment at the Office of Personnel Management ("OPM") as a Management Analyst in the Publications Management Group. (Amended Compl. [3] at ¶ 1.) Plaintiff was hired into that role in 2002. (Id. at ¶ 13.) On March 29, 2006, Plaintiff's superiors received an e-mail raising concerns that, among other allegations, Ms. Kline was using her work computer inappropriately and was attempting to procure weapons and ammunition from someone she knew online. (Decl. of Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland [37-1] at ¶ 4; Pl.'s Opp. to Mot. For Protective Order [44] at 6.) Plaintiff was placed on paid administrative leave on April 5, 2006 pending an Office of the Investigator General ("OIG") investigation. (Id. at ¶ 5.) Plaintiff returned to work on June 20, 2006. (Amended Compl. at ¶ 45.)

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint includes five counts. First, Plaintiff alleges that she was discriminated against on the basis of race and sex when she was placed on administrative leave. (Id. at ¶ 62.) Second, Plaintiff alleges that she was placed on administrative leave in retaliation for filing EEO complaints against her superiors that were pending as of April 2006. (Id. at ¶ 64.) Third, Plaintiff alleges that, upon returning from administrative leave, her duties were diminished, moving from regulatory work and graphics projects to routine, administrative and clerical duties. (Id. at ¶ 66.) Fourth, Plaintiff alleges that she was discriminated against on the basis of sex when her regulatory duties were given to a male employee. (Id. at ¶ 68.) Fifth, Plaintiff alleges that she was retaliated against when, upon returning from administrative leave, she did not have the same equipment and software that she had prior to being placed on administrative leave. (Id. at ¶ 70.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, 26(b) authorizes discovery "regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . ." E.g. Food Lion, Inc. v. United Food and Commercial Workers Int'l. Union, 103 F.3d 1007, 1012 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (relevance for purposes of discovery is broadly construed). Once a relevancy objection has been raised, the party seeking discovery must demonstrate that the information sought to be compelled is discoverable. Meijer, Inc. v. Warner Chilcott Holdings Co., III, Ltd., 245 F.R.D. 26, 30 (D.D.C. 2007); see Alexander v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 194 F.R.D. 316, 325 (D.D.C. 2000).

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C), the court may limit discovery on motion or on its own initiative, if it determines that the "burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issue at stake in the litigation, and the importance of the proposed discovery in resolving those issues." Tooley v. Napolitano, 556 F.3d 836, 841 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (under Rule 26(b)(2), plaintiffs are "not entitled to unlimited discovery.") (citation omitted); Smith v. Cafe Asia, 246 F.R.D. 19, 21-22 (D.D.C. 2007) (the trial court balances competing concerns when determining discovery matters).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33(a)(2) allows interrogatories to "relate to any matter that may be inquired into under Rule 26(b)." Rule 33(b)(3) provides that "[e]ach interrogatory must, to the extent it is not objected to, be answered separately and fully in writing under oath." Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(3). The party moving to compel discovery has the burden of proving that the opposing party's answers were incomplete. Guantanamera Cigar Co. v. Corporation Habanos, S.A., 263 F.R.D. 1, 7 (D.D.C 2009) (citing Equal Rights Ctr. v. Post Props., Inc., 246 F.R.D. 29, 32 (D.D.C. 2007)).

A request for documents under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 34 must "describe with reasonable particularity each item or category of items to be inspected." Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(1)(A). Requests must also be within the scope of Rule 26(b). Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a). "[I]n drafting document requests, it is the party seeking discovery [who] bears the burden of fashioning the requests appropriately." Washington v. Thurgood Marshall Acad., 232 F.R.D. 6, 10 (D.D.C. 2005). Likewise, a party objecting to a document request must specifically show how the request is burdensome, overly broad, vague, or outside the scope of discovery. Chubb Integrated Sys. Ltd. v. Nat'l Bank of Washington, 103 F.R.D. 52, 59-60 (D.D.C. 1984).

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 36 addresses requests for admission. Requests for admission must be within the scope of discovery outlined in Rule 26(b)(1). Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(1). Where the request is proper and the responding party does not admit the matter, the responding party must "specifically deny," or "state in detail the reasons why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny [the matter]." Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(4). The party propounding the requests "may move to determine the sufficiency of an answer or objection." Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(6). The court can then consider the sufficiency of the respondent's response to requests for admissions. Id. "On finding that an answer does not comply with this rule, the court may order either that the matter is admitted or that an amended answer be served . . . ." Id.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Interrogatories

Regarding Ms. Kline's interrogatories, Ms. Kline withdrew her objection to Defendant's response to Interrogatories 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17. Still at issue are Interrogatories 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 13.

Interrogatory 2 requests information about Jacquline Carter notifying her superiors of her intention to retire in November 2006. Defendant indicated at the hearing that it would provide Plaintiff with the date that Ms. Carter notified her superiors that she intended to retire. The manner, ...


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