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Guy v. Vilsack

United States District Court, District Circuit

August 19, 2013

ROOSEVELT D. GUY, Plaintiff,



Plaintiff Roosevelt Guy filed a pro se lawsuit against Thomas Vilsack in his official capacity as the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture ("USDA"), alleging that USDA denied his farm loan application based on his race, in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. ยง 1691. (Complaint, Sept. 18, 2012 [ECF No. 1].) Defendant has now moved to dismiss plaintiff's case based on plaintiff's failure to comply with various Court orders and his allegedly inadequate discovery responses. (Motion to Dismiss, June 21, 2013 [ECF No. 20] ("Mot.").) For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion will be denied.



During discovery, defendant served on plaintiff twenty-one requests for production, thirteen requests for admissions, and fifteen interrogatories. ( See id. at 7-16.) Plaintiff e-mailed documents and responses to defense counsel on May 26 and May 28, 2013. ( See id. at 7-8.) In addition, he separately mailed other documents and responses to defendant, which were received by defense counsel on or about June 6, 2013. ( See id. at 7.) However, on May 26, 2013, plaintiff had emailed defense counsel and instructed her to "please ignore the responses in the packet [he] mailed." ( See Mot. Ex. C, Plaintiff's May 26, 2013 Email.) Although defendant has apparently sought clarification as to the status of the hard-copy documents, to date plaintiff has not responded. ( See Mot. at 7-8.)

In his e-mailed materials, plaintiff provided cursory responses to many of the interrogatories, instructing defendant to refer to plaintiff's complaint and the investigation report produced in response to his internal complaint. ( See id. at 8-13 (reproducing plaintiff's responses to Interrogatory Nos. 1-6).) He also declined to provide any information about his requests for damages because he said he intended to ask the court to bifurcate discovery with respect to damages. ( See id. at 13-14 (reproducing plaintiff's response to Interrogatory Nos. 7, 8).) In addition, he declined to provide any information about the mental and emotional suffering he alleges he suffered in response to defendant's actions, arguing that such information is protected by the doctor-patient privilege. ( See id. (reproducing plaintiff's response to Interrogatory No. 8).) Finally, he did not provide any response to Interrogatory Nos. 9-15. ( See id. at 14.)

With respect to defendant's requests for production, defendant claims that none of the hard-copy documents that plaintiff mailed to defendant's office appear to be responsive to any of defendant's document requests. ( See id. at 15.) Furthermore, defendant claims that the documents attached to plaintiff's May 26 and May 28 e-mails "contained different, less complete responses than the documents in his mailing." ( See id. )

Finally, it appears that plaintiff's responses to defendant's requests for admissions were included in the mailing that he later instructed defendant not to consider. ( See id. at 15-16.) It is unclear from the record whether any such responses were also included in his e-mailed responses. Defendant asserts that the responses included in the hard-copy mailing are inadequate because some of them contained blanket or irrelevant objections. ( See id. at 16.)


Plaintiff, who resides in Ohio, appeared at the initial scheduling conference by telephone. At that time, the Court set a status conference following the close of discovery for June 11, 2013, and instructed plaintiff that he would need to appear in person at that conference. ( See Scheduling Order, Jan. 16, 2013 [ECF No. 11].)

During discovery, defendant requested plaintiff's availability for his deposition, and plaintiff made it clear that he was only willing to participate by telephone. ( See Motion to Compel Plaintiff to Appear in Person for his Deposition in this Jurisdiction, May 14, 2013 [ECF No. 12] ("Motion to Compel") Exs. A-C.) In response, defendant moved to compel plaintiff to appear for his deposition in person and to extend the discovery deadline to accommodate the deposition. ( See generally Motion to Compel.) Plaintiff offered two reasons for his refusal to appear for his deposition in person: first, that he believed the government wanted to observe his mental impressions, which he argued were privileged based on his status as a pro se litigant; and second, that he feared for his safety at the hands of the government. ( See Order, May 28, 2013 [ECF No. 15] at 1-2.) This Court granted defendant's motion, but arranged for plaintiff's deposition to be taken in the United States Courthouse and overseen by Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson. ( See id. at 2.) The deposition was scheduled to take place on June 10, 2013, the day before the previously-scheduled post-discovery status conference, so that plaintiff would only have to make one trip to Washington, D.C., for both events.

On June 10, 2013, plaintiff did in fact appear in this courthouse for his deposition. During the deposition, plaintiff had with him some notes he had prepared in advance of the deposition. ( See Mot. Ex. A, Guy Deposition Transcript Excerpts ("Tr.") at 40.) Defense counsel asked plaintiff not to look at his notes while testifying unless it was necessary to refresh his recollection. ( See id. at 107-08.) At that time, after approximately one and one-half hours on the record, plaintiff stated that he wanted to go talk to Magistrate Judge Robinson, and left the room. ( See id. at 108.) Defense counsel followed plaintiff into the hallway so that she could be present for his discussion with Judge Robinson. ( See Mot. at 5.) There, in front of several marshals and other court staff, plaintiff stated that he did not want to be alone with defense counsel behind chambers doors, and went back into the deposition courtroom. ( See id. ) Once back in the courtroom, defense counsel "demand[ed] an apology" for plaintiff's allegedly "slanderous remarks." (Tr. at 109.) Plaintiff stated that he was having a panic attack, and then left the deposition. ( Id. )

Later that same day, Magistrate Judge Robinson held a telephone call on the record with defense counsel (who was present in the courtroom) and plaintiff (who had left the building). (Mot. at 6.) On that call, Judge Robinson first directed plaintiff to return to the courthouse to continue his deposition that afternoon. (Tr. at 118.) When plaintiff resisted, stating that he was "very scared" and needed to take his medication and speak with his father, Judge Robinson amended her order and instructed him to appear at 9:30 a.m. the next day to continue the deposition. ( Id. at 118, 124-25.) She also offered to remain in the courtroom for the remainder of the deposition to make plaintiff more comfortable. ( Id. at 118.)

The next morning, plaintiff did not appear at the courthouse at 9:30 a.m. for his deposition. ( See Mot. at 7; Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, July 8, 2013 [ECF No. 21] ("Opp'n") at 3.) He also did not appear at 11:30 a.m. for the status conference before this Court. Instead, he called chambers and informed the Court that his anxiety had been so severe that he had driven back to ...

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