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Mills v. Billington

United States District Court, District Circuit

August 21, 2013

CHRISTINE MILLS, et al., Plaintiffs,
JAMES BILLINGTON, Librarian, Library of Congress, Defendant.



Pending before the Court are the remaining discovery matters in this case. After several hearings, telephone conferences, briefings by the parties, and testimony by the parties’ experts, the Court finds that the Plaintiffs have adequately narrowed and explained their discovery requests. Defendant is instructed to provide Plaintiffs with the following information as outlined below. Plaintiffs are permitted to subpoena Avue to access this information.


Current named plaintiffs in this case include Christine Mills, Runako Balondemu, Geraldine Duncan, Priscilla Ijeomah, Lawrence Perry, William Rowland, David Hubbard, Clifton Knight, Sharon Taylor, and Charles Mwalimu (collectively, “Plaintiffs.”) Plaintiffs are minority employees of the Library of Congress who brought suit on behalf of themselves and “as representatives of a class of all minority job applicants and all past, current, and future minority employees of the Library of Congress.” 2d Am. Compl. [28] ¶ 1. Plaintiffs allege that James Billington, the Librarian of Congress (“Defendant”), “engaged in an ongoing pattern and practice of discrimination against its minority employees” regarding compensation, promotions, wage classifications, job assignments, recruitment, hostile work environment, and retaliation. Id. ¶ 2(a)-(f). Plaintiffs initiated this action in December 2004. Complaint [1]. After numerous delays, discovery officially closed on September 30, 2009. Judge Kay’s 9/29/2009 Minute Order.

Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Compel [129] on August 28, 2009, seeking interrogatory responses and production of documents, upon which this Court ruled on May 28, 2010. Order [196]. As the Court instructed, Plaintiffs drafted a letter on June 14, 2010, in an attempt to narrow their requests. Ex. 1 of Def.’s Mot. for Protective Order (“Pls.’ Letter”) [207-1]. Defendant argued that the narrowing did not occur, triggering no obligation for him to respond. See Ex. 2 of Def.’s Mot. for Protective Order [207-2] at 1. Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Clarification of Judge Kay’s May 28, 2010, Order [211].

In order to complete the discovery process and clarify what requests still remain unanswered, the Court has recently held several hearings and telephone conferences. See Minute Entries for Telephone Conference 3/15/2013; Motions Hearing 4/16/2013; Discovery Hearing 6/11/2013; Status Hearing 6/24/2013; Telephone Conference 7/15/2013; and Telephone Conference 7/22/2013. Most helpful of these hearings was the Status Conference on 6/24/2013, during which the Library of Congress brought employee Mr. Emmet Devine, and Plaintiffs’ expert, Mr. James Wyatt, participated via telephone. Hearing 6/24/2013. Additionally, Magistrate Judge John Facciola, a recognized expert in electronic discovery, attended and participated in the hearing. Hearing 6/24/2013.

Legal Standard

“Unless otherwise limited by court order . . . [p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense . . . Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P. § 26(b)(1). However, Rule 26 allows the court to limit discovery on its own initiative, if it determines that 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)(iii).

Permitting discovery regarding class certification lies within the discretion of the trial court. Kamm v. Cal. City Dev. Co., 509 F.2d 205, 209 (9th Cir. 1975). While discovery is necessary, the judge must utilize discretion to ensure that class “discovery concerning Rule 23 [class] requirements and…a class certification motion do[] not become a pretext for a partial trial of the merits.” In re Initial Pub. Offering Sec. Litig., 471 F.3d 24, 41 (2d Cir. 2006).


The parties’ final discovery dispute centers on Plaintiffs’ Document Request 1(m)-(n), found in Plaintiffs’ First Request for Production of Documents Regarding Class Discovery. Ex. 7 of Pls.’ Mot. to Compel (“Pls.’ Doc. Req.”) [129-9] at 5-6. In Document Request 1(m)-(n), Plaintiffs requested “Electronic personnel data and data keys showing, for each person you have employed in a full time, permanent position since January 1, 1999:…m) employee applications (postings) for promotional or transfer positions; and n) records of consideration for any postings.” Id. After the Court instructed the Plaintiff to narrow their request, Order [196] at 5-6, the Plaintiffs’ narrowed discovery request sought the following:

Requests for production 1(m), 1(n), 7 and 8
1. A data table showing all posted vacancies for all positions for which a vacancy was announced during the time from January 1, 2003 to the present in full time, general service positions ...

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