United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ROBERT L. KING, Plaintiff,
LT. STACH, et al., Defendants.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL
DISCOVERY AND FOR SANCTIONS
A TSUCHIDA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
se plaintiff Robert L. King moves to compel defendants
to answer interrogatories under oath pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
33 and to impose sanctions on defendants' former
attorney Jeffrey D. Sawyer for an alleged failure
to meet and confer. Dkt. 26. Defendants oppose the motion.
Dkt. 31. Having considered the papers filed in support of and
in opposition to this motion and for the reasons discussed
below, the Court DENIES plaintiff's
motion to compel and for sanctions.
January 5, 2017, defendants, through counsel Jeffrey Sawyer,
served plaintiff with responses to plaintiff's First Set
of Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents
re Pre-Answer Discovery. Dkt. 14; Exhibit 1 to Dkt. 26; Dkt.
31 at 2. Plaintiff alleges and defendants admit that,
although Mr. Sawyer certified defendants' responses
complied with Fed.R.Civ.P. 26, the responses were not filed
under oath as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(3). Dkt. 26 at
1; Dkt. 31 at 2. On January 26, 2017, plaintiff sent a letter
to Mr. Sawyer, requesting a “telephonic discovery
conference ASAP” based upon “dilatory”
responses to his discovery requests and Mr. Sawyer's
“certification that the unverified answers complied
with Fed.R.Civ.P. 26.” Ex. 2 to Dkt. 26; Dkt. 31 at 4.
Mr. Sawyer responded via letter on February 14, 2017, asking
for further clarification of plaintiff's allegations
“prior to scheduling a telephonic conference.”
Ex. 2 to Dkt. 26; Dkt. 31 at 4-5. Plaintiff did not respond.
The instant motion was filed on March 3, 2017. Dkt. 26.
Good faith effort to meet and confer
Rule 37(a)(1) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(1)
provide that before bringing a motion to compel discovery,
the movant must make a good faith effort to meet and confer
with the allegedly offending party in an effort to resolve
any dispute. See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR
37(a)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). These rules are intended to
ensure that parties have an inexpensive and expeditious
opportunity to resolve discovery disputes and that only
genuine disagreements are brought before the Court.
Defendants contend that plaintiff's “single request
to confer and refusal to further communicate with Mr. Sawyer
does not amount to a ‘good faith effort'” to
resolve the matter without court action. Dkt. 31 at 5. In
this case, the Court agrees. LCR 37(a)(1) provides that a
“good faith effort” to confer with a party
requires a face-to-face meeting or a telephone conference.
While these requirements may be impractical for incarcerated
litigations, plaintiff could have done more than he did to
resolve the issue before seeking a Court order. Simply ignoring a
response from defense counsel seeking clarity on the issues
upon which plaintiff wished to confer is not an indication of
an effort made in “good faith.” This is
particularly true where, as here, counsel for defendants were
not clearly dismissive of plaintiff's request, but rather
engaged in the conversation. Ex. 3 to Dkt. 26. The Court
therefore fails to see any exigent circumstances that might
have given it reason to conclude plaintiff satisfied the
federal and local civil rules by making a good faith
attempt to confer.
Plaintiff fails to show harm
record suggests defendants were likely not aware of
plaintiff's specific objections until plaintiff filed the
instant motion. On March 10, 2017, after plaintiff filed his
discovery motion, defendants served on plaintiff a copy of
the verification page for the responses to the discovery
requests at issue. Ex. A to Dkt. 33. Accordingly, the defect
underlying plaintiff's motion has already been cured.
Plaintiff's motion to compel is therefore moot.
addition, plaintiff's motion fails to demonstrate the
admitted error was intentional, or even that the events
leading to the filing of his motion deprived him of justice
or caused him substantial prejudice. Indeed, plaintiff's
objections regarding defendants' discovery responses
concern a procedural, rather than substantive error, and have
little to no bearing on the underlying facts and issues of
this case. In short, plaintiff fails to show that
defendants' error caused him any harm or prejudice.
Sanctions against defendants or their counsel for the error
is therefore unwarranted.
motion, Dkt. 26, is therefore DENIED.
Clerk is directed to send a copy of this Order to plaintiff
and to the Honorable John C. Coughenour.