United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ABDIQAFAR WAGAFE, et al., on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States, et al., Defendants.
Richard A. Jones United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to
Compel Production of Documents. Dkt. # 91. The Government
opposes the Motion. Dkt. # 94. For the following reasons, the
Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the Motion.
21, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion to certify
two classes: a Naturalization Class and an Adjustment Class.
Dkt. # 69. The parties have since been engaged in discovery.
The parties have attempted to resolve their discovery
disputes without court intervention but have reached an
impasse. Plaintiffs now move the Court to compel the
Government to produce certain documents.
Court has broad discretion to control discovery. Hallett
v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002); see
also Avila v. Willits Envtl. Remediation Trust, 633 F.3d
828, 833 (9th Cir. 2011), In re Sealed Case, 856
F.2d 268, 271 (D.C. Cir. 1988). That discretion is guided by
several principles. Most importantly, the scope of discovery
is broad. A party must respond to any discovery request that
is not privileged and that is “relevant to any
party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of
the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake
in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties'
relative access to relevant information, the parties'
resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the
issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed
discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
party refuses to respond to discovery, the requesting party
“may move for an order compelling disclosure or
discovery.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). “The party who
resists discovery has the burden to show that discovery
should not be allowed, and has the burden of clarifying,
explaining, and supporting its objections.” Cable
& Computer Tech., Inc. v. Lockheed Saunders, Inc.,
175 F.R.D. 646, 650 (C.D. Cal. 1997).
seek, and the Government refuses to provide, discovery in
four discrete areas: (1) information to allow Plaintiffs to
identify potential class members and why Named Plaintiffs
were subjected to CARRP; (2) responsive documents despite
their classified status, or a privilege log in lieu of the
documents; (3) documents related to two Executive Orders; and
(4) documents outside the scope of “national
applicability.” Dkt. # 91.
Identifying Class Members
the first matter, the Government argues that the class
members' specific identities are neither relevant nor
required for Plaintiffs to pursue this class action. Dkt. #
94 at 4-5. Many of the Government's arguments in
opposition to this request are mere conclusions, and
therefore are not sufficient to avoid disclosure. See
id. at 4-6. However, the Government advances two
arguments that are supported by more than mere conclusions:
(1) identifying class members is unreasonably burdensome, and
(2) the identities of class members are privileged.
Id. at 6-7.
asserting that that task of identifying class members is too
burdensome, the Government concedes that it already compiles
potential class members into searchable databases. Dkt. #
94-6 at ¶¶ 13-21. It claims, however, that
conducting detailed, quality assurance on these searches will
cost up to $1.17 million. Id. at ¶ 26. This
does not diminish the fact that the Government is capable of
at least providing Plaintiffs with spreadsheets of the
potential class members-information that already exists and
is readily accessible. See Id. at ¶ 23 (based
on the data it has, the Government estimates that roughly 3,
000 CARRP cases exist). This information is relevant and the
Government can produce it without incurring such a high
Government further argues that, even if producing the records
were not burdensome, the requested discovery is protected by
the law enforcement privilege. Dkt. ## 94 at 7-8, 94-5 at
¶ 7. To claim this privilege, the Government must
satisfy three requirements: (1) there must be a formal claim
of privilege by the head of the department having control
over the requested information; (2) assertion of the
privilege must be based on actual personal consideration by
that official; and (3) the information for which the
privilege is claimed must be specified, with an explanation
why it properly falls within the scope of the privilege.
In re Sealed Case, 856 F.2d at 271. This privilege
is qualified: “[t]he public interest in nondisclosure
must be balanced against the need of a particular litigant
for access to the privileged information.” Id.
Government contends, broadly, that releasing the identities
of potential class members could lead individuals to
potentially alter their behavior, conceal evidence of
wrongdoing, or attempt to influence others in a way that
could affect national security interests. Dkt. # 94-5 at
¶ 18. Such a vague, brief explanation that consists of
mere speculation and a hypothetical result is not sufficient
to claim privilege over basic spreadsheets identifying who is
subject to CARRP. See, e.g., In re Sealed
Case, 856 F.2d at 272 (explaining that the SEC
“submitted a lengthy declaration detailing the effect
disclosure would have on its ongoing Wall Street
investigation” to support its claim for privilege).
Even if it were sufficient, the privilege is not automatic;
the Court must balance the need for Plaintiffs to obtain this
information against the Government's reasons for
withholding. In doing so, the Court finds that the balance
weigh in favor of disclosure. The Court notes that there is a
protective order in place, Dkt. # 86, and Plaintiffs'
attorneys could ...