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Ortega v. New Mexico Legal Aid, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

November 8, 2019

MINA ORTEGA, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW MEXICO LEGAL AID, INC. et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON NMLA'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY

          KIRTAN KHALSA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant New Mexico Legal Aid, Inc.'s (“NMLA”) Motion to Compel Discovery from Plaintiff (Doc. 122), filed August 26, 2019. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion on September 19, 2019, (Doc. 136), and NMLA filed a reply in support of it on October 3, 2019. (Doc. 149.) The Court, having reviewed the pleadings, the record, and the relevant law, being otherwise fully advised, and for the reasons stated below, FINDS that the motion is well-taken in part and should be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         In its motion, NMLA asks the Court to compel Plaintiff to respond, or supplement her responses, to four written discovery requests to which she objected on July 29, 2019. (Doc. 122-1.) The Court will address each of these requests in turn.

         1. Interrogatory No. 1

         With respect to this interrogatory, NMLA asks the Court to compel Plaintiff to provide “the name and contact information for any adult who has lived with Plaintiff . . . during the past ten years.” (Doc. 122 at 3 (emphasis omitted).) Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33, parties may serve interrogatories “relat[ing] to any matter that may be inquired into under Rule 26(b).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a)(2). Rule 26(b), in turn, permits parties to “obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Id.

         Factors the Court should consider in determining whether discovery is “proportional to the needs of the case” include:

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.

Id. “The court's responsibility, using all the information provided by the parties, is to consider these . . . factors in reaching a case-specific determination of the appropriate scope of discovery.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), 2015 Amendment, Advisory Committee Notes.

         Any adults who have lived with Plaintiff within the last ten (10) years may have knowledge relevant to Plaintiff's claims of harassment by her supervisors while employed at NMLA, emotional distress, other damages, and mitigation efforts. (Doc. 7 at 19-20, 31.) NMLA is therefore entitled to information that would allow it to interview or, if necessary, subpoena any such persons to testify at trial. Moreover, NMLA's request for these potential witnesses' names and contact information is not onerous and is appropriate and proportional to the needs of the case in light of the factors listed in Rule 26(b)(1). The Court will therefore grant NMLA's motion to compel Plaintiff to provide the requested information.

         2. Interrogatory No. 22

         In this interrogatory, NMLA asked Plaintiff to identify by make, model year, and serial number all computers she has used from January 1, 2014 to the present. (Doc. 122 at 3.) Plaintiff objected to providing the requested information on the bases of relevance and invasion of privacy. (Id. at 4.) In its motion, NMLA argues that the requested information is relevant to “Plaintiff's repeated claims of computer problems” and her allegations that NMLA and its counsel have hacked into her computer. (Id.) Plaintiff responds that “[p]roviding NMLA with the any [sic] information regarding her computer compromises the security of her computer.” (Doc. 136 at 7.)

         In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff makes allegations concerning her computer problems to support her claims against the Union. (Doc. 7 at 23-24.) Thus, information about the computer or computers she was using at that time are relevant to her claims as she has stated them. In addition, the information NMLA has requested is proportional to the needs of the case in light of the factors listed in Rule 26(b)(1). The burden on Plaintiff to provide the requested information is minimal, notwithstanding Plaintiff's argument to the contrary. The allegations Plaintiff has made during discovery to the effect that NMLA has hacked into her computer are unsupported and unconvincing. Thus, the Court finds Plaintiff's objections to providing the requested information to be without merit. In short, the Court will order Plaintiff to provide NMLA with the make, model year, and serial number of all computers she has used from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2017, a time frame which amply encompasses the pertinent events alleged in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint.

         The Court will not, however, order Plaintiff to provide information regarding the computer or computers she has used during the pendency of this litigation, though she has, as NMLA observes, accused counsel of hacking into her computer and has repeatedly relied on computer problems to request extensions. Satellite litigation about Plaintiff's conduct and accusations during discovery is not an appropriate or productive use of the parties' and the Court's time, nor is discovery in support of such litigation proportional to the needs of the case in light of the factors listed in Rule 26(b)(1).

         3. Interr ...


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