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Jones v. Forrest City Grocery Inc.

March 16, 2007

WASHINGTON LAMONT JONES, WILLIAM WARE, MICHAEL WARD, LAMAR COLE, PATRICK SPEARMAN, KIP RUCKER, WILL GREEN, JEROME KIDD, CHARLES ROGERS, BRANDON BARRETT, ERIC BRANDON, AND ISUOMA SHINE PLAINTIFFS
v.
FORREST CITY GROCERY INC.; DAVID COHN AND ALAN COHN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENTS OF FORREST CITY GROCERY INC. DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R. Wilson, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

Pending is Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel*fn1 to which Defendants have responded.*fn2

I. Background

This is a class action filed by former employees of Defendant Forrest City Grocery. Plaintiffs served 26 Requests for Production of Documents on the Defendants. The Defendants' responses were timely; however, they objected to many of the requests. Plaintiffs are asking for relief and sanctions. Defendants contend that they have provided adequate responses, and that their objections are well founded.

II. Authority

Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure should not be narrowly applied so as "to deprive a party of discovery that is reasonably necessary to afford a fair opportunity to develop and prepare the case."*fn3 This is particularly true in Title VII cases where unnecessary discovery limitations should be avoided.*fn4

A party cannot object to an interrogatory or request for production, and, at the same time, answer the request for production in the same response.*fn5 If a party does this, the objection is waived.*fn6 There is no authority in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for reserving objections. Parties have a duty either to answer discovery or object to it.*fn7

A party cannot avoid its discovery responsibilities by reciting that the requests are burdensome or overly broad.*fn8 The burden is on the objecting party to clarify, explain, and support its objections.*fn9 The objecting party must show specifically how each request is not relevant or how each question is overly broad, burdensome or oppressive,*fn10 by submitting affidavits or offering evidence revealing the nature of the burden, or how the request is irrelevant.*fn11 A court is not required to examine every discovery request to determine its relevance.*fn12 Moreover, showing that a matter is not relevant during the early stages of a lawsuit is a difficult task because almost everything is relevant in the discovery process.

The scope of civil discovery is broad and requires nearly total mutual disclosure of each party's evidence prior to trial.*fn13 Rule 26 broadly authorizes discovery of "any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the claim or defense involved in the pending action."*fn14 The information sought during discovery in a civil case need not be admissible at trial and need only be reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence.*fn15 Discovery is not limited to issues raised by the pleadings, because it is designed to help define and clarify these issues;*fn16 and, discovery is not limited to the merits of a case, because facts may come to light that are not anticipated and are not related to the merits.*fn17

Discovering previous conduct of Defendants is often the focus of interrogatories and requests for production of documents. Discovery of previous conduct in a Title VII lawsuit is relevant and the scope of discovery is extended to a reasonable number of years before the alleged Title VII violation.*fn18 The majority of courts have held that going back five years before the first violation occurred is reasonable.

The claim of this lawsuit is race discrimination. Any past conduct, policies, or practices of the Defendants that tend to show that race was a motivation is relevant.

From all of the above, I make the following findings and conclusions.

III. Findings and Conclusions

1. Defendants have answered Requests for Production 1 through 6 by providing a complete copy of each Plaintiff's personnel file. These files should contain the information requested in Requests for Production 2 through 6. Any objections raised in Requests for Production 1 through 6 are waived and the Defendants are under a continuing duty to supplement the answers and provide missing personnel files, or any other responsive document that is located. Defendants explained in their Response to Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel that the personnel files of William Ware, Lester Brooks, and Jerome Kidd were not produced because they ...


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