Discovery, Specific Cases

Davis v. Precoat
  • Charged that racially and insulting derogatory comments abounded (hostile environment).
  • Document request for complaints alleging race/national origin discrimination filed by other employees at same plant.
    • Discovery always filled with duplication/redundancy (to make sure nothing falls between cracks).
    • Defendant did not turn over documents.
    • Plaintiffs filed a "motion to compel" with the court.
  • Courts get dragged into it when parties can't work it out.
    • Discovery mostly left to parties to implement, presume good faith (that is often not there!).
    • Rules work only if both sides have minimum commitment to making them work, otherwise extremely inefficient to constantly have to run to court with motions to compel.
    • Courts are reluctant to come down too hard in discovery, want parties to work it out because the court isn't involved from beginning.
  • Appealing a "Motion to Compel"
    • Motion to Compel NOT A FINAL JUDGMENT
      • Thus, can't appeal until end of case.
    • Might be able to appeal if they lose case on various grounds, including this one.
    • But will be hard to show prejudice on this issue (that they wouldn't have lost BUT FOR this ruling).
    • If it didn't cost the defendant, appeals court doesn't care about fixing it.
    • SO—for the most part, discovery means what district courts and magistrates say it means—but most issues NEVER GO TO COURT.
      • Also note: standard of review is "abuse of discretion," not "de novo."
  • Want access to other complaints involving similar discrimination—how do these other allegations fit into plaintiff’s case? Why are such allegations by non-parties relevant to the claims of these plaintiffs?
    • Relevant to demonstrating pattern/practice of discrimination. The more people who allege unfair treatment, the harder it is for defendant to blame plaintiffs. See Yeazell, p. 410.
    • Relevance depends on a presumption that if you discriminate against one person, more likely to discriminate against another person—what is relevant depends on what we think motivates human behavior.
Steffan v. Cheney
  • Relevance also turns on substantive law.
  • Steffan resigned from Academy after recommendation of discharge, sues saying improperly dismissed him from school due to homosexual orientation.
    • That alone is not a Constitutional basis for exclusion from Academy (since it is solely due to mindset, statements, admissions).
    • Policy at time based on orientation, not conduct.
  • Constructive discharge—due to resignation vs. firing—functional equivalent of firing.
  • District court dismissed (with Rule 37 sanction) claim due to failure to answer/cooperate with discovery.
  • Steffan invokes 5th Amendment.
    • Note that even in civil case, can invoke 5th Amendment privilege if testimony can be used against you in another, criminal setting.
    • Not used very often because in a civil case trial lawyers can tell jury and they can draw inferences (unlike criminal cases).
  • Assuming arguendo that Steffan’s theory applies only to policy that boots people based on statements ("who-he-is"), not conduct.
  • Limited to grounds used by government to take action, not what they could do (or ever be able to on another reason later)—past actions, not potential future actions.
    • Think about question "did you ever break curfew"? (Grounds for booting, but CLEARLY not relevant.)
      • Shows limits of relevancy.
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