United States District Court, D. Colorado
ESMERALDO VILLANUEVA ECHON, JR., MARIBEL ECHON, and JUSTIN ECHON, Plaintiffs,
WILLIAM SACKETT, and LEONIDA SACKETT, Defendants.
Nina Y. Wang United States Magistrate Judge.
This civil action comes before the court on Plaintiffs’ Third Motion to Compel Discovery and Sanctions [#64], filed on February 23, 2016, by Plaintiffs Esmeraldo Villanueva Echon, Jr., Maribel Echon, and Justin Echon (collectively, “Plaintiffs” or “the Echons”). This motion was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Amended Order Referring Case dated August 28, 2015 [#46], and the memorandum dated February 24, 2016 [#66]. On March 7, 2016, Defendants William J. Sackett and Leonida Sackett (“Defendants” or “the Sacketts”) filed a response docketed as a letter [#68], indicating that they had provided all the information as requested by Plaintiffs, except for the immigration information because “[i]t will cause great damage to Jeffery’s two sons that want to come to the United States.” [Id. at 1]. On that same date, Defendants filed a document entitled “To Withdraw Offer, ” which indicates that he paid the mortgage on John Echon’s home and land. [#67]. The following day, Defendants filed a document entitled “Request for Production, ” which appears to be their responses to written discovery. [#69]. On May 10, Defendants filed a document entitled “Question #8 on Discovery, ” presumably responding to Interrogatory No. 8, which inquires about the financial support provided to Plaintiffs or Jeffrey Echon, a nonparty to this action. [#70]. Because of Defendants’ pro se status, this court construes Defendants’ multiple filings on March 7-10 [#67, #68, #69, #70], as a multi-part response to Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel. Plaintiffs have not filed a Reply, and this court finds that oral argument would not materially assist in the disposition of Plaintiffs’ Third Motion to Compel.
Plaintiffs initiated this action on December 18, 2014 by filing a Complaint asserting the following claims: (1) violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”); (2) violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”); (3) violation of the Colorado Minimum Wage of Workers; (4) violation of the Colorado Wage Claim Act; (5) Breach of Contract; (6) Breach of Contract-Third Party Beneficiary Claim; and (7) Unjust Enrichment. [#1]. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants, who operate several businesses and manage a farm in Rocky Ford, Colorado, held them in “debt bondage, requiring them to work on their crops and in their market, clean and maintain their rental properties, and perform various other jobs from 2011-2014, ” without pay. [#1 at ¶ 2]. Defendants, who are proceeding pro se, filed an Answer on March 18, 2015. [#11]. After the entry of the Scheduling Order in this case on April 23, 2015, the Parties proceeded with discovery.
The discovery process, which has now lasted an entire year, has been arduous. This court has held multiple informal and formal conferences to address Defendants’ discovery responses, and has ruled on two Motions to Compel. See [#52, #62]. Most recently, this court ordered Defendants to respond to Interrogatories 1 (as limited) - 5, 7-16, and Requests for Production Nos. 2-4, 6, 8, 10, and 11. See [#62].
I. Applicable Law
A. Rule 37(a) & Rule 37(b)
Rule 37(a) provides that a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery after the party has conferred or made a good faith effort to confer with the non-disclosing party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a). This Rule applies where a party has not disclosed any information, or has disclosed evasive or incomplete answers. Id.
B. Rule 37(b)
Plaintiffs also move for sanctions as the court deems appropriate pursuant to Rule 37(b). Rule 37(b)(2) provides that a court may sanction a party for failing to obey a court order to provide or permit discovery, which may include both monetary and non-monetary penalties. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2). The Rule further provides that instead of, or in addition to, other sanctions delineated, the court may order “the disobedient party … pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, caused by the failure, unless the failure was substantially justified or other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2)(C).
This court’s prior Order compelled Plaintiffs to respond to Interrogatories 1 (as limited) -5, 7-16. [#62]. Plaintiffs assert that “Defendants continued to provide no response to Plaintiffs’ Interrogatories.” [#64 at 5]. In their letter filed on March 7, 2016, Defendants indicate that both have been deposed, and that they “think that is enough questions.” [#68]. There is no indication that Defendants have responded to the interrogatories to date.
While this court is cognizant that Defendants perceive Plaintiffs’ interrogatory requests as invasive and that Defendants are proceeding pro se, discovery plays an important role in the United States’ adversarial system, and allows parties to develop the facts surrounding a matter in a “quest for truth.” See Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Daily, 973 F.2d 1525, 1529-30 (10th Cir.1991). Nothing in the record before the court excuses Defendants from responding to properly propounded interrogatories. In considering the prior motions to compel and during informal discovery conferences, this court evaluated the propounded interrogatories and limited them how it deemed necessary. [#62]. ...