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Pearson v. The University of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

October 22, 2019

THE THOMAS L. PEARSON and THE PEARSON FAMILY MEMBERS FOUNDATION, Plaintiff and Counterclaim Defendant,
v.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO Defendant and Counterclaimant,
v.
THOMAS L. PEARSON, Counterclaim Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          FRANK H. MCCARTHY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff's Second Motion to Compel From The University of Chicago, [Dkt. 78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78], is before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for decision. The matter has been fully briefed. [Dkt. 78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78, 88, 90].

         Plaintiff requests that the court set a date certain for completion of production of documents. Defendant has represented that production was completed during the pendency of this motion, [Dkt. 88, p. 4], that representation was not disputed in the reply brief. This issue is moot.

         Plaintiff requests a ruling of the court about the scope of Plaintiff's Complaint. [Dkt. 78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78, p. 14]. The court has addressed specific discovery disputes raised by Plaintiff's motion, but declines to provide any commentary outside of that necessary to resolve those disputes.

         Interrogatory No. 17

         As modified in Plaintiff's Opening Brief, [Dkt. 78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78, p. 8], this interrogatory requires Defendant to identify every change or modification to several identified websites “or any other publication relating or referring to The Pearson Institute” with regard to the title of Professor Robinson. Defendant states it has produced a list of changes that are responsive to this interrogatory and that it is willing to produce old versions of the webpages if Plaintiff supplies a narrowed date range. Plaintiff replies that narrowing the time frame from website launch in April 2017 to the last revision in 2018 would not be reasonable.

         The Motion to Compel is GRANTED in PART as to Interrogatory No. 17. The court finds that Defendant has not demonstrated that providing copies of old versions of webpages for the date range would be unduly burdensome. Defendant is required to produce those pages. The court finds that Plaintiff's request for similar information from unspecified “other publications” relating to The Pearson Institute is too unspecific to require Defendant to respond.

         Request for Production No. 38

This request for production of documents seeks:
all documents relating to the consideration, recruitment, search for, hiring, and resignation of candidates for the Forum Executive Director position, including without limitation documents related to both individuals that have held this title.

[Dkt. 78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78, p. 10]. Defendant responded that Request No. 38 is duplicative of materials produced in response to Request No. 2. Plaintiff asserts that Request No. 2 sought documents relating to the search for, naming of, replacement of, change in title to, or appointment of the Forum Executive Director, among other positions. Id. According to Plaintiff, Request No. 38 is different in that it also seeks documents related to the resignation of a Forum Executive Director and asks for documents for both individuals who have held the title. In response to the Motion to Compel, Defendant states that the additional documents requested are not relevant because Plaintiff has not pled any allegations that would encompass the requested discovery, as the Forum Executive Director is not even mentioned in the Complaint. Defendant asserts that, in view of the absence of any allegation concerning the Forum Executive Director, it should not be required to re-collect documents from the numerous custodians, apply new search terms, and review what is likely to be a significant number of additional documents because the burden of production is not proportional to the needs of the case.

         Plaintiff states that, having produced some documents regarding the position of Forum Executive Director, Defendant has now decided that the information is no longer within the scope of discovery. [Dkt. 78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78, p. 10]. The court is aware that much effort was expended developing ESI search terms and identifying custodians so as to capture the universe of documents that might address Plaintiff's claims. It does not appear that Defendant has changed its position about the scope of discovery, but that documents responsive to the ESI search terms were produced The fact that some documents addressing the Forum Executive Director were produced does not justify the expansion of discovery with additional ESI search terms to encompass areas of inquiry relating to resignation or termination.

         The court notes that Plaintiff has not specified what claim the additional discovery would address, but generally asserts that information concerning the resignation or termination of a key employee is highly relevant to its claims because the documents “are likely to shed light on the disarray and mismanagement within The Pearson Institute and the University of Chicago that is the genesis of Plaintiff's claims in this case.” [Dkt. 78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78');">78, pp. 10-11]. The court finds that Plaintiff has not articulated the relevance of the additional production sought by ...


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