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Mendez v. Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 10, 2014

RAUL MENDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
SAINT ALPHONSUS REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

CANDY W. DALE, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff Raul Mendez's motion to compel disclosure of an investigative file and report prepared by the Employee Relations Manager of Defendant Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Inc. (SARMC). (Dkt. 49.) The report was prepared in connection with SARMC's investigation of concerns raised by Mendez in an email complaint submitted to SARMC's Local Integrity Officer on May 7, 2010, in connection with Mendez's employment with SARMC.

Upon review, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding delay and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the motions will be decided on the record without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. Rule 7.1(e). For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny Mendez's motion to compel.

BACKGROUND

Mendez, as a former employee of SARMC, filed this lawsuit in January of 2012, alleging employment discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliation under federal and state laws. In his Amended Complaint, (Dkt. 5), Mendez asserts claims against SARMC for retaliation, unlawful harassment, and discrimination on the basis of religion, race and national origin, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, et seq. and Idaho Code § 67-5901, et seq. Mendez also seeks damages for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing regarding his employment contract with SARMC. All of Mendez's claims stem from the conduct of Mendez's former supervisor, Connie Miller, and Ms. Miller's friend and co-worker, Rachel Croft, beginning sometime in 2009 and continuing through the termination of Mendez's employment with SARMC in October of 2010.

The discovery dispute presently before the Court involves an internal complaint made by Mendez on May 7, 2010, through SARMC's Organizational Integrity Program (OIP) and an investigative report prepared by SARMC regarding that complaint. The OIP complaint is referenced in Mendez's Amended Complaint. ( See Dkt. 5 ¶ 18.) Throughout discovery, SARMC maintained that the investigative report is confidential and protected from disclosure by both the attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine. Shortly after SARMC filed a motion for summary judgment, Mendez filed the instant motion seeking an order compelling production of the OIP investigation report and contents of the investigative file, [1] and a companion motion asking the Court to defer consideration of the motion for summary judgment until the motion to compel was resolved. Consideration of the motion to compel was prolonged, in part due to the withdrawal of Mendez's counsel. However, the motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for the Court's review.

SARMC claims the OIP Report is protected by the attorney-client privilege "because it is a communication between SARMC and its legal counsel made at the request of legal counsel for the purpose of providing legal advice." (Dkt. 61 at 2.) SARMC also claims the OIP Report is protected by the work product doctrine "because it was prepared in anticipation of litigation at the direction of legal counsel." (Dkt. 61 at 2.)

In support of the motion to compel, filed by Mendez's former counsel, Mendez challenges application of the work product doctrine as a basis for SARMC's failure to produce the OIP Report. Further, Mendez, in his pro se filing, alleges the "Attorney/Client privilege is a bogus claim" because the Employee Relations Manager who conducted the investigation and prepared the report informed Mendez he would discuss some of Mendez's allegations with "HR and management, " and thus must have shared content of the investigation with people outside of the Office of General Counsel. (Dkt. 63 at 4.) The Court evaluates these arguments below.

DISCUSSION

Mendez moves to compel disclosure of the OIP Report pursuant to Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[2] Rule 37 states: "On notice to other parties and all affected persons, a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). The party opposing discovery "has the burden of showing that the discovery should not be allowed, and also has the burden of clarifying, explaining or supporting its objections with competent evidence." Trejo v. Macy's, Inc. , No. 13-2064, 2014 WL 1091000, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 17, 2014).

1. The OIP Report is Protected by the Attorney-Client Privilege

The attorney-client privilege is intended to "encourage full and frank communication between attorneys and their clients." Upjohn Co. v. United States , 449 U.S. 383, 389 (1981). One of the main purposes of the attorney-client privilege is to protect "the giving of information to the lawyer to enable him [or her] to give sound and informed advice." Id. at 390. The attorney-client privilege should be narrowly construed "because it impedes full and free disclosure of the truth." United States v. Martin , 278 F.3d 988, 999 (9th Cir. 2002). Therefore, the attorney-client privilege only protects confidential information that "passes between attorney and client for the purpose of giving or obtaining legal advice." Walker v. County of Contra Costa , 227 F.R.D. 529, 534 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 14, 2005).

In this case, Associate General Counsel for SARMC, Jacqueline Fearnside, directed the Employee Relations Manager, Dennis Wedman, to investigate Mendez's claims of "unlawful harassment" and "hostile work environment" raised by Mendez on his own behalf and that of a co-worker in the email sent to SARMC's Local Integrity Officer on May, 2010. (Dkt. 61-3 at 4.) Fearnside "anticipated that [Mendez's] claims would ultimately result in litigation" because his complaint alleged "unlawful harassment" and "hostile work environment." (Dkt. 61-3 at 3.) Fearnside directed Wedman to prepare a report on the investigation in a specific format "for purposes of preparing for any potential litigation and to enable [Fearnside] to provide SARMC with legal advice." (Dkt. 61-3 at 4.) The Report was communicated in confidence and labeled "Confidential-Attorney/Client Privileged." (Dkt. 61-3 at 4.)

Based on these undisputed facts, the Court finds the OIP Report is protected from disclosure by the attorney-client ...


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