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Clement v. Alegre

Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District, Division Two

September 23, 2009, Filed

A123168

Opinion

 [**794]  KLINE, P. J.

INTRODUCTION

Twenty-three years ago, the Legislature enacted the Civil Discovery Act of 1986 (Code Civ. Proc., former § 2016 et seq.) 1 (the Act), a comprehensive revision of pretrial discovery statutes, the central precept of which is that civil discovery be essentially self-executing. More than 10 years ago, Townsend v. Superior Court (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 1431 [72 Cal. Rptr. 2d 333] (Townsend) lamented the all too often interjection of “ego and emotions of counsel and client[s]” into discovery disputes, warning that “[l]ike Hotspur on the field of battle, counsel can become blinded by the combative nature of the proceeding and be rendered incapable of informally resolving a disagreement.” 2 (61 Cal.App.4th at p. 1436.) Townsend counseled that the “informal resolution”  [***2] of discovery disputes “entails something more than bickering with [opposing counsel].” (Id. at p. 1439.) Rather, the statute “requires that there be a serious effort at negotiation and informal resolution.” (Id. at p. 1438.)

This case illustrates once again the truth of Townsend's observations, as well as highlighting the lengths to which some counsel and clients will go to avoid providing discovery (in this case by responding to straightforward interrogatories with nit-picking and meritless objections), resulting in delaying proceedings, impeding the self-executing operation of discovery, and wasting the time of the court, the discovery referee, the  [***3] opposing party, and his counsel.

Plaintiffs Michael H. Clement and Michael H. Clement Corporation (plaintiffs) appeal from the Contra Costa County Superior Court's imposition of $ 6,632.50 in discovery sanctions. The sanctions were awarded against plaintiffs for interposing objections to special interrogatories propounded by defendant and respondent Frank C. Alegre, which objections the discovery referee found to be “unreasonable, evasive, lacking in legal merit and without justification.” We agree and shall affirm the sanctions order.

BACKGROUND

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177 Cal. App. 4th 1277 *; 99 Cal. Rptr. 3d 791 **; 2009 Cal. App. LEXIS 1568 ***

MICHAEL H. CLEMENT et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. FRANK C. ALEGRE, Defendant and Respondent.

Subsequent History: Request denied by Clement (Michael H.) v. Alegre (Frank C.), 2010 Cal. LEXIS 444 (Cal., Jan. 13, 2010)

Prior History:  [***1] Superior Court of Contra Costa County, No. C06-00611, Barry Baskin, Judge.

CORE TERMS

interrogatories, discovery, subdivision, sanctions, special interrogatory, economic damages, confer, plaintiffs', propounded, questions, civil discovery, evasive, answers, parties, substantial justification, reporter's note, discovery process, circumstances, responses, Revision, damages, italics, discovery dispute, self-executing, responded, objected, misuse, appen, vague, monetary sanctions

Civil Procedure, Discovery & Disclosure, Discovery, Misconduct During Discovery, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, De Novo Review, Methods of Discovery, Interrogatories, Format & Number of Interrogatories, Misconduct During Discovery, Motions to Compel