In U.S. v. Warner, 2012 WL 6087193 (N.D.Cal. 2012), Judge Beeler ordered the Government to produce FDCPA compliance information with regard to its efforts to collect on student loans from an in-pro-per attorney.
So, are his discovery requests relevant to them? Yes. As noted above, Mr. Warner essentially seeks all communications between him and the Department (and its agents) and all documents and information concerning the Department’s debt collection policies (as they relate to him), the efforts the Department (and its agents) made to collect the debt from him, and how the Department monitored those efforts. This information at least relates to some of his asserted defenses, such as his defenses that: the Department’s debt collection agents misled him and falsely claimed that he owed a grossly exaggerated amount of money; that the Department’s agents’ misrepresentations prevented from paying back his loans; that he offered to pay back his loans but the Department’s agents refused to provide him with an accurate amount that he owed; that the Department’s agents breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and that the Department’s agents violated the FDCPA and the Rosenthal Act. Mr. Warner, then, has met his burden to show that his requests satisfy the relevancy requirements of Rule 26(b)(1). See Soto, 162 F.R.D. at 610.
My favorite, though, was the United States Government’s assertion of burden, which the Court rejected.
This brings the court to the Government’s burden argument. It argues that responding to all of Mr. Warner’s discovery requests would take lots of time, money, and effort and that “the burden and oppressiveness of such a search far outweighs its benefit” to Mr. Warner. 9/13/2012 Case Management Statement, ECF No. 24. In support of this argument, the Government submitted the Declaration of Rubio Canlas, a Loan Analyst for the Department. Canlas Declaration, ECF No. 25. ¶ The Government’s burden argument is not persuasive. Mr. Canlas says that there are many collection agencies from which the Government will have to seek discovery and that it will take some unspecified number of hours to do that, but he provides no real information to back this claim up. If there are ten collection agencies, then there are ten collection agencies; this number is meaningless on its own. He also claims that searching the relevant email accounts is “impossible,” but this statement is conclusory and, frankly, not true. The court routinely orders parties in civil cases to search electronically-stored information such as email; it is possible. Mr. Canlas also states that searching the email accounts would be “prohibitively costly,” but he provides no persuasive reason why this is so or any numbers to allow the court determine whether it actually is. More generally, though, in light of “the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties’ resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues,” the court simply does not believe that “the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C)(iii). The Government seeks nearly $200,000 from Mr. Warner, and the discovery sought is important to resolve the issues in this case. The court also observes that, on this record, some of the discovery seems relevant to the amount of the debt owed.