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Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission v. San Juan County

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

March 29, 2017

NAVAJO NATION HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION; PEGGY PHILLIPS; MARK MARYBOY; WILFRED JONES; TERRY WHITEHAT; BETTY BILLIE FARLEY; WILLIE SKOW; and MABEL SKOW, Plaintiffs,
v.
SAN JUAN COUNTY; JOHN DAVID NIELSON, in his official capacity as San Juan County Clerk; and PHIL LYMAN, BRUCE ADAMS, and REBECCA BENALLY, in their official capacities as San Juan County Commissioners, Defendants.

          Jill Parrish District Judge

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO COMPEL AND REQUEST FOR EXTENSION OF FACT DISCOVERY

          Brooke C. Wells United States Magistrate Judge

         Pending before the undersigned is Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel and Request For Extension of Fact Discovery.[1] The court heard argument on the motion March 28, 2017. Plaintiffs were represented by John Mejia and Leah Farrell. Defendants were represented by Jesse Trentadue. Having heard argument and after further consideration of the parties' briefing, the undersigned finds Plaintiffs failed to comply with the Discovery Rules and the discovery they seek is not within a reasonable reading of their request. The motion therefore is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         This case centers on Defendants decision in 2014 to close polling places and change to a mail-only voting system.[2] Plaintiffs contend that the alleged closure of polling places and the adoption of mail-only voting “unreasonably hindered the ability of Navajo citizens in San Juan County to participate effectively in the political process on equal terms with white voters in the 2014 general election.” Plaintiffs allege that the mail-only system “fails to provide adequate oral assistance to limited English proficient Native American voters” and that “Navajo residents of San Juan County are required to travel, on average, more than twice as far to vote in person in comparison to white residents of San Juan County.” Allegedly this new mail-only voting system also diverts limited resources to educating Navajo voters about the new system rather than using these resources for more valuable endeavors.

         ANALYSIS

         i. The court will deny Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel and deny the request to extend discovery

         Plaintiffs' move the court to have Defendants “fully comply with their obligation to thoroughly search all records within their control so as to produce responsive documents”[3] to Plaintiffs' First Set of Requests for Production. Specifically Plaintiffs point to Request for Production No. 1 that states:

All documents and communications concerning your claim that “[f]or the 2016 and future election cycles, in-person voting or polls will be available at four locations within San Juan County: Monticello, Montezuma Creek, Oljato and Navajo Mountain, Utah” including, but not limited to:
1. Decision-making process to open three additional polling locations for the 2016 election cycle;
2. Dates and hours that each polling place will be open for the primary, general, and other elections in 2016 and beyond; and
3. Number of staff at each location.[4]

         In response to this request Defendants stated: “After a diligent and thorough review, San Juan County knows of no other documents responsive documents. San Juan County reserves the right to supplement its response to this Request.”

         During the deposition of Defendant John Nielson, the San Juan County Clerk, Mr. Nielson was asked about his review of documents to prepare for the deposition. Mr. Nielson responded that he reviewed the declarations and did not gather any documents or do any key word searches. These answers, according ...


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