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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
OPPOSITION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Defendant Northwest Airlines Corporation's ("Northwest's") motion for an extension of time is not the product of a genuine dispute over the substance of plaintiff's discovery requests, but simply the result of Northwest's apparent strategy to obstruct any attempt to resolve discovery issues before rushing to the Court. While the government does not oppose the notion of a thirty-day extension for Northwest to produce documents and information in response to plaintiff's discovery requests, Northwest's basic position -- refusing to make any commitments on their response to plaintiff's requests despite the government's commitment to significant limitations and modifications to those requests -- is flatly inconsistent with the type of cooperative discovery that would allow this case to proceed expeditiously. Indeed, the government was able to reach precisely this type of agreement with the other defendant, Continental Airlines, Inc., thereby eliminating the necessity for the type of senseless motions practice exemplified by Northwest's instant motion. In short, the government's opposition is not to the 30-day extension itself, but rather to the unreasonable stance taken by Northwest in discussions pertaining to their request, and the effect this type of noncooperative strategy has on the government's primary objective of bringing this case to trial as quickly as possible.
Although the government is hesitant to expand the record needlessly with regard to Northwest's motion, three points need to be made about the factual precursor to this motion:
In stark contrast to Northwest's actions, Continental, after receiving the United States' discovery requests, asked for a meeting to try and work out mutually satisfactory agreements with regard to plaintiff's discovery requests. The government and Continental were able to resolve most of their differences and, when asked, plaintiff quickly granted Continental's request for an extension of time on the condition that Continental would provide the responsive documents as negotiated.(4)
In summary, this is a dispute of Northwest's own design. Northwest's strategy places the government in an untenable position -- agree to a "no strings attached" extension, wait an additional thirty days, and then face the prospect of blanket objections to plaintiff's discovery requests. At best, this results in meaningful discovery negotiations being delayed for a month, and production of responsive materials for an even lengthier period; at worst it delays by a month plaintiff's ability to move to compel discovery if that becomes necessary based on Northwest's refusal to comply. The filing of this motion thus makes even more clear the need for the Court to impose a rigorous pretrial schedule in this case and require all parties to abide by it. In particular, the establishment of a firm trial date now should help to prevent these kinds of disputes and encourage efficient pretrial discovery proceedings in the future. With regard to the instant motion, the Court should deny the requested extension unless Northwest is willing to state its specific objections to the requests and agree to produce documents in accordance with the limitations and modifications already negotiated with the government.
Julia C. Pidgeon
FOR PLAINTIFF UNITED STATES
DATED: April 16, 1999
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that copies of the foregoing Opposition of the United States of America To Northwest Airlines Corporation's Motion For An Extension To Respond To Plaintiff's Discovery were served by hand and/or first-class U.S. mail, postage prepaid, this 16th day of April, 1999 upon each of the parties listed below:
Donald L. Flexner (By Hand)
Lawrence G. Campbell (By U.S. Mail)
John L. Murchison, Jr. (By U.S. Mail)
Paul L. Yde (By Hand)
Eugene Driker (By U.S. Mail)
1. See March 26, 1999 letter attached as Exhibit 4 to the declaration accompanying Northwest's motion (stating Northwest's position that "the 30-day time frame for completing document production is no longer reasonable" even though Northwest had the government's discovery requests in hand prior to filing the proposed case management schedule containing that 30-day commitment).
2. See April 7, 1999 letter from James R. Wade to Alexandre de Gramont and Paul L. Yde attached as Exhibit 1 hereto.
3. See April 9, 1999 letter attached as Exhibit 6 to the declaration accompanying Northwest's motion.
4. Similarly, the United States, after receiving defendants' discovery requests on April 2, promptly reviewed the requests, assessed the burdens of responding, and arranged to meet with defendants' counsel on April 9 to discuss possible modifications.