United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division
IMA JEAN SORRELL & WILLIAM SAMUEL SORRELL, JR.
JERRY W. REEVES, Individually & as Trustee F/B/O WILLIAM SAMUEL SORRELL, SR. TRUST, et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. MAZZANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are Plaintiff Ima Jean Sorrell's Motion
to Compel (Dkt. #112) and the Reeves
Defendants' Motion for Protective Order (Dkt.
#126). Having reviewed the motion and the
relevant pleadings, the Court finds that the motion to compel
should be granted and the motion for protective order should
Mrs. Ima Jean Sorrell was married to Mr. William Sorrell, Sr.
(collectively “the Sorrells”). They had two
children: Plaintiff, Mr. William Samuel Sorrell, Jr. and Ms.
Bonnie Sorrell Gregory. The Sorrells accumulated a sizable
joint estate worth in excess of $5, 000, 000 prior to their
2014, William Sorrell, Sr. consulted the Sorrells'
attorney Defendant J.S. “Sandy” Freels to create
a second draft of the Sorrells' estate planning
documents, which included the Sorrells' wills, trusts,
and power of attorneys, specifically creating the Ima Jean
Sorrell Trust and William Samuel Sorrell, Sr. Trust
(“Sorrell Trusts”). The Sorrell Trusts appointed
Defendant, Jerry W. Reeves as the trustee of the Sorrell
Trusts and named Jerry Reeves' wife, Mary Lou Reeves, and
their son, Brandon W. Reeves (collectively “the Reeves
Defendants”) as successor trustees of the Sorrell
Trusts. The estate planning documents also list the Reeves
Defendants as the beneficiaries of the residual estate after
the death of Ima Jean Sorrell and William Sorrell, Jr.
(collectively “Plaintiffs”). Plaintiffs did not
know Jerry Reeves or the Reeves Defendants.
Sorrell, Sr. passed away on February 20, 2014. Immediately
after, Jerry Reeves exercised Ima Jean Sorrell's power of
attorney. Acting in his roles under the Sorrells'
relevant estate planning documents, Jerry Reeves transferred
all of Ima Jean Sorrell's assets, including all her cash,
to an entity that is believed to be the Sorrell Trusts.
Meanwhile, Jerry Reeves also began to make cash payments of
$1, 300 per month to Plaintiffs. After the filing of the
present suit, Jerry Reeves resigned as trustee and Brandon
Reeves is now the acting trustee.
filed suit on May 14, 2018 (Dkt. #1). Prior to and during the
present suit, Plaintiffs requested from the Reeves Defendants
an accounting of the Sorrell Trusts. The Court then ordered
that an accounting be completed, which was completed on
December 21, 2018 (Dkt. #83). However, Plaintiff still has
questions regarding the accounting; thus, on March 5, 2019,
Plaintiff filed the present motion to compel (Dkt. #112). On
March 19, 2019, the Reeves Defendants filed a response (Dkt.
#120). Plaintiffs filed their reply on March 20, 2019 (Dkt.
#122) and the Reeves Defendants filed their reply on March
27, 2019 (Dkt. #124). The Reeves Defendants also filed the
present motion for protective order, raising the same or
similar arguments presented in the motion to compel briefing
on March 27, 2019 (Dkt. #126).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), parties “may
obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is
relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . .”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Relevance, for the purposes of Rule
26(b)(1), is when the request is reasonably calculated to
lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Id.;
Crosby v. La. Health & Indem. Co., 647 F.3d 258,
262 (5th Cir. 2011). It is well-established that
“control of discovery is committed to the sound
discretion of the trial court.” Freeman v. United
States, 556 F.3d 326, 341 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Williamson v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 815 F.2d
368, 382 (5th Cir. 1987)).
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a discovering
party, on notice to other parties and all affected persons,
to “move for an order compelling disclosure or
discovery.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). The moving party
bears the burden of showing that the materials and
information sought are relevant to the action or will lead to
the discovery of admissible evidence. Export Worldwide,
Ltd. v. Knight, 241 F.R.D. 259, 263 (W.D. Tex. 2006).
Once the moving party establishes that the materials
requested are within the scope of permissible discovery, the
burden shifts to the party resisting discovery to show why
the discovery is irrelevant, overly broad, unduly burdensome
or oppressive, and thus should not be permitted. Id.
Rule of Civil Procedure 34 governs requests for production of
documents (“RFPs”), electronically stored
information, and tangible things. Rule 34 requires responses
to “either state that inspection and related activities
will be permitted as requested or state with specificity the
grounds for objecting to the request, including the
reasons.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(B). “An objection
[to the entire request] must state whether any responsive
materials are being withheld on the basis of that
objection.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(C). On the other
hand, “[a]n objection to part of a request must specify
the part and permit inspection of the rest.”
responding to each request with specificity, the responding
attorney must sign their request, response, or objection
certifying that the response is complete and correct to the
best of the attorney's knowledge and that any objection
is consistent with the rules and warranted by existing law or
a nonfrivolous argument for changing the law. Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(g). This rule “simply requires that the attorney
make a reasonable inquiry into the factual basis of his
response, request, or objection.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(g)
advisory committee note (1983).
federal rules follow a proportionality standard for
discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Under this requirement, the
burden falls on both parties and the court to consider the
proportionality of all discovery in resolving discovery
disputes. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), advisory committee note
(2015). This rule relies on the fact that each party has a
unique understanding of the proportionality to bear on the
particular issue. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), advisory committee
note (2015). For example, a party requesting discovery may
have little information about the burden or expense of
responding. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), advisory committee note
(2015). “The party claiming undue burden or ...