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Solan v. Ranck

March 8, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge


I. Introduction

We are considering the pro se plaintiff, David Solan's, motion to compel discovery on certain of his discovery requests. Solan, an inmate at FCC-Peterburg, Petersburg, Virginia, was formerly an inmate at FCI-Allenwood, and the following claims have been made against Allenwood officials and officers: (1) a Fourth Amendment claim for being removed from the shower on June 10, 2005, and marched back to his cell on Unit 4-A while naked and shackled; (2) an equal-protection claim alleging that the forced removal from the shower and the naked escort was because Plaintiff is an elderly, peaceful Jewish intellectual; (3) four retaliation claims, all based on Plaintiff's having filed grievances about the June 10 incident and thereafter: (a) Plaintiff's transfer to USP-Canaan; (b) his placement in a segregation cell from July 5, 2005, through July 7, 2005, with a mentally disturbed inmate who caused Plaintiff emotional suffering; (c) the refusal to return Plaintiff to the cell he occupied before July 3; and (d) after his return from an operation, an attempted placement on July 7 in a six-man cell with incompatible cell mates and filthy conditions and then when he refused this assignment, placement in segregated housing with a mentally disturbed cell mate in filthy conditions.

II. Discussion

The following discovery requests are at issue. Request No. 5 asked for the number of inmates who were placed in the segregated housing unit or transferred from USP-Allenwood as a result of the prison disturbance on June 7, 2005.*fn1 It also asked for the number of inmates at Allenwood at the time of the disturbance.

In his motion, Plaintiff states that he asks for clarification because of a discrepancy in the number of inmates Defendants list for June 8. We believe, however, as Defendants noted in their objections, that this information is irrelevant to Plaintiff's claims. In any event, sufficient information was provided in the answer (and Defendants also answered that no records were kept of inmates transferred out of Allenwood for the time in question).

Request No. 7 asked for the full names, ranks, duties, and last known mailing addresses (if not privileged) of former correctional officers who worked at Allenwood and who had regular contact with inmates during June and early July of 2005. Defendants objected to request on the grounds of relevancy, vagueness, confidentiality, and the overly broad nature of the request. Plaintiff argues he needs the information to prove his allegation that the "assault" on him was well known throughout the prison and that these ex-officers could also testify to the existence of the videotape of his removal from the shower and that the tape had been viewed by many officers. We agree with Defendants that the information about the former correctional officers should remain confidential. Plaintiff can also prove knowledge about the incident by other witnesses.

Request No. 8 sought information about other correctional officers (aside from defendants Clarkson and Bittenbender) who were present on June 10 and who assisted in removing Plaintiff from the shower. Defendant answered this request by asserting there is no documentation of other staff names and that their response to Request No. 6 lists all those who were assigned to Unit 4-A at the time. Plaintiff argues that there was indeed a third officer who helped remove him from the shower and one of the defendants, Clarkson, Ranck or Bittenbender, should know about this officer. We reject Plaintiff's point; Defendants have asserted they can provide no other names.

Request No. 10 requested "all information concerning all F.C.I. Allenwood prison security videotapes taken on the morning of June 10, 2005, in or around Unit 4-A, including the names of those correctional officers assigned to the custody of he videotapes throughout their chain of custody, the official record of all officials who viewed the videotape, any information about people viewing them 'unofficially,' whether any of these videotapes are still available, and the identity of the person or persons responsible for ordering them to be erase (sic), spoliated, or destroyed and the date of such destruction."

Defendants' answer was: "There are no video tapes of Unit 4-A which exist for June 10, 2005. All video tapes that are not maintained for security purposes are overwritten and subject to rotation." (Doc. 88).

On his motion, Plaintiff argues that the answer is insufficient because it "does not mention written records of the chain of custody of these videotapes, only that they no longer exist," and Defendants should be required to produce the record of the chain of custody because anyone in that chain could have seen the tape and thereby have been a witness to the incident. Defendants reply that: "No chain of custody record exists, as the tapes are automatically overwritten without review of the previously recorded information. Defendants are not aware of any individual reviewing the tape." (Doc. 81, p. 4).

Defendant will be required to file a supplemental answer to Request No. 10. The request did ask about chain of custody, and if none exists, Defendants should respond by saying so in an answer signed in accord with Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(1), not in an opposition brief.*fn2

Request No. 11 sought "all records pertaining to federal inmate Alonzo Johnson . . . with reference to what charges or SHU placement he experienced subsequent to the events of June 10, 2005 in Unit 4-A . . ." Defendants objected on the basis of relevancy and confidentiality of Johnson's records. On his motion, Plaintiff argues that Johnson suffered the same Fourth Amendment violation as he did and hence the information is relevant. In opposition, Defendants offer to supplement their answer with Johnson's last known address, a public record. We think this offer is sufficient to resolve the dispute over Request No. 11.

Request No. 12 sought "all incident reports" written against Allenwood inmates on June 10, 2005, the resolution of the reports, "the reporting officers, exact infractions cited, names, registration numbers, under what circumstances the infractions occurred, whether placement in the SHU ensued, punishments imposed, etc." This information was also sought ...

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