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Paluch v. Dawson

July 17, 2008

JAMES A. PALUCH, JR. PLAINTIFF
v.
J. DAWSON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court is a motion to compel production of documents filed by Plaintiff James A. Paluch, Jr. (Doc. 149.) Specifically, Paluch is seeking responses to three separate requests for production of documents he served upon Defendants. For the reasons that follow, the motion to compel (Doc. 149) will be granted in part and denied in all other respects.

I. Background

Paluch initiated this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on September 7, 2006, while confined at the State Correctional Institution in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Camp Hill").*fn1 (Doc. 1.) Paluch sets forth allegations against several employees of the State Correctional Institution in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Huntingdon" or "SCIH"), his former place of confinement. He contends that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by failing to protect him from his cellmate, Roger Smith, whom he contends has a history of aggressive and assaultive behavior. Specifically, Paluch alleges that he informed Defendants of his fear for his own safety before Smith assaulted him in their cell on September 9, 2004. As relief he seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Defendants filed an answer to the complaint on January 9, 2007. (Doc. 38.) Since that time, the parties have been engaging in discovery. On April 15, 2008, the court issued an amended order setting the deadline for completion of discovery for July 14, 2008. (Doc. 163.) Outstanding are issues relating to discovery disputes regarding three separate requests for production of documents (Doc. 149) served upon Defendants. Those issues will be discussed herein.

II. Discussion

Generally, courts afford considerable latitude in discovery in order to ensure that litigation proceeds with "the fullest possible knowledge of the issues and facts before trial." Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 501 (1947). The polestar of discovery is relevance. Relevance for discovery purposes is defined broadly. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit discovery "regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . . Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). "[A]ll relevant material is discoverable unless an applicable evidentiary privilege is asserted. The presumption that such matter is discoverable, however, is defeasible." Pearson v. Miller, 211 F.3d 57, 65 (3d Cir. 2000). Rule 26(b)(2) authorizes a court to limit discovery where (i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information sought by discovery in the action; or (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering 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.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2). However, when there is no doubt about relevance, a court should tend toward permitting discovery. Stabilus v. Haynsworth, Baldwin, Johnson & Greaves, P.A., 144 F.R.D. 258, 265-66 (E.D. Pa. 1992).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 allows a party who has received evasive or incomplete discovery responses to seek a court order compelling additional disclosure or discovery. The party seeking the order to compel must demonstrate the relevance of the information sought. The burden then shifts to the opposing party, who must demonstrate in specific terms why a discovery request does not fall within the broad scope of discovery or is otherwise privileged or improper. Goodman v. Wagner, 553 F. Supp. 255, 258 (E.D. Pa. 1982).

On four separate occasions during the discovery process in the instant matter, Paluch served a request for production of documents on the Defendants. Defendants responded to the requests by providing documentation or reserving the right to supplement their response at a later date, or by objecting on the basis of relevancy, privilege, or security concerns. (See Doc. 152.) At issue here are Defendants' objections to Paluch's second, third, and fourth requests for production of documents. The court will review the separate requests and responses thereto at issue here in an effort to resolve the instant discovery dispute and place the case back in a posture to be resolved.

A. Paluch's Second Request for Production of Documents

Defendants have objected to several of Paluch's requests in his second request for production of documents. Those requests and objections are detailed as follows.

1. Request No. 1

In Request No. 1, Paluch requested a number of grievances, filed presumably by Paluch, in 2004 prior to and following the alleged incident on September 9, 2004. (Doc. 152 at 2-3.) Defendants objected, reasoning that the grievances requested are "irrelevant and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." (Id. at 3.) Specifically, Defendants note that the grievances relate to various concerns such as requests for phone cards, photocopies, denial of yard time, property restrictions, and a missing washcloth. (Id.)

In the instant motion, Paluch indicates that these grievances are necessary to show the pattern of harassment committed by Defendants upon Paluch. (Doc. 150 at 6.) In their response to the instant motion Defendants note that these grievances were included in Paluch's DC-15 file, which Paluch was permitted to review during this discovery process. (Doc. 155 at 4.)

While Defendants do note that Paluch was permitted to review his DC-15 file which contained these grievances, the court agrees with Paluch that his grievances filed prior to the September 9, 2004, incident may be relevant. Thus, Defendants will be directed to provide Paluch with copies of grievance numbers 80596, 85811, 87014, 87926, and 88533.

2. Request Nos. 5 & 12

In Request No. 5, Paluch requested all DC-141 Part 3 (Periodic Review Committee) reports relating to Defendant Smith's time spent in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") from July 2004 through November 2004. (Doc. 152 at 4.) In Request No. 12, Paluch requested to review and inspect the DC-14 and DC-15 files of Defendant Smith. (Id. at 5.) Defendants objected to both requests based on the fact that any Periodic Review Committee reports on inmates or DC files are confidential and not normally shared with other inmates. (Id. at 4, 6.) Defendants did note, however, that should Paluch obtain a signed Authorization Form from Defendant Smith, prison officials would process his request. (Doc. 155 at 4.) In addition, Paluch has been provided with Defendant Smith's misconduct report history.

The court finds Defendants' response to be a sufficient resolution of this request and will not direct the production of any further documentation in response to said request.

3. Request No. 11

In Request No. 11, Paluch requested that he be permitted to review and inspect his DC-14 and DC-15 files. (Doc. 152 at 5.) He also requested that the Department of Corrections ("DOC") make photocopies of these records for him. (Id.) In their response, Defendants objected to Paluch reviewing the confidential portions of those records, but informed him that he could submit an application to review the non-confidential portions. (Id.) Further, Defendants indicated that Paluch would be charged for photocopies. (Id.)

In the instant motion, Paluch indicates that he has been permitted to review his DC-15 file, but not his DC-14 file. (Doc. 150 at 7.) On the contrary, in their response to the instant motion, Defendants indicate that Paluch has subsequently been permitted to review both files. (Doc. 155.) However, in correspondence addressed to the court and dated March 31, 2008, assistant counsel for Defendants informed the court that Paluch did not in fact review his DC-14 file, but that once the confidential information is removed from that file, it would be identical to his DC-15 file, which Paluch has previously inspected.

The court finds that, despite Defendants' remarks about the duplicate information contained in Paluch's DC-14 file, Paluch remains entitled to review that DC-14 file once the confidential information has been redacted. Therefore, the court will direct Defendants to further respond to Paluch's request.

4. Request No. 15

In Request No. 15, Paluch requested personal contact information of one Yvonne Briggs, a registered nurse employed by the DOC. (Doc. 152 at 6.) Defendants objected to this request because release of such personal information would violate Ms. Briggs' privacy rights.

In the instant motion, Paluch indicates that Ms. Briggs was the nurse who treated him after the September 9, 2004, incident, and therefore her deposition testimony is necessary to the case. (Doc. 150 at 8.) He also indicates that he attempted to get this information from assistant counsel for Defendants, but his request was refused. (Id.) While the court agrees with Defendants that Ms. Briggs' personal information such as her home address and phone number are confidential, Paluch is entitled to know whether she remains in the employ of the DOC. Thus, Defendants will be directed to advise Paluch's counsel as to whether Ms. Briggs is currently in the employ of the DOC, and if so, coordinate with counsel for the taking of Ms. Brigg's deposition. If Ms. Briggs is no longer in the employ of the DOC, Defendants shall provide Paluch's counsel with Ms. Brigg's current home or business address for service of a subpoena.

5. Request No. 17

In Request No. 17, Paluch requested certain DOC policies and procedures related to prison operations. (Doc. 152 at 7.) In response, Defendants indicated that the DOC policies are available through the prison law library. (Id.) However, Defendants objected to providing certain procedures manuals. (Id.) Specifically, Defendants refused to provide confidential procedures manuals related to DOC policies 6.3.1, "Facility Security," 6.5.3, "Single Celling (Z-Code) and Double Celling," and 6.7.1, "Incident Command System," because their release would compromise safety and security in the institutions. (Id.)

The court agrees that Defendants' concerns are valid and that the above-referenced procedures manuals must be kept confidential in the interests of prison safety and security. However, in order to resolve this discovery dispute, the court will direct Defendants to provide the requested material to the court for in camera review in order to determine if any portions of the material can be redacted for use by Paluch.

Further, Defendants originally objected to provide confidential procedures manuals related to DOC policies 5.1.1., "Staff Development and Training," and 15.1.1, "Safety." (Id.) However, in response to the instant motion, Defendants withdraw that objection. (Doc. 155 at 6.) Therefore, the court will direct Defendants to further respond to Paluch's request with respect these procedures manuals.

6. Request No. 19

In Request No. 19, Paluch requested that Defendants provide him with any relevant reports with respect to misconduct committed by Defendant Smith from the period of June 29, 2001, to the present. (Id. at 7.) Defendants objected to this request as "overbroad, irelevant and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence," but agreed to consider a more specific request and to provide Defendant Smith's misconduct record. (Id.)

In the instant motion, Paluch renews his request. (Doc. 150 at 8.) In response to the instant motion, Defendants indicate that Paluch has been supplied with a copy of Defendant Smith's misconduct record. (Doc. 155 at 6.)

The court finds that this is an adequate response to the request and will not direct the production of any further documentation in response to said request. Therefore, the motion to compel will be denied with regard to Request No. 19.

7. Request No. 22

In Request No. 22, Paluch requested the last known address for former state inmate Charles Campbell. (Doc. 152 at 8.) Initially Defendants objected to this request, but in their response to the instant motion, they indicate that former inmate Campbell's last known address has been provided to Paluch's counsel. (Doc. 155 at 6.) Therefore, the request is moot, and the motion to compel with respect to Request No. 22 will be denied.

8. Request No. 27

In Request No. 27, Paluch requested that Defendants provide him with RHU logbook entries from a number of dates prior to and following the alleged September 9, 2004, incident. (Doc. 152 at 10.) Defendants agreed to provide these entries, but with confidential information related to other inmates redacted. (Id.)

Paluch did receive these logbook entries, but in the instant motion, notes that the copies he received were illegible and requests that new copies be provided without redactions. (Doc. 150 at 9.) The court agrees with Defendants that confidential information with respect to other inmates may be redacted, but will direct Defendants to provide to Paluch's counsel an additional, legible, redacted copy of these records.

9. Request No. 28

In Request No. 28, Paluch requested any security office reports or statements from April 27, 2004, or April 28, 2004, authored by Ashley Smith, a SCI-Huntingdon employee, which mention Paluch or Susan Quinn. (Doc. 152 at 10.) Defendants objected to this request as "irrelevant and not ...


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