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Daniels v. Kelchner

March 18, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge Middle District of Pennsylvania

(Chief Judge Kane)


Keith Daniels ("Plaintiff"), an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield (SCI-Smithfield), Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on August 8, 2005. The matter proceeds on an amended complaint filed on September 5, 2006. (Doc. No. 31.) Named as Defendants are ten (10) former and current employees at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill ("SCI-Camp Hill"), Pennsylvania, Plaintiff's former place of confinement. The complaint includes claims of excessive force, inadequate medical care, unsanitary living conditions and the denial of food, water, exercise, showers and legal/religious materials. Presently pending is Defendants' motion for sanctions for Plaintiff's failure to comply with a court order to respond to discovery requests (Doc. No. 97), and Plaintiff's fourth request for the appointment of counsel in this matter (Doc. No. 115). For the reasons that follow, the motion for sanctions will be granted, and the motion for counsel will be denied without prejudice.

I. Background

Following service of the amended complaint, Defendants filed answers thereto and the parties began engaging in discovery. (Doc. Nos. 49, 58.) On July 17, 2007, an order was issued directing that all discovery be completed within thirty (30) days and any dispositive motions filed within thirty (30) days from the close of discovery. (Doc. No. 68.) On August 7, 2007, Defendants filed a motion to depose Plaintiff, which was thereafter granted by the Court. (Doc. No. 78.) On November 14, 2007, a motion filed by Defendants to enlarge the discovery deadline was granted.*fn1 The discovery period was extended until December 31, 2007, with any dispositive motions due within thirty (30) days of the close of discovery. On the same date, Defendants served Plaintiff with Interrogatories and a Request for Production of Documents. (Doc. No. 97, Exs. B, C.) Responses to the discovery requests were due on or before December 17, 2007.

On December 28, 2007, Defendants filed a motion to compel discovery because Plaintiff had failed to respond to their discovery requests or seek an enlargement of time within which to do so. (Doc. No. 87.) Plaintiff failed to oppose the motion to compel. As such, on January 22, 2008, the Court ordered Plaintiff to respond to the motion within ten (10) days. (Doc. No. 89.) Following the grant of an enlargement of time, Plaintiff responded to the motion to compel by stating that the documents mentioned during his deposition were not in his possession and/or were yet to be acquired, but would be produced for Defendants' review at a mutually convenient time. (Doc. No. 93.)

On May 30, 2008, the Court issued an order finding Plaintiff's response to the motion to compel to be inadequate, and granting the motion. Within twenty (20) days, Plaintiff was directed to provide Defendants with complete answers to the interrogatory questions, and to respond to the requests for documents by specifying which documents were not in his possession, who had immediate possession, what documents could be produced immediately and when production of the remaining documents could be expected. (Doc. No. 95.)

Plaintiff failed to respond to the order of May 30, 2008. Defendants then filed the pending motion for sanctions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2)(A). (Doc. No. 97.) As relief they seek the dismissal of Plaintiff's action or, in the alternative, an order prohibiting Plaintiff from supporting or disputing any claims or defenses with documents or other information not disclosed in response to Defendants' discovery requests.

II. Discussion

A. Motion for Counsel

Pending is Plaintiff's fourth motion seeking the appointment of counsel in this matter. (Doc. No. 115.) In his motion and supporting brief, Plaintiff contends that counsel if necessary because he does not have the ability to present his case and the legal issues involved are complex and "largely turn on credibility determinations." (Doc. No. 115 at 1.) He also claims that counsel is needed because a medical expert will be required at trial.

The Court has previously set forth the well-established factors utilized in making a determination as to whether the appointment of counsel is warranted on behalf of a prisoner in a civil case. (Doc. Nos. 16, 44, 68.) As such, these principles will not be repeated herein. Plaintiff has failed to come forward with any new arguments demonstrating his need for the appointment of counsel in this case. Rather, he advances the same arguments previously considered and rejected by the Court. The docket clearly evidences Plaintiff's ability to litigate this case on his own. Presently pending is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants. One of the grounds set forth in support of summary judgment is Plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff has filed his opposition to the motion.*fn2 As such, any concerns by Plaintiff regarding preparation for trial are premature at this point. For these reasons, as well as the reasons previously set forth by the Court with regard to the denial of Plaintiff's earlier motions for counsel, the instant motion will be denied without prejudice.

B. Motion for Sanctions

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b)(2)(A) authorizes the Court to impose sanctions on a party who violates an order of the Court to "provide or permit discovery." Sanctions for violation of Rule 37(b)(2)(A) include orders by the court ranging from designating that certain facts be admitted, to prohibiting the disobedient party from supporting or opposing designated claims or defenses, to ...

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