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Keeling v. Damiter

July 14, 2010

MICHAEL EVAN KEELING PLAINTIFF,
v.
PETE DAMITER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Carlson

Chief Judge Kane

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

This is a civil rights action brought by Michael Keeling, a state inmate, who is proceeding pro se. In his complaint, Keeling has named ten prison officials as Defendants, alleging that these staff violated his constitutional rights in the course of two separate acts of retaliation at two different institutions. (Doc. 33.) In addition, Keeling also complains about a series of prison housing decisions, decisions which he alleges were made in retaliation against him for prior litigation which he pursued against the Department of Corrections.

This matter now comes before the Court on a motion to compel (Doc. 87) filed by Keeling, which requests records relating to the disposition of every inmate grievance filed by prisoners in the state prison system from 2005 through 2010. While the basis for this request is not entirely clear, it seems that Keeling is attempting to secure this wholesale discovery in order to bolster some sort of claim regarding alleged biases within the grievance system in the Department of Corrections. This motion has been fully briefed by the parties, (Docs. 90 and 100) and is now ripe for resolution.

For the reasons set forth below, the motion to compel will be denied.

II. Discussion

Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure defines both the scope and limitations governing the use of discovery in a federal civil action:

(1) Scope in General. Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense -- including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. All discovery is subject to the limitations imposed by Rule 26(b)(2)( C ).

In addition as the Supreme Court has observed:

Rule 26 vests the trial judge with broad discretion to tailor discovery narrowly and to dictate the sequence of discovery. On its own motion, the trial court "may alter the limits in [the Federal Rules] on the number of depositions and interrogatories and may also limit the length of depositions under Rule 30 and the number of requests under Rule 36. The frequency or extent of use of the discovery methods otherwise permitted under these rules ... shall be limited by the court if it determines that ... (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation, and the importance of the proposed discovery in resolving the issues." Rule 26(b)(2).

Additionally, upon motion the court may limit the time, place, and manner of discovery, or even bar discovery altogether on certain subjects, as required "to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense." Rule 26(c). And the court may also set the timing and sequence of discovery. Rule 26(d).

Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 598-599 (1998).

Thus, Keeling's motion, and the Defendants' response in opposition to this motion, call upon the Court to exercise its authority under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to regulate discovery in this case. Issues relating to the scope of discovery permitted under the Rules rest in the sound discretion of the Court, Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 90 (3d Cir. 1987), and a court's decisions regarding the conduct of discovery will be ...


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