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Williams v. Klem

September 15, 2010

BARRY WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EDWARD KLEM, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caldwell

Magistrate Judge Carlson

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

This is a civil rights action brought by Barry Williams, a state inmate, arising out of a June 8, 2005 affray between Williams and correctional staff. (Doc. 1.) This matter now comes before the Court on a Motion to Compel filed by Williams which seeks further discovery responses from the remaining Defendants in this case. (Doc. 45.) This motion has been fully briefed by the parties, (Docs. 46, 47, and57), a process which has helped to clarify the nature of this on-going discovery dispute.

As described by the parties, the disputed discovery issues fall into the following six general categories: First, Williams seeks access to his own psychiatric records from June 1, 2005 to the present. Second, Williams seeks access to any videotapes depicting this June 8, 2005 institutional quarrel. Third, Williams demands production of any Pennsylvania State Police reports relating to this incident. Fourth, Williams demands production of all statements and reports attached to the Department of Corrections' extraordinary occurrence report which detailed this June 8, 2005 institutional affray. Fifth, Williams requested what he called the "falsified" reports made by Sgt. Piskarik. Finally, Williams requested access to certain prison files maintained on him, specifically requesting access to a 17-x report, as well as DC-14 and DC-15 files. As to these records, the scope of Williams' initial request was not entirely clear at the outset, leading the corrections Defendants to express a concern that these files were sought in their entirety. (Doc. 47.) As we construe Williams' reply brief, however, he seems to seek only those records which are contained in these files and relate to the June 8, 2005 incident at the prison. (Doc. 57, p. 2, "Plaintiff is only requesting all information about and/or talking about the incident on 6-8-05.")

In response to these requests, the Defendants assert that in many instances they have provided the requested documents and materials to Williams. The Defendants have objected to the disclosure of a few categories of information, arguing that the disclosure of this information is not calculated to lead to the discovery of otherwise admissible evidence, and that disclosure of the information may undermine institutional security or violate the personal privacy of others.

For the reasons set forth below, Williams' motion will be denied, in part, and granted, in part.

II. Discussion

A. Rule 26, the Legal Standard

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 ).

Williams' motion, and the Defendants' response in opposition to this motion, call upon the Court to exercise its authority under Rule 26 of 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). A court's decisions regarding the conduct of discovery will be disturbed only upon a showing of an abuse of discretion. Marroquin-Manriquez v. I.N.S., 699 F.2d 129, 134 (3d Cir. 1983).

This discretion is guided, however, by certain basic principles. Thus, at the outset, it is clear that Rule 26's broad definition of that which can be obtained through discovery reaches only "non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense". Therefore, valid claims of privilege still cabin and restrict the Court's discretion in ruling on discovery issues. Furthermore, the scope of discovery permitted by Rule 26 embraces all "relevant information" a concept which is defined in the following terms: "Relevant ...


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