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Barry Williams v. Edward Klem

March 3, 2011

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



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

Judge Caldwell

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 for further proceedings on a Motion to Compel filed by Williams which sought additional discovery responses from the remaining defendants in this case. (Doc. 45.)

The last remaining aspect of this discovery dispute involves Williams' demand for production of all statements and reports attached to the Department of Corrections' extraordinary occurrence report which detailed this June 8, 2005 institutional affray, along with Williams' request for what he called the "falsified" reports made by Sgt. Piskarik, and Williams' request for access to certain prison files maintained on him, specifically a 17-x report, as well as DC-14 and DC-15 files. In response to Williams' demands for: (1) production of all statements and reports attached to the Department of Corrections' extraordinary occurrence report which detailed this June 8, 2005 institutional affray; (2) copies of what Williams has characterized as the "falsified" reports made by Sgt. Piskarik; and (3) 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, we directed the defendants to provide to the Court for in camera inspection any records responsive to these requests. In addition, we directed the defendants to provide the Court with proposed redactions to those records that the defendants deem appropriate in light of their objections to wholesale disclosure of this information, so we could conduct an in camera review and determine: (1) whether this information is relevant to the issues raised in this case; (2) whether it is subject to any valid claim of privilege recognized by the Federal Rules; and (3) to what extent, in what format, and under what conditions it may be released to the plaintiff.

The defendants complied with this request by providing the Court with documents relating to this episode, bearing Bates-stamp designations 91 through 239. The defendants propose to release the vast majority of these documents, in their entirety, to the plaintiff, but have proposed a series of redactions to these records, redactions which are outlined in a privilege log prepared by the defendants.

Having reviewed these proposed redactions were will approve the redactions, in part, but will order some of the proposed redacted material released to the plaintiff without redaction, as described below:

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 information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence."

Applying these benchmark standards, we now turn to the defendants' proposed redacted response to the discovery requests propounded by Williams. In his motion Williams sought access to three categories of information. Specifically, Williams demands: (1) production of all statements and reports attached to the Department of Corrections' extraordinary occurrence report which detailed this June 8, 2005 institutional affray; (2) copies of what Williams has characterized as the "falsified" reports made by Sgt. Piskarik; and ...


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