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John Reish v. Pennsylvania State University

May 24, 2011


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


I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

(Judge Jones)

This is an employment discrimination action brought by John Reish against the Pennsylvania State University and other individual Defendants. (Doc. 1) In his complaint Reish alleges that the Defendants engaged in acts of age discrimination against him in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §621, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa.C.S. §951. (Id.)

According to Reish's complaint, in 2006 the Plaintiff was employed as a supervisor in the Office of Physical Plant at the Pennsylvania State University, where he was responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of Penn State facilities. In 2006, the parties agree that Penn State commenced progressive disciplinary proceedings, referred to by the acronym HR-78 proceedings, against Reish, proceedings that culminated in Reish's demotion. While the parties agree to these facts, their interpretation of these events is the stuff of this litigation.

For his part, Reish insists that these HR-78 proceedings masked an attempt to discriminate and retaliate against him because of his age and his assertion of his rights. Reish further alleges that, following these proceedings, Penn State officials engaged in elaborate efforts to conceal and cover-up these alleged discriminatory practices. Penn State, in turn, asserts that this disciplinary proceeding was nothing more than an effort to use progressive discipline to address work-place deficiencies by Reish, and the events which Reish sees as proof of a conspiratorial cover-up are nothing more than enforcement of routine document destruction policies.

These competing views of what transpired at Penn State in Reish's case are now presented to the Court in the context of a multi-faceted discovery dispute between the parties. Reish, who was previously represented by counsel but is now proceeding pro se, has filed a battery of different motions, styled as discovery motions, which seek an array of information and relief from the Defendants. (Docs. 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, and 50.) Reish has briefed these manifold discovery motions, (Docs. 41, 43, 45, 47, 49 and 51), and the Defendants have filed a consolidated response in opposition to these requests. (Doc. 55.)

Reish, in turn, has filed a 220 page document which he has styled as a reply. (Doc. 56.) Despite its length, this reply adds little clarity to this dispute. Indeed, in some respects, the thrust of this pleading is difficult to discern, since the document seems to argue the merits of various disputes the Plaintiff has with the Defendants, rather than articulating why Reish is entitled to discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Further, Reish's pleadings actually seems to contradict his complaints regarding the adequacy of discovery in this case, since Reish attaches hundreds of pages of material, apparently gleaned from discovery, to this reply. Reish should remain mindful both of the value of brevity, and the importance of addressing the specific issues before the Court, as he pursues this pro se litigation in the future.

Having reviewed these pleadings, for the reasons set forth below, Reish's motions will be granted, in part, and denied, in part.

II. Discussion

Several basic guiding principles inform our resolution of the instant discovery dispute. At the outset, Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions to compel discovery, and provides that:

(a) Motion for an Order Compelling Disclosure or Discovery

(1) In General. On notice to other parties and all affected persons, a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery. . . Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a).

The scope of what type of discovery may be compelled under Rule 37 is defined, in turn, by Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides as follows:

(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 ...

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