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Charles Breslin, et al v. Dickinson Township

August 1, 2011

CHARLES BRESLIN, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DICKINSON TOWNSHIP, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge

Judge Stengel Magistrate Judge Carlson

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

This case, which comes before the Court for resolution of a discovery dispute, presents a striking proposition: The plaintiffs, who have ignored multiple prior discovery motion deadlines, have now filed a motion to compel which, in large measure, urges this Court to order the defendants to respond to discovery demands which the plaintiffs were not authorized in the first instance to propound upon the defendants. Thus, the plaintiffs, who have not obeyed court orders setting discovery limitations in this case, now invite the Court to reward this failure to comply with court orders by directing the defendants to respond to discovery demands which far exceed the number of discovery demands authorized by the Court.

This we cannot do. For the reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's to compel will be denied.

II. Statement of Facts and of the Case

A. Initial Discovery Proceedings

This case is a civil rights action brought by the plaintiffs against defendants, various local township officials, alleging constitutional First Amendment and First Amendment-retaliation claims. In their complaint, the plaintiffs seek wide-ranging relief from the defendants, including attorneys fees and damages. (Docs. 1 and 36.) Following protracted, acrimonious and contentious discovery proceedings, this case was referred to the undersigned on January 25, 2011, for the purpose of overseeing pre-trial discovery. (Doc. 77.) By the time of this case referral, a number of discovery decisions and rulings had been made in this case, rulings that defined the law of the case.

The tortured path of this discovery began in December of 2009 when the plaintiffs propounded their first requests for production of documents, which included some 24 document production requests. (Doc. 164, 165.) These initial document production requests were flawed documents, which failed to even properly identify the parties to this litigation, asserting erroneously that this was a lawsuit against the City of York. (Id.)

At the time that this discovery was propounded by the plaintiffs, there were pending before the Court motions to dismiss this complaint. (Docs. 12, 24, 39, 41.)

Because the Court's rulings on these motions could well define the scope and nature of discovery permissible in this action, the district court, Kane, C.J., prudently stayed discovery pending resolution of these motions. (Doc. 52.)

B. The District Court Sets Discovery Limits in This Case

On August 19, 2010, the district court entered an opinion and order which denied all of the plaintiffs' claims with the exception of three First Amendment claims. (Doc. 69.) Despite the fact that the issues and claims that remained in this lawsuit had changed and narrowed significantly as a result of the district court's August 19, 2010 opinion, the plaintiffs' request for production remained unchanged. Thus, in September of 2010, the plaintiffs tendered an additional set of requests for production of documents to the defendants following the entry of this order dismissing numerous claims, which propounded 24 requests for production that were substantively identical to the plaintiffs' original requests for production of documents. Therefore, the plaintiffs neglected to tailor their discovery requests to reflect the changing legal realities in this litigation following the district court's opinion which dismissed many of the plaintiffs' claims.

Following the entry of this order, which substantially narrowed the plaintiffs' claims and the issues in this lawsuit, on October 28, 2010, the district court, C.J. Kane, entered a case management order designed to set orderly discovery procedures governing this litigation. (Doc. 73.) In part, this case management order limited the plaintiffs to the submission of 25 requests for production of documents. (Id.) This order also advised the parties in clear and precise terms that: " Discovery in excess of these limits must be approved by the Court." (Id.)(emphasis added.)

By December 2010, the defendants responded to the plaintiffs' September 2010 requests for production of documents. In these responses the defendants provided some information, disclosed that some information did not exist in their possession, and leveled objections to numerous requests propounded by the plaintiffs, objecting either on the grounds that these requests for production sought information protected by attorney-client privilege, or that these requests for production sought information which pertained to claims which had been dismissed by the district court. ( Doc. 165.)

On December 14, 2010, the plaintiffs then submitted another request for production of documents, which made one additional request upon the defendants for copies of a videotape of a December 6, 2010, Board of Supervisors meeting. The defendants ultimately produced this videotape, fully satisfying this particular request for production of documents. With the submission of this request, the plaintiffs had now propounded 25 requests for production of documents upon the defendants, the full complement of requests for production authorized by the district court in October 2010.

C. The Plaintiffs Failed to Abide By the Discovery Limits Set in the Case Management Order

Having by December 2010 propounded the full set of 25 requests for production of documents authorized by the district court, the plaintiffs' counsel then chose to ignore these case management deadlines, randomly propounding a total of 89 additional requests for production of documents--all of which exceeded these case management limits--over the next three months. Thus, on February 24, 2011, plaintiffs' counsel propounded an additional request for production of documents seeking a single category of material. (Id.) On March 9, 2011, the plaintiffs tendered another request for production of documents, which made an additional, singular request for ...


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