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Orlando Baez v. Medical Doctor Stanley Falor; Diane

September 1, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: McVerry, J.


Pending before the Court are two filings at Docket entry numbers 186 and 187 wherein Plaintiff objects to two orders issued by United States Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Lenihan at Doc. Nos. 145 and 146. The Order at Doc. No. 145 denied Plaintiff's motion to compel (filed at Doc. No. 141), while the Order at Doc. No. 146 denied Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel (filed at Doc. No. 142). Plaintiff's objections are ripe for disposition.

Procedural History and Background

Plaintiff, Orlando Baez, inmate number CB-3721, is a pro se prisoner currently in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) in the State Correctional Institution at Greene (SCI-Greene), where he has been incarcerated since April 28, 2005. Prior to that time, he was incarcerated at SCI-Graterford, which is located in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff brought the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against two individuals employed by the DOC (Folino and Burks), as well as against a number of medical services providers who provided different degrees of treatment to Plaintiff for his medical conditions while incarcerated.

Plaintiff initiated this matter in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where it was docketed as civil action number 06-04923, with the filing of a Motion for Leave to proceed in forma pauperis on November 7, 2006. See Doc. No. 1. Plaintiff was subsequently granted permission to so proceed (see Doc. No. 5), and filed his original complaint on December 19, 2006 (see Doc. No. 6). Plaintiff subsequently filed an Amended Complaint on July 22, 2008. Doc. No. 77. Plaintiff's claims span a period of time in which he was incarcerated at both SCI-Graterford and SCI-Greene. Id. On July 23, 2009, a portion of the case was severed and Plaintiff's claims arising from his incarceration at SCI-Greene were transferred to this Court. Doc. No. 108.

Generally, Plaintiff claims that he suffers from the disease Lupus. See Am. Compl. at ¶ 25. He claims that he was unlawfully denied medical care for this condition while incarcerated at SCI-Graterford. Id. at ¶¶ 31-50. Plaintiff's claims regarding SCI-Graterford, and the Defendants implicated therein, have remained as part of his case in the Eastern District and are not before this Court. See Doc. No. 108. Plaintiff also claims that he was denied adequate medical care at SCI-Greene. See Am. Compl. At ¶¶ 63-77.

1. Plaintiff's First Motion to Compel

On October 16, 2009, a status conference was held wherein it was determined that the parties would engage in an additional period of discovery, including the medical defendants' deposition of Plaintiff. See Doc. No. 111. At that conference, Plaintiff was asked whether or not he needed any additional discovery. See Doc. No. 128. He did not request any additional discovery at that time. Id. On November 24, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel seeking production of various documents and asking the Court's permission to depose twelve individuals, including, among others, the DOC Defendants, as well as DOC Secretary Jeffrey A. Beard. Doc. No. 124. In terms of documentary discovery, Plaintiff sought to compel the production of "any and all documents pertaining to this civil case, grievances, response to all grievances, medical documents, files, records and any and all internal communication regarding my grievances complaints, and or all my medical records that reflect my condition or medical history." See Doc. No. 124 at p. 2. Plaintiff also sought to have the Court compel the production of "any and all documentation/documents which the opposing parties intend/plan to use as a surprise and or rebuttal evidence." Id. The DOC Defendants opposed the motion to compel on the basis that, inter alia, Plaintiff did not make a request for discovery from them before filing his motion to compel. Doc. No. 127.

In an Order dated December 9, 2009, United States Magistrate Judge Lenihan addressed Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery as if it was a request for discovery. In terms of Plaintiff's request regarding depositions, she agreed with Defendants' objections to the extent that Plaintiff, proceeding in forma pauperis, did not appear to have the means to cover the costs associated with conducting depositions. Further, Magistrate Judge Lenihan found Plaintiff's request to conduct so many depositions, on its face, to be excessive. Id. As such, Plaintiff was advised that in lieu of depositions, he may submit a request to the Court for leave to conduct written discovery, with attached copies of the discovery request he desired to have served on Defendants. Id. This discovery may include depositions via written interrogatory. Id. In terms of the requested documentation, Magistrate Judge Lenihan ordered Defendants to provide Plaintiff with all incident reports, grievances, medical records, disciplinary records or other similar documents regarding the allegations set forth in the amended complaint no later than January 4, 2010. Id. However, it is important to note that said relief was ordered by the Magistrate Judge as if Plaintiff's filing was a request for discovery. To the extent that Plaintiff's filing was considered a motion to compel, it was denied. Id.

2. Plaintiff's Motions for Stays of Proceedings

On December 15, 2009, Plaintiff moved to have his pending action administratively suspended for a period of one hundred and twenty (120) days, citing various medical conditions and his need for additional time to respond to "respond to the pending courts order's [sic] and motions by this court and by the D.O.C. and to go through all the discovery documents/research, etc." Doc. No. 129. At the time, a motion for judgment on the pleadings had been filed by the DOC Defendants on November 24, 2009, at Doc. No. 122. On December 18, 2009, Plaintiff's motion for a stay was granted, and Plaintiff's case was administratively closed on December 22, 2009. A telephone status conference was scheduled for April 27, 2010.

On April 20, 2010, Plaintiff once again moved for an administrative stay of his proceeding. See Doc. No. 131. The basis for Plaintiff's motion was two-fold. On one hand, Plaintiff informed the Court that the severed portion of his cause of action that remained in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, namely involving his claims that stemmed for his time incarcerated at SCI-Graterford, was progressing and that he was unable to devote the requisite level of time to both that action and the one sub judice. Id. On the other hand, Plaintiff indicted that he was endeavoring to obtain counsel, and needed additional time to do so. Id. The telephone conference occurred on April 27, 2010, although Plaintiff constantly interrupted both the Magistrate Judge and counsel to the point that the conference could not continue and was terminated. See Doc. No. 133. Plaintiff did, however, inform the Magistrate Judge that he believed that he was still entitled to discovery that had not yet been provided. Id. Following the conclusion of the telephone conference, Magistrate Judge Lenihan granted Plaintiff's second motion for an administrative stay, and ordered that the case would remain in suspension until July 27, 2010. Id. In terms of Plaintiff's contentions regarding discovery, he was ordered to file a detailed list of all discovery that he believed that he was entitled to that had not yet been provided, and that such a list was to be filed as a motion to compel no later than September 24, 2010. Id.

3. Plaintiff's Second Motion to Compel

On September 22, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel that included a description of discovery he contended that he should have received but had not, as well as a request for additional discovery. Doc. No. 141 (the "second motion to compel"). In it, he generally demanded the same discovery he sought previously with his filing at Doc. No. 124, although he did not specify what he had received following the Magistrate Judge's ruling on that motion at Doc. No. 128. Id. at ¶ 5. Plaintiff further sought discovery on a host of other areas involving allegations of abuse and harassment at the hands of non-parties, all of which appear wholly unrelated to the denial of medical treatment claims Plaintiff alleges in his amended complaint. Id. at ¶¶ 6 -- 8.

On September 23, 2010, counsel for the DOC Defendants responded in opposition, noting that in response to Magistrate Judge Lenihan's order, Plaintiff was provided with the "investigation report relating to the 4-4-08 incident, two misconduct reports issued at SCI Greene, misconduct history, grievance history, 39 (most relevant) of the 95 grievances plaintiff filed, and medical records while at SCI Greene" on December 18, 2009.*fn1 Doc. No. 144 at ¶ 7.

Defendants further contended that since such discovery was provided, Plaintiff made no additional requests for documents prior to filing the instant motion to compel. Id. at ¶ 8. As such, the DOC Defendants opposed motion on the basis that Plaintiff could not move to compel that which he never requested in the first place. Id. at ¶ 10.

On September 24, 2010, Magistrate Judge Lenihan denied Plaintiff's second motion to compel. Doc. No. 145. In doing so, the Court noted that the motion was the second occasion in which Plaintiff filed a motion to compel without having first served a proper request for discovery that had not been responded to, and that Plaintiff was under an obligation to advise the Court of any additional discovery he required by January 8, 2010, which he failed to do. Id. In view of the fact that a motion for judgment on the pleadings (filed by the DOC Defendants at Doc. No. 122), and a motion to dismiss Dr. Stanley Falor (filed at Doc. No. 140), were both pending at the time, Magistrate Judge Lenihan ordered that no additional discovery would occur until those motions had been decided. Id.

4. Plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Counsel

On September 22, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion to appoint counsel, generally contending that the issues of his civil action were "extremely complex" and that he did not have the ability to obtain counsel on his own nor to present his case to a jury. Doc. No. 142. On September 24, 2010, Chief Magistrate Judge Lenihan denied Plaintiff's motion without prejudice. In so doing, she considered the standards applicable to such a request, as expressed by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147 (3d Cir. 1993). Id. Chief Magistrate Judge Lenihan noted that two dispositive motions filed by Defendants, to which responses in opposition had already been filed, were ...

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