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Eric Lyons v. Jeffrey Beard

September 19, 2011


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

(Magistrate Judge Carlson)



In this civil action, Plaintiff Eric Lyons has brought claims against a number of employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, alleging that these defendants violated his right under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when Defendants solicited other inmates to assault him while he was held in the Special Management Unit ("SMU") at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill ("SCI-Camp Hill"). Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants used excessive force in their efforts to break up a fight between Plaintiff and Anthony Boyking, another inmate in the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill, whom Plaintiff claims corrections staff induced to assault him on June 19, 2006.

Now pending before the Court are two remaining issues relating to discovery motions that we previously addressed on June 17, 2011.

These two matters related to Lyons' requests for two items of discovery: First, Lyons requests that he be permitted to examine the Plaintiff's DC-17X reports from April 5, 2006 - June 21, 2006. These DC-17X reports detail the monitoring of the Plaintiff's daily activities in the Special Management Unit during the weeks immediately preceding, and in the days immediately following, the alleged assault of Lyons by inmate Boyking. In a factual proffer tendered by Lyons at the Court's direction (Doc. 157), Lyons asserts that these DC-17X reports are relevant because they will show that Lyons was a compliant, non-disruptive inmate in the days and weeks preceding this incident, thus rebutting any assertion that Lyons was acting out in an aggressive fashion at this time. (Id.)

Second, Lyons seeks PRC reports relating to inmate Boyking. These reports are periodic reviews of Boyking's institutional adjustment in the SMU program, and Lyons proffers that he requires this information in order to determine whether prison officials had advance knowledge of Boyking's propensity to violence towards him and to ascertain whether Boyking received favorable treatment from prison officials after his assault on Lyons. (Doc. 157.) We note that the Department of Corrections has already released some of this material to Lyons. Specifically the defendants have produced reports documenting violence by Boyking. Nonetheless, Lyons seeks access to the entirety of Boyking's PRC files.

In order to engage in an informed review of these matters we directed the defendants to provide us with these materials for our in camera review. Having conducted this review, we conclude that Lyons should be provided copies of his DC-17X reports, but find that the disclosures previously made from Boyking's PRC file fully satisfy the defendants' discovery obligations and deny Lyons' request for further access to those files.


Lyons' requests call upon the Court to exercise its authority to regulate discovery in this case. Issues relating to the scope and timing of discovery permitted under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 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 relevance and 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."

A party moving to compel discovery bears the initial burden of proving the relevance of the requested information. Morrison v. Philadelphia Housing Auth., 203 F.R.D. 195, 196 (E.D.Pa. 2001). Once that initial burden is met, "the party resisting the discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevance by demonstrating that the requested discovery (1) does not come within the broad scope of relevance as defined under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure." In re Urethane Antitrust Litigation, 261 F.R.D. 570, 573

(D.Kan. 2009).

1. Inmate Boyking's PRC ...

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