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Israel Jacob Torres v. Security Captain T. P. Clark

October 13, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

(Judge Caldwell)


I. Introduction

Israel Jacob Torres, an inmate formerly housed at SCI-Frackville, alleges various SCI-Frackville prison personnel retaliated against him after they construed a letter he wrote criticizing Corrections Officer (CO) Blankenhorn as threatening. Torres claims he was issued a false and retaliatory misconduct for threatening an employee with bodily harm and using abusive, obscene or inappropriate language to an employee as a result of his literary venting of his frustrations about CO Blankenhorn. After a hearing examiner found him guilty of both charges, sanctioned him to ninety days of disciplinary custody, he was placed in the institution's psychiatric observation cell (POC), or "T-Cell," for six days where he endured unsanitary conditions of confinement. Doc. 29, Second Am. Compl.

Presently pending before the court are two discovery-related motions filed by Torres. See Docs. 53 and 60. For the following reasons, Torres's motions will be denied.

II. Relevant Legal Standards

It is well settled that Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 establishes a fairly liberal discovery policy. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow discovery on any relevant, non- privileged material that is admissible or reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b) (1). Courts interpret relevancy "broadly to encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter[s] that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case." Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 350-51, 98 S.Ct. 2380, 2398, 57 L.Ed. 253 (1978). However, "discovery, like all matters of procedure, has ultimate and necessary boundaries." Id. Discovery may be properly limited where (i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information sought by discovery in the action; or (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C).

Fed. R. Civ. P. 34 requires that a party served with a document request either produce the requested documents or state a specific objection for each item or category objected to. The burden is upon the party objecting to discovery to state the grounds for the objection with specificity. Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b) (4); Momah v. Albert Einstein Medical Center, 164 F.R.D. 412, 417 (E.D. Pa.1996). "Mere recitation of the familiar litany that an interrogatory or a document production request is 'overly broad, burdensome, oppressive and irrelevant' will not suffice." Id. (quoting Josephs v. Harris Corp., 677 F.2d 985, 992 (3d Cir.1982)). The objecting party must demonstrate in specific terms why a particular discovery request does not fall within the broad scope of discovery or is otherwise privileged or improper. Goodman v. Wagner, 553 F. Supp. 255, 258 (E.D. Pa. 1982). The party attempting to withhold the release of relevant material on the grounds of privilege must also "describe the nature of the documents, communications, or other tangible things not produced or disclosed . . . in a manner that . . . will enable other parties to assess the claim." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(5)(A)(ii). Once an objection has been properly articulated, the burden rests with the party seeking discovery to show that a discovery request lies within the bounds of Rule 26. Momah, 164 F.R.D. at 417. Then, the party opposing discovery must convince the court why discovery should not be had. Id. (citing Amcast Indus. Corp. v. Detrex Corp., 138 F.R.D. 115, 118-19 (N.D. Ind. 1991)).

If the party served fails to respond adequately to a document request, the serving party may file a motion to compel under Rule 37(a). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b), 37(a) (1)(B). 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).

III. Discussion

A. Torres' s Motion to Amend/Motion to Compel (Doc. 53).

The first motion seeks to amend the complaint to add Christina Kennedy, the Assistant to the Superintendent at his present facility, as defendant due to her continued refusal to allow him access to discovery documents, as well as to compel the production of the discovery material she has in her possession. See Doc. 53. The discovery documents in question were the subject of Torres's first motion to compel. The court resolved that motion on April 25, 2011, when we advised the parties to cooperate in resolving the logistics of the actual production of the documents for Torres's review at the prison. See Doc. 49. Apparently, as of May 12, 2011, when Torres filed the current motion, he had requested access to the documents without any response from Ms. Kennedy. Id. However, two days after filing the motion, Torres concedes he was "allowed to view and copy [the discovery] documents" and "viewed [the] DVD". See Doc. 54. Accordingly, to the extent the production of the documents was at issue, the ...

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