The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly
Judge Terrence F. McVerry
[ECF Nos. 134, 135, 137 and 145]
Presently before the Court is Plaintiff‟s Motion for Sanctions [ECF No. 134], Plaintiff‟s Motion for In-Camera Review [ECF No. 135], Plaintiff‟s Motion for Order Compelling Discovery [ECF No. 137] and Plaintiff‟s letter motion seeking a pretrial conference and the appointment of counsel [ECF No. 145]. Through three of these motions, Plaintiff seeks discovery related to the reasons for his placement in disciplinary or administrative custody with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") system, which forms the basis of this civil rights action against DOC officials and staff. For the reasons set forth below, consideration of Plaintiff‟s Motion for Sanctions [ECF No. 134] is denied in part and deferred in part; Plaintiff‟s Motion for In-Camera Review [ECF No. 135] is denied; Plaintiff‟s Motion for Order Compelling Discovery [ECF No. 137] is granted in part and denied in part; and Plaintiff‟s Motion for a Pre-Trial Conference and Appointment of Counsel [ECF No. 145] is denied.
Generally, courts afford considerable latitude in discovery in order to ensure that litigation proceeds with "the fullest possible knowledge of the issues and facts before trial." Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 501, 67 S. Ct. 385, 91 L. Ed. 451 (1947). The polestar of discovery is relevance. Relevance for discovery purposes is defined broadly.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit discovery "regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense ... Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). "[A]ll relevant material is discoverable unless an applicable evidentiary privilege is asserted. The presumption that such matter is discoverable, however, is defeasible." Pearson v. Miller, 211 F.3d 57, 65 (3d Cir. 2000). Discovery may properly be 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). However, when there is no doubt about relevance, a court should tend toward permitting discovery. Stabilus v. Haynsworth, Baldwin, Johnson & Greaves, P.A., 144 F.R.D. 258, 265-66 (E.D. Pa.1992).
If party is unable to supply information requested in an interrogatory, the party may not refuse to answer, but must state under oath that he is unable to provide information and set forth the efforts he employed to obtain the information, or an explanation of why no such efforts are necessary. Hansel v. Shell Oil Corp., 169 F.R.D. 303 (E.D. Pa.1996).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 allows a party who has received evasive or incomplete discovery responses to seek a court order compelling additional disclosure or discovery. "The party seeking the order to compel must demonstrate the relevance of the information sought. The burden then shifts to the opposing party, who must demonstrate in specific terms why a discovery request does not fall within the broad scope of discovery or is otherwise privileged or improper." Option One Mortgage Corp. v. Fitzgerald, 2009 WL 648986 at *2 (M.D. Pa. Mar.11, 2009).
With these principles in mind, the following rulings and guidance are issued with respect to each of Plaintiff‟s pending motions.
A. Motion for Sanctions -- ...