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Corey Bracey v. Lieutenant Price; Dan Davis

March 13, 2012

COREY BRACEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LIEUTENANT PRICE; DAN DAVIS; EAGLE, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER I, CAPTAIN WORKMAN; CAPTAIN LEGGET; BITTNER, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER II; LIEUTENANT LESURE; ANDERSON, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER II; KERRI CROSS; DEPUTY GATES; BRAUNLICH, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER II; MELISSA VARNER; MACINTYRE; JEFFREY BEARD, PA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; BRIAN COLEMAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly

[ECF Nos. 68 and 70]

OPINION AND ORDER

MAUREEN P. KELLY, United States Magistrate Judge:

Plaintiff Corey Bracey, a state inmate currently housed in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") at the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield ("SCI-Smithfield"), has filed this action against 16 DOC officials and employees for alleged violations of his rights under the United States Constitution and Pennsylvania law. Following this Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order dated July 1, 2011, [ECF No. 50], ruling on Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff's remaining claims are: the alleged unconstitutional conditions of Plaintiff's confinement in an unsanitary cell located in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette ("SCI-Fayette"), alleged acts of retaliation after the filing of grievances regarding past alleged sexual harassment in violation of Plaintiff's First Amendment rights, and a state tort claim of conversion arising out of the confiscation of some on Plaintiff's property.

Presently before this Court are two motions to compel filed by Plaintiff. In the first Motion to Compel, ECF No. 68, Plaintiff seeks to compel the production of (1) personnel records of Defendants Bittner, Lesure and Leggett to establish that they are of "bad character" [ECF No. 69, p.4]; (2) Defendant Cross's statistical record as a grievance hearing examiner to establish that she has "an inherent bias towards prisoners" which will purportedly explain why Plaintiff has been found guilty of misconduct charges; (3) the history of sexual harassment charges filed at SCI-Greene for the years 2005-2007; (4) security procedure manuals; (5) Plaintiff's previously confiscated property; (6) Plaintiff's "Cumulative Adjustment Records" and confidential inmate history files; and, (7) DOC housing logs for SCI-Fayette to support his assertion that he could have been housed in a different cell upon his initial transfer from SCI-Greene.

In the second motion, captioned "Motion to Compel Discovery and to Toll Discovery Deadlines," ECF No. 70, Plaintiff seeks sanctions and to compel the production of interrogatory responses from Defendant Beard, the retired Pennsylvania Secretary to the Department of Corrections.

Defendants have responded to both motions. As to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel at ECF No. 69, Defendants have responded that the discovery sought is irrelevant and overly broad or is privileged for valid security reasons. Having reviewed all of the filings of the respective parties as to this Motion to Compel, for the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion to Compel at ECF No. 68 will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. As to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery at ECF No. 70, it is noted the requested responses from Secretary Beard have been provided to the Plaintiff. [ECF No. 72, ¶ 2]. Because the delay was reasonable, predicated upon Secretary Beard's retirement, and because Plaintiff has not been prejudiced in any way by the delay, the Motion to Compel at ECF No. 70 is DENIED as moot.

III. DISCUSSION

The scope of discovery is defined by Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides as follows:

(1) Scope in General. Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense-including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. All discovery is subject to the limitations imposed by Rule 26(b)(2)(C).

Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

Rulings regarding the proper scope of discovery, and the extent to which discovery may be compelled, are matters consigned to the court's discretion and judgment. It has long been held that decisions relating to the scope of discovery permitted under Rule 26 also rest in the sound discretion of the Court. Wisniewski v. Johns--Manville Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 90 (3d Cir. 1987).

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 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 ...


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