The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly
District Judge Gary L. Lancaster
Plaintiff, Ismael Acevedo Ortiz, an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Frackville. He brings this civil rights action against Defendants, all of whom are employed by the DOC, alleging that Defendant Kalwasinski used excessive force against Plaintiff in retaliation for Plaintiff threatening to file a grievance for sexual harassment against Kalwasinski, and that the other Defendants failed to intervene. ECF No. 6.
On February 21, 2012, Plaintiff sought additional time to complete discovery, ECF No. 28, in which he identified twenty-two sets of document he wanted the Defendants to produce. Defendants responded to Plaintiff's Motion on March 2, 2012, ECF No. 29, stating that they had no objection to extending discovery and indicating how they would potentially respond to each of Plaintiff's requests if the Court granted Plaintiff's motion. Defendants objected to Plaintiff's requests in certain instances and, with respect those requests, indicated that the documents sought would not be produced. This Court granted Plaintiff's motion to extend time for discovery and ordered Defendants to produce to Plaintiff any relevant, non-privileged documents that had not been properly objected to by April 17, 2012. ECF No. 30.
Approximately one month before the April 17th discovery due date, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel Discovery, ECF No. 32, in which he essentially responds to Defendants' representations that certain documents would not be forthcoming. Defendants responded to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel on March 29, 2012, ECF No. 34, in which they object to Plaintiff's Motion as being premature since their responses to Plaintiff's discovery requests were not due until April 17, 2012. Defendants also address Plaintiff's concerns regarding the documents Defendants previously indicated would not be produced.
The date that discovery was due, April 17, 2012, has now passed. Assuming that Defendants did not produce the documents requested by Plaintiff that they had previously objected to, Plaintiff's Motion to Compel is now ripe for review.
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 (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). When there is no doubt about relevance, however, 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).
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 ...