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Kelvin andre Spotts, et al v. United States of America

September 11, 2012

KELVIN ANDRE SPOTTS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., :
DEFENDANTS JOHN LEGRAND, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS
V. : FENSTERMAKER, ET AL., :
DEFENDANTS ANTRON RUSSELL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS
V. :
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, : ET AL., DEFENDANTS



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

(Judge Kosik)

(Judge Kosik)

(Judge Conner)

(Magistrate Judge Carlson)

MEMORANDUM ORDER

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

In the above-captioned related actions, a number of federal inmates have sued the United States of America and certain individual Defendants, alleging injuries stemming from the consumption of salmonella-contaminated chicken that was served at the United States Penitentiary, Canaan, in June 2011. The Defendants have not yet filed an answer to the complaint or otherwise moved to dismiss this complaint, and the deadline for filing a responsive pleading in each of these cases has been enlarged until October 1, 2012. Nonetheless the pro se Plaintiffs have lodged discovery demands upon the Defendant, inspiring the Defendants to file motions for protective orders in each action, seeking a stay of discovery, or an extension of time in which to respond to the discovery propounded by Plaintiffs, until a case management schedule is issued after the Defendants have filed an initial pleading or otherwise responded to the complaints.*fn1

For the reasons set forth below, the motions will be GRANTED.

II. Discussion

Several basic guiding principles inform our resolution of the instant discovery matter. 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. Thus, it has long been held that decisions regarding Rule 37 motions are "committed to the sound discretion of the district court." DiGregorio v. First Rediscount Corp., 506 F.2d 781, 788 (3d Cir. 1974). Similarly, issues 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). Thus, a court's decisions regarding the conduct of discovery, and whether to compel disclosure of certain information, 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 far-reaching discretion extends to rulings by United States Magistrate Judges on discovery matters. In this regard:

District courts provide magistrate judges with particularly broad discretion in resolving discovery disputes. See Farmers & Merchs. Nat'l Bank v. San Clemente Fin. Group Sec., Inc., 174 F.R.D. 572, 585 (D.N.J.1997). When a magistrate judge's decision involves a discretionary [discovery] matter . . . , "courts in this district have determined that the clearly erroneous standard implicitly becomes an abuse of discretion standard." Saldi v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co., 224 F.R.D. 169, 174 (E.D.Pa.2004) (citing Scott Paper Co. v. United States, 943 F.Supp. 501, 502 (E.D.Pa.1996)). Under that standard, a magistrate judge's discovery ruling "is entitled to great deference and is reversible only for abuse of discretion." Kresefky v. Panasonic Commc'ns and Sys. Co., 169 F.R.D. 54, 64 (D.N.J.1996); see also Hasbrouck v. BankAmerica Hous. Servs., 190 F.R.D. 42, 44-45 (N.D.N.Y.1999) (holding that discovery rulings are reviewed under abuse of discretion standard rather than de novo standard); EEOC v. Mr. Gold, Inc., 223 F.R.D. 100, 102 (E.D.N.Y.2004) (holding that a magistrate judge's resolution of discovery disputes deserves substantial deference and should be reversed only if there is an abuse of discretion).

Halsey v. Pfeiffer, No. 09-1138, 2010 WL 3735702, *1 (D.N.J. Sept. 17, 2010).

We note that this broad discretion over discovery matters extends to decisions under Rule 26(c) relating to the issuance of protective orders limiting and regulating the timing of discovery. Indeed, it is undisputed that: " '[t]he grant and nature of [a protective order] is singularly within the discretion of the district court and may be reversed only on a clear showing of abuse of discretion.' Galella v. Onassis, 487 F.2d 986, 997 (2d Cir.1973) (citation omitted)." Dove v. Atlantic Capital Corp., 963 F.2d 15, 19 (2d Cir. 1992). This discretion is guided, however, by certain basic principles. Among these cardinal principles, governing the exercise of discretion in this field, is that the district court may properly defer or delay discovery while it awaits an answer to a complaint, see United Sweetener USA, Inc. V. Nutrasweet Co., 766 F.Supp. 212

(D.Del. 1991); or considers a potentially dispositive pretrial motion, provided the district court concludes that the pretrial motion does not, on its face, appear groundless. See, e.g., James v. York County Police Dep't, 160 F.App'x 126, 136 (3d Cir. 2005); Nolan v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 973 F.2d 843,849 (10th Cir. 1992); Johnson v. New York Univ. Sch. of Ed., 205 F.R.D. 433, 434 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). Briefly deferring discovery in such a case, while the court awaits a response to the complaint and determines the threshold issue of whether a complaint has sufficient merit to go forward, recognizes a simple, fundamental truth: Parties who file motions which may present potentially meritorious and complete legal defenses to civil actions ...


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