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Brandon Moyer v. Gene Berdanier

February 26, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


I. Introduction

Presently before the Court is Defendant Berdanier's Motion for a Protective Order and Objections to Proposed Discovery. (Doc. 36.) Warden Berdanier objects to subpoenas Plaintiff issued to two independent contractors who were hired by Schuylkill County Prison Board to conduct various investigations at the the Schuylkill County Prison (SCP) at Warden Berdanier's request. Specifically, Warden Berdanier seeks to prevent the disclosure of the investigative reports which:

(1) assessed specific incidents of employee misconduct (the Carney reports); and

(2) reviewed the security and operational management of the prison (the Shannon report). Both reports were commissioned and completed, prior to Mr. Moyer's assault at the SCP, and do not involve the three officers who assaulted Mr. Moyer. Warden Berdanier seeks a protective order to prevent the disclosure of the reports based on objections of relevancy and/or security concerns. Warden Berdanier offers to submit the disputed reports for in camera review. He also requests that if the reports are deemed discoverable, that a protective order be issued limiting their disclosure to Plaintiff's attorneys and consultants, and restricting their further disclosure to third parties, including the Plaintiff who is incarcerated. Mr. Moyer counters that: (1) Warden Berdanier does not have standing to challenge the subpoenas addressed to non-parities; (2) the requested documents are relevant to his Monell claims*fn1 against Schuylkill County and thus are discoverable. Finally, Mr. Moyer notes that he is not opposed to entering into a confidentiality agreement limiting the review and distribution of the Shannon report.

For the reasons that follow, Warden Berdanier will be required to submit two of the Carney reports and the Shannon report to the Court for in camera review. The Court will deny the motion with respect to the July 25, 2010, Carney report relating to Correctional Officer (CO) Sullivan's alleged assault of an SCP inmate.

II. Background

On September 30, 2011, Mr. Moyer, with the assistance of counsel, filed the above captioned civil rights complaint. (Doc. 1, Compl.) In his Complaint, Mr. Moyer alleges SCP COs Galavage, Yeager and Prenata violated his Eighth Amendment rights when they assaulted him on April 7, 2011, and then deprived him of medical treatment for his injuries. He names SCP's Warden, Gene Berdanier, as a defendant because he is alleged to have known of Mr. Moyer's physical condition after the assault and his "medical neglect" by the prison. (Id. at ¶ 72.) Warden Berdanier is also alleged to have maintained and fostered an environment at the SCP, prior to April 2011, which encouraged and condoned staff abuse of prisoners as well as the denial of medical care. (Id. at ¶ 77 and ¶ 80). The alleged existence of these unacceptable policies created an unreasonable risk of harm to Mr. Moyer and led to his unprovoked assault and denial of medical attention following the assault. (Id. at ¶ 84).

On June 4, 2012, Plaintiff's counsel subpoenaed documents from two consultants hired by Schuylkill County who are not parties to this action: Mr. Robert Shannon and Mr. Michael Carney . See Docs. 36-1 at ECF p. 2 and 5. The Court will address each subpoena request in turn.

III. 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). However, "discovery, like all matters of procedure, has ultimate and necessary boundaries." Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351-52, 98 S.Ct. 2380, 2389-90, 57 L.Ed. 253 (1978); see also Bayer AG v. Betachem, Inc., 173 F.3d 188, 191 (3d Cir. 1999).

"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." McConnell v. Canadian Pacific Realty Co., 280 F.R.D. 188, 192 (M.D Pa. 2011). It has long been held that decisions relating to the scope of discovery permitted under Rule 26 rest in the sound discretion of the Court. Gallas v. Supreme Court of Pa., 211 F.3d 760, 778 (3d Cir. 2000)(explaining that a trial court's discovery ruling will only be disturbed if "the court's action made it impossible to obtain crucial evidence, and implicit in such a showing is proof that more diligent discovery was impossible").

It is well established that the party wishing to obtain a protective order to prevent the disclosure of information through the discovery process has the burden of demonstrating that "good cause" exists for the order. Pansy v. Borough of Stroudsburg, 23 F.3d 772, 786 (3d Cir. 1994); Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c). "Good cause" is only established when the movant demonstrates that disclosure would cause a clearly defined and significant injury. Glenmede Trust Co. v. Thompson, 56 F.3d 476, 483 (3d Cir. 1995). The Court must consider seven factors in determining whether good cause for a protective order exists. These factors are:

(1) whether disclosure will violate any privacy interests;

(2) whether the information is being sought for a legitimate purpose or for an improper purpose;

(3) whether disclosure of the information will cause a party embarrassment;

(4) whether confidentiality is being sought over information important to ...

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