United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.
I. Statement of Facts and of the Case
This is a civil rights action brought by a state inmate, Ronald Williams, who claims that the defendants, state correctional officials, used cell searches to retaliate against him and wrongfully interfere with his right of access to the courts. (Doc. 1.) Currently, pending in this case are competing motions for sanctions filed by the parties. (Docs. 62 and 63.)
These sanctions motions relate to an abortive effort by Williams to schedule depositions of the defendants in this case. Williams moved for leave to depose the defendants, prison staff, (Doc. 34.), and over the defendants' objections, we provisionally granted this motion. (Doc. 39.) Notwithstanding their objections, the defendants then diligently attempted to work with Williams to schedule these depositions. Thus, defense counsel arranged for the defendants to be present on a date which counsel understood was convenient for Williams, and also coordinated the logistics of the court reporter that Williams had contracted to take these deposition. However, on the date scheduled for the depositions, June 24, 2014, Williams refused to participate in the depositions he had requested, and instead sought to sanction the defendants.
The reasons for Williams' refusal are somewhat unclear to the Court. At times, Williams suggests that he refused to participate because he believed, erroneously, that some further order of the Court was necessary to take the depositions. At other times Williams' refusal seems to be grounded on his displeasure with the timing of the depositions, which were briefly delayed on June 24; his dissatisfaction with the arrangement of the deposition room; and his apparent pique at what he regarded as discourteous treatment when he was brought to the room within the prison where the depositions were to be taken. (Docs. 62 and 71.) The exchange between Williams and defense counsel on June 24, 2014, also shows a complete lack of appreciation on Williams' part for the time, trouble, and inconvenience which his decision to refuse to proceed with these depositions caused, factors which lead the Court to question whether Rule 30 depositions are a practical discovery tool in this particular case. (Doc. 63-2.)
Upon consideration of these competing motions for sanctions, for the reasons set forth below in the exercise of our discretion we will deny both motions. However, our experience with this effort convinces us that the oral deposition scheduling sought by Williams is not feasible, since Williams' refused to participate in the type of deposition which he sought once it was arranged. Therefore, we will direct Williams, that if he wishes to depose these defendants he must do so through depositions by written questions propounded within the next 30 days.
Several basic guiding principles inform our resolution of the instant discovery dispute. At the outset, Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions for sanctions, and provides that:
(c) Failure to Disclose, to Supplement an Earlier Response, or to Admit.
(1) Failure to Disclose or Supplement. If a party fails to provide information or identify a witness as required by Rule 26(a) or (e), the party is not allowed to use that information or witness to supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial, unless the failure was substantially justified or is harmless. In addition to or instead of this sanction, the court, on motion and after giving an opportunity to be heard:
(A) may order payment of the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by the failure;
(B) may inform the jury of the party's failure; and
(C) may impose other appropriate ...