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Brant v. Varano

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 22, 2015

D. VARANO, et al., Defendants.


EDWIN M. KOSIK, District Judge.

The above civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, was filed by Linwood Brant and proceeds on an amended complaint. (Doc. 14.) On January 10, 2014, a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants was granted in part and denied in part. The following individuals employed at SCI-Coal Township at the time remain as defendants in this action: Warden Varano, Lieutenant Williams, and Correctional Officers Knarr, Metzinger, DeRemer and Kimbrel. The remaining claims in the amended complaint are retaliation and the denial of access to the courts.[1] (Docs. 25, 26.) Presently before the court for consideration are Plaintiff's motions to compel discovery (Doc. 35) and to reopen discovery (Doc. 38).

I. Background

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants confiscated and destroyed his legal property, which ultimately resulted in the denial of a PCRA petition, which he had pending, challenging his criminal conviction/sentence. He further claims that Defendants retaliated against him by confiscating and trashing his property due to his filing of grievances against them. An answer to these remaining claims was filed by Defendants on January 29, 2014. (Doc. 27.) Thereafter, Defendants' motion for leave to depose Plaintiff was granted, and a scheduling order was imposed directing that all discovery be completed within sixty (60) days and any dispositive motions be filed within thirty (30) days thereafter. (Doc. 30.)

On March 26, 2014, Plaintiff's motions for the appointment of counsel and to extend the discovery deadline in this action were denied. (Docs. 33, 34.) In the motion to extend, Plaintiff sought additional time in the discovery period to challenge objections Defendants raised to his discovery requests, as well as their failure to respond to other requests. While the court did not enlarge the discovery period, Plaintiff was afforded twenty (20) days within which to file a formal motion to compel discovery. In addition, the previously imposed dispositive motion deadline was stayed pending the resolution of any motion to compel submitted by Plaintiff. (Docs. 33, 34.) Presently pending are motions filed by Plaintiff to compel discovery (Doc. 35) and to reopen discovery (Doc. 38.)

II. Motion to compel discovery

Plaintiff has filed a motion to compel wherein he asserts that: (1) some of Defendants' responses to discovery were not timely and, as such, any objections contained therein should be waived; (2) objections raised by Defendants to his discovery requests are without merit; and (3) certain documents Defendants agreed to produce have not been provided to him. (Doc. 37.)

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). Courts interpret relevancy "broadly to encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter[s] that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case." Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 350-51 (1978). However, "discovery, like all matters of procedure, has ultimate and necessary boundaries." Id . Discovery may be properly limited where:

(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained 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 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.

See Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C). The court will now address each of Plaintiff's arguments.

A. Timeliness

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(b)(2), answers to interrogatories are due within 30 days of service. The same time requirement applies to answers to requests for the production of documents. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2). Three days are properly added to this deadline pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P 6(d).

Defendants maintain that all responses to discovery requests, with the exception of three, were timely provided to Plaintiff. With respect to Interrogatories, only Defendant DeRemer's answers were tardy, and even then, were only served one day late, on March 24, 2014. With respect to responses to Plaintiff's Requests for Admissions, Defendants admit that the responses of Kimbrel and Williams were filed beyond the due date of March 31, 2014. However, the responses were only delayed by one day, and mailed to Plaintiff on April 1, 2014.

Plaintiff does not submit a reply brief disputing the representations made by Defendants that the majority of the discovery responses were timely, and the three that were not were only delayed by a day. In addition, there is no evidence of bad faith on the part of Defendants in submitting their responses late, or prejudice to Plaintiff due to the brief delay. For these reasons, ...

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