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Brockington v. Wishenfsky

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 31, 2015

JAMEL BROCKINGTON, Plaintiff
v.
C.O. WISHENFSKY, et al., Defendants

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

This is a pro se civil rights action brought an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. This lawsuit began on March 16, 2012, when the plaintiff, Jamel Brockington, a state inmate, filed a pro se complaint, alleging, inter alia, that the defendant, Correctional Officer Wishenfsky, had used excessive force against him on January 29, 2012, when Officer Wishenfsky allegedly slammed a cell door food slot wicket shut on Brockington's arm. (Doc. 1.) Brockington has also alleged that Wishenfsky took these actions, and filed misconduct reports against the plaintiff, in retaliation for grievances lodged by Brockington in the past. (Id.)

This case now comes before the court for resolution of a discovery dispute. Specifically, Brockington has filed a motion to compel (Doc. 73.), which seeks three categories of records: (1) a disciplinary report relating to another prisoner, who may be a witness for the plaintiff; (2) all investigative records pertaining to the incident involving Brockington and Officer Wishenfsky on January 29, 2012; and (3) copies of grievances filed by Brockington relating to this incident. (Id.)

The defendant has responded to this discovery request, indicating that they have provided the plaintiff with copies of Brockington's grievances, and a number of pertinent documents relating to this January 29, 2012 incident. The defendant, however, resists producing additional investigative records regarding the January 29, 2012 episode or a grievance written by another inmate. (Doc. 76.)

Upon consideration of the motion to compel, the motion will be denied, in part, and granted, in part, as follows: The motion is denied with one exception. The defendant will be directed to produce for in camera inspection any previously non-disclosed investigative reports relating to the January 29, 2012 episode, so the court may assess their relevance and any claims of privilege relating to these documents.

II. Discussion

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 to compel discovery, and provides that:

(a) Motion for an Order Compelling Disclosure or Discovery
(1) In General. On notice to other parties and all affected persons, a party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery....

Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a).

The scope of what type of discovery may be compelled under Rule 37 is defined, in turn, by Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides as follows:

(1) Scope in General. Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense - including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery ...

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