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Martinez v. Jones

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 29, 2015

JUAN CARLOS MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. JONES, 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 by an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. This lawsuit began on August 8, 2012, when the plaintiff filed a pro se complaint, alleging, inter alia, that the defendants, used excessive force during an unplanned use of force in which he claims to have sustained injuries, and engaged in retaliatory treatment, cruel and unusual punishment in the form of a denial of meals, and due process violations stemming from internal misconduct actions. In the course of this litigation the district court issued a standard case management order, directing that discovery be completed by October 14, 2014. (Doc. 25.) That case management order then had to be modified after the plaintiff refused to submit to a deposition by failing to appear after proper notice. (Doc. 27.) The new discovery deadline was extended to December 29, 2014.

This case now comes before the court for resolution of a discovery dispute. Specifically, in April of 2015, four months after the expiration of the discovery deadline, Martinez has moved to compel the production of various investigative records, staff personnel files, as well as video and audio tapes that may exist and relate to these three year old incidents. (Docs. 40 and 42.) The defendants have responded to this motion, (Doc. 48.), arguing that the discovery demands were first made after the discovery deadline had expired, are untimely, and that much of what Martinez seeks either does not exist or is not subject to disclosure. Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for resolution.

For the reasons set forth below, the motions to compel will be denied.

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 appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. All discovery is subject to the limitations imposed by Rule 26(b)(2)(C).

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1)

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 ...

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