United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
HARRY G. SMITH, JR., Plaintiff,
LLOYD GENE ROGERS, JR., MARK YINGLING, RAY BAKER, BROOKE ECHARD, JOSEPH FOX, JUSTIN SHRIVER, PAUL KIFER, MICHAEL M. JOHNSTON, and BLAIR COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, Defendants.
GIBSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
civil-rights case, Harry G. Smith, Jr., has sued Blair
County, Pennsylvania, several Blair County corrections
officers, and the warden of Blair County's prison. He
alleges that defendants violated his rights under the Eighth
and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Smith has also sued one of the corrections officers-Lloyd
Gene Rogers, Jr.-for willful misconduct, purportedly under 42
Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8550. Pending before the Court is
Smith's motion to compel discovery from Blair County (ECF
No. 25). For the reasons that follow, Smith's motion to
compel is GRANTED IN PART and DEFERRED IN PART.
this memorandum opinion addresses only Smith's motion to
compel, only the facts relevant to that motion are included
October 12, 2015, Smith filed this case under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8850. Smith's
suit stems from an incident that occurred on November 11,
2014, at the Blair County prison, where Smith was
incarcerated at the time. He alleges that during that
incident (1) Rogers used excessive force against Smith, (2)
that the other corrections officers named as defendants were
present and failed to intervene, (3) that the warden acted
with deliberate indifference to Smith's personal safety
by allowing the excessive force to occur and continuing to
assign Rogers to Smith's prison block, and (4) that the
warden and corrections officers acted pursuant to a custom or
policy of Blair County. As to Blair County's liability,
Smith states that the actions of the warden and corrections
officers “[were] normal, routine and/or predictable
conduct that was encouraged, approved, accepted and/or
acknowledged by Defendant Blair County.” (ECF No. 1
¶¶ 93-97.) Smith argues that defendants'
actions violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Jurisdiction & Venue
Court has jurisdiction over Smith § 1983 claims pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because those claims arise under the
Constitution and laws of the United States. To the extent
Smith is asserting a claim under 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §
8550-and assuming that claim is cognizable-this Court has
supplemental jurisdiction over that claim under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1367 because it is so related to the § 1983
claims that it is part of the same case or controversy.
Further, because a substantial part of the events giving rise
to Smith's claims-namely the November 11, 2014 incident
at the Blair County prison-occurred in the Western District
of Pennsylvania, venue is proper in this district pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) defines the scope of
discovery as “any nonprivileged matter that is relevant
to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the
needs of the case.” A matter is relevant if “it
has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it
would be without the evidence; and . . . the fact is of
consequence in determining the action.” See
Fed. R. Evid. 401. In determining whether discovery is
proportional to the needs of the case, courts must consider
“the importance of the issues at stake in the action,
the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access
to relevant information, the parties' resources, the
importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and
whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery
outweighs its likely benefit.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).
“[i]nformation within [the] scope of discovery need not
be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.”
Id. But although the right to discovery under the
Federal Rules is broad, “this right is not unlimited
and may be circumscribed.” Bayer AG v. Betachem,
Inc., 173 F.3d 188, 191 (3d Cir. 1999) (citation
omitted). The scope of discovery once included information
that was “reasonably calculated” to lead to the
discovery of relevant evidence, but Rule 26 as amended no
longer includes this language. Grant Heilman Photography,
Inc. v. McGraw-Hill Cos., No. 12-cv-2061, 2016 WL
687176, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 19, 2016) (“The Court
notes that the ‘reasonably calculated'
justification for discovery no longer exists in Rule 26, by
virtue of amendments which became effective as of December 1,
provides the mechanism to compel discovery from a person or
party who refuses to provide discovery. The party moving to
compel discovery under Rule 37 bears the initial burden of
proving the relevance of the material requested. See
Morrison v. Phila. Hous. Auth., 203 F.R.D. 195, 196
(E.D. Pa. 2001) (citations omitted). If the movant meets this
initial burden, the burden then shifts to the party resisting
discovery to establish that discovery of the material
requested is inappropriate. Momah v. Albert Einstein Med.
Ctr., 164 F.R.D. 412, 417 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (citation
omitted). The party resisting discovery must explain with
specificity why discovery is inappropriate; the boilerplate
litany that the discovery sought is overly broad, burdensome,
oppressive, vague, or irrelevant is insufficient. See
Josephs v. Harris Corp., 677 F.2d 985, 991 (3d Cir.
December 28, 2016, Smith filed the motion to compel (ECF No.
25) before the Court. Smith's motion and Blair
County's response (ECF No. 26) provide a detailed
chronology of the discovery in this case-which the Court
appreciates-but most of the disputes and events preceding
Smith's motion to compel are irrelevant for purposes of
this memorandum opinion.What is relevant is the discovery Smith
seeks through his motion to compel, which is:
a. Video surveillance of any incident, event or occurrence at
any time prior to the subject Incident;
b. Video surveillance of any incident, event or occurrence at
any time subsequent to the subject Incident; and
c. Documents and/or communications relating to any
investigations, studies, examinations, internal affairs
investigations and/or inspections which relate to or refer to
the Blair County Prison.
(ECF No. 25 ¶ 20.) In his motion, Smith states that
these materials were requested from Blair County as request
numbers 4, 5, and 14, respectively, in Smith's first
request for production of documents. (ECF No. 25 ¶ 20.)
A review of the copy of Smith's first request for
production of documents provided by Blair County (ECF No.
26-1) makes clear that requests number 4 and 5 seek materials
specifically involving the warden and named corrections
also explains in his motion that this first request for
production of documents defined certain terms.
“Incident” means “the event that took place
on November 11, 2014 at the Blair County Prison, which is
more fully set forth in Plaintiff's Complaint, to wit:
Lloyd Gene Rogers, Jr. [sic] assault on Plaintiff.”
(ECF No. 25 ¶ 5.b n.1.) And “[i]ncident, event or
occurrence” means “any event in which force was
used against an inmate, employee, or other individual and/or
any event which was the basis for criminal and/or civil
litigation.” (Id. ¶ 5.d n.2.)
explains further why he believes Blair County has not
produced all materials responsive to request numbers 4, 5,
and 14. Regarding request number 4, he states that other
documents produced by Blair County confirm the existence of a
video of an argument between several Blair County corrections
officers, including defendant Paul Kifer,  that occurred
before November 11, 2014, and which escalated to the point
that Kifer had to be restrained. (ECF No. 25 ¶ 14.b.i.)
request number 5, Smith states that documents produced by
Blair County confirm the existence of a video of a
“physical altercation” that occurred after
November 11, 2014, and which involved several inmates and to
which nine officers responded-including defendant Joseph Fox.
(ECF No. 25 ¶ 14.c.iii; see also ECF No. 26 at
10.) Smith states also regarding request number 5 that
“an incident involving Defendant Kifer sexually