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Landau v. Zong

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 7, 2017

BRIAN LANDAU, Plaintiff
v.
REBECCA AMBER ZONG, et al., Defendants

          MARIANI JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          MARTIN C. CARLSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Factual Background

         In the ordinary course of litigation deposition scheduling is a fairly mundane and routine task in which parties cooperatively set the time and place for discovery. This, unfortunately, is not an ordinary case and we are now invited upon to assist the parties in determining when the plaintiff's depositions of certain defendants and witnesses should take place.

         This is a §1983 civil rights action brought by Brian Landau, a state inmate, against some 20 correctional defendants, arising out of allegations by Landau that he was sexually harassed and abused by a female correctional officer at SCI Rockview in 2013 and 2014, and other correctional staff failed to intervene and protect Landau from this conduct. The parties are engaging in discovery, and a dispute has arisen regarding when the depositions of certain defendants and witnesses should take place. This dispute has ripened into a motion to compel filed by the plaintiff, seeking that the court direct the scheduling of these depositions and award monetary sanctions to plaintiff's counsel. (Doc.120.) Attached to the motion are 15 pages of correspondence documenting the fruitless deposition scheduling efforts that took place in this case. While each party adopts its own characterization of these communications, for the court when they are read as a whole the communications simply reflect that defense counsel responded to a series of requests for short-notice scheduling of depositions in October of 2017 by stating that the immediate dates suggested by plaintiff's counsel were not feasible, but offering alternate dates on or after November 13, 2017. Such give-and-take is a regular aspect of the practice of law, and the search for mutually agreeable dates should not be a task that demands the court's intervention. Further, the irony of motions practice in this case relating to the scheduling of these depositions is that this motion to compel was filed on November 13, the date that defense counsel initially offered for these depositions, and the motions briefing has now taken us beyond the November 13 date proposed by defense counsel.

         In short, had the parties agreed upon that date proposed by the defense, these depositions would have likely been completed three weeks ago without this motions practice. Nonetheless, rather than complete this give-and-take, the parties find themselves briefing a motion to compel. On December 5, 2017 this motion to compel became fully briefed by the parties, (Docs. 121, 126, and 128) when Landau filed a reply brief. Therefore, this motion is now ripe for resolution.

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

         II. Discussion

         At the outset, we note for the parties a basic truth. It is regrettable that the parties could not reach an agreement on deposition dates. Indeed, we believe it would have been far more timely and efficient for the parties to have simply continued a conversation aimed at agreeing upon a date for these depositions than spending weeks litigating a motion to compel. Nonetheless, the parties could not agree, and so it falls to the court to help them chart a course for discovery.

         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).

         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). Therefore, 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 ...


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