United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS TO
COMPEL [ECF No. 52, ECF No. 55] PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
CONFERENCE [ECF No. 53]
RICHARD A. LANZILLO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Augustus Simmons, a prisoner in the custody of the
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, has initiated the
instant civil case against various Defendants. See
ECF No. 4. The incidents relevant to Simmons' case are
claimed to have taken place at the State Correctional
Institution at Forest.
pending before the Court is Simmons' “Motion to
Compel Discovery of Plaintiff's Second Request for
Production of Documents in Civil Action No. 17-996.”
ECF No. 55. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be
DENIED. Simmons has not demonstrated that the
Defendants improperly withheld responsive materials.
Furthermore, the Defendants have made a compelling showing
that their responses balanced Simmons' interest in
receiving relevant, responsive information with the
Department's interest in not needlessly disclosing
sensitive materials that implicate important institutional
security interests, or otherwise responding more fulsomely to
discovery requests that seek information that is irrelevant
to the claims in the case, or which are unduly burdensome.
Standard of Review - Motions to Compel
party believes in good faith that another party has failed to
respond adequately or appropriately to a discovery request,
he may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(1). The rule
specifically permits a party to file a motion to compel the
production of documents. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(iv). In this
case, Simmons is seeking to compel further responses to
document requests that he has propounded to the Department in
support of his claims.
26(b), in turn, generally defines the scope of discovery
permitted in a civil action, and prescribes certain limits to
that discovery. That rule provides as follows:
(b) Discovery Scope and Limits.
(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 and proportional
to the needs of the case, considering 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.
Information within this scope of discovery need not be
admissible in evidence to be discoverable.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Evidence is considered to be
“relevant ‘if it has any tendency to make a fact
more or less probable that it would be without the
evidence' and ‘the fact is of consequence in
determining the action.'” In re Suboxone
(Buprenorphine Hydrochloride & Naloxone) Antitrust
Litig., 2016 WL 3519618, at *3 (E.D. Pa. June 28, 2016)
(quoting Fed.R.Evid. 401). Rulings regarding the proper scope
of discovery, and the extent to which further discovery
responses may be compelled, are matters committed to the
court's judgment and discretion. Robinson v.
Folino, 2016 WL 4678340, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 7, 2016)
(citation omitted); see also Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville
Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 90 (3d Cir. 1987). “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.”
Cartagena v. Service Source, Inc., 328 F.R.D. 139,
143 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 6, 2018) (citing Farmers &
Merchs. Nat'l Bank v. San Clemente Fin. Group Sec.,
Inc., 174 F.R.D. 572, 585 (D.N.J.
decisions relating to the scope of discovery rest with the
Court's discretion, that discretion is nevertheless
limited by the scope of Rule 26 itself, which reaches only
“nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any
party's claim or defense.” Accordingly,
“[t]he Court's discretion in ruling on discovery
issues is therefore restricted to valid claims of relevance
and privilege.” Robinson, 2016 WL 4678340, at
*2 (citing Jackson v. Beard, 2014 WL 3868228, at *5
(M.D. Pa. Aug. 6, 2014) (“[a]lthough the scope of
relevance in discovery is far broader than that allowed for
evidentiary purposes, it is not without its limits... .
Courts will not permit discovery where a request is made in
bad faith, unduly burdensome, irrelevant to the general
subject matter of the action, or relates to confidential or
privileged information”)). See also Mercaldo v.
Wetzel, 2016 WL 5851958, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 6, 2016);
Smith v. Rogers, 2017 WL 544598 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 9,
as the moving party, “bears the initial burden of
showing the relevance of the requested information.”
Morrison v. Phila. Hous. Auth., 203 F.R.D. 195, 196
(E.D. Pa. 2001). Once that burden is satisfied, the party
resisting the discovery has the burden to establish that the
discovery being sought is not relevant or is otherwise
inappropriate. Robinson, 2016 WL 4678340, at *2. The
Court will review the disputed requests for production in
Items Requested for Production
seeks the following discovery through the productions of
documents from the Defendants:
a. Information regarding inmate Dwayne Watts, including that
inmate's security file, reports, investigations,
admissions and the reasons for that ...