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Williams v. Wetzel

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 2, 2019

MARK-ALONZO WILLIAMS, Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN JOHN WETZEL, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          SYLVIA H. RAMBO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are several discovery-related motions and documents filed by the parties in this matter. (Doc. Nos. 107, 108, 109, 111, 113, 115, 119, 121.) The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition. The Court will grant pro se Plaintiff Mark-Alonzo Williams (“Williams”)' motion for leave to file a brief in support (Doc. No. 113) and motion to clarify (Doc. No. 121), as well as Defendants' motion for an extension of time to file a response (Doc. No. 119) and will deem Defendants' brief in opposition (Doc. No. 122) timely filed. For the reasons set forth below, Williams' motions for court sanctions and fines (Doc. Nos. 111, 115) will be denied. His remaining motions and requests for relief (Doc. Nos. 107, 108, 109) will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Williams is proceeding on an amended complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.[1](Doc. No. 52.) He alleges that after he was sexually assaulted by another inmate while incarcerated at SCI Dallas, staff there, along with Secretary John Wetzel, attempted to cover up the assault by denying him medical treatment, failing to interview him, and initiating a series of retaliatory transfers. (Id.) Williams also maintains that he was denied equal protection because he, as a homosexual inmate, was not afforded the same protections as heterosexual inmates. (Id.)

         By Order entered on May 24, 2018, the Court directed that all discovery be completed by November 23, 2018 and that all dispositive motions be filed on or before December 24, 2018. (Doc. No. 82.) On December 10, 2018, Williams filed a motion to compel discovery (Doc. No. 93), to which Defendants filed a brief in opposition (Doc. No. 95). Defendants also filed a motion to stay the dispositive motions deadline given Williams' motion to compel. (Doc. No. 96.) On January 15, 2019, the Court granted the motion to stay the dispositive motions deadline. (Doc. No. 98.)

         In a Memorandum Order entered on March 14, 2019, Magistrate Judge Carlson granted in part and denied in part Williams' motion to compel. (Doc. No. 104.) Specifically, Magistrate Judge Carlson denied the motion as to Williams' requests for documents regarding information about other inmates, his requests for medical records, video footage, and transfer documents that Defendants attested did not exist, and his requests for copies of policies regarding inmate transfers and staff retaliation given Defendants' assertion that those policies were available in the law library for Williams to review. (Id.) However, Magistrate Judge Carlson granted the motion as to Williams' requests for copies of the “death threat” received from his attacker as well as the “block notes” concerning his assaults and directed Defendants to provide such documents on or before April 15, 2018. (Id.) Defendants were also directed to produce answers to Williams' interrogatories on or before that date. (Id.) Finally, he denied the motion to the extent Williams sought to compel Defendants to produce documents not requested in his initial request for production of documents. (Id.)

         Williams subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration (Doc. No. 105), arguing that Defendants committed fraud by providing in discovery what he believed is a fraudulent letter from Defendant Demming. By Order entered on May 29, 2019, the Court denied Williams' motion, noting that he had not demonstrated that the alleged fraud established manifest injustice. (Doc. No. 117.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         Williams' discovery motions contain several requests, many of which are raised in more than one document. The Court considers each request and concern in turn below.

         A. Request Regarding Legal Mail

         In one motion, Williams appears to request that the Court direct counsel for Defendants to fax discovery documents to his unit manager to be provided to him instead of mailing them to the Smart Communications screening center in Florida. (Doc. No. 109.) Under current Department of Corrections (“DOC”) policy, however, counsel for Defendants must send all documents to Williams via this service. Accordingly, this request will be denied.

         B. Discovery Issues

         It is well-established that rulings concerning the proper scope of discovery and the extent to which discovery may be compelled are within the court's discretion. See Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 812 F.2d 81, 90 (3d Cir. 1987). The court's decision regarding the conduct of discovery, including whether to compel disclosure, will only be disturbed on a showing of an abuse of discretion. See Marroquin-Manriquez v. I.N.S., 699 F.2d 129, 134 (3d Cir. 1983).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides that a party “may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Rule 26(b)(1) provides for a broad scope of discovery. As a consequence, courts often - and appropriately - apply liberal treatment to discovery rules. See, e.g., Clements v. N.Y. Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 300 F.R.D. 225, 226 (M.D. Pa. 2014) (citing Great W. Life Assurance Co. v. Levithan, 152 F.R.D. 494, 497 (E.D. Pa. 1994)). Nonetheless, a ‚Äúvalid claim[] of relevance or ...


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