United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
SHAWN L. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff
SUPERINTENDENT MICHAEL R. CLARK, et al., Defendants
OPINION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL
[ECF NO. 89]
RICHARD A. LANZILLO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
L. Williams, a prisoner in the custody of the Pennsylvania
Department of Corrections ("DOC"), filed the
underlying pro se action on July 31, 2017. ECF No.
1. Presently pending before the Court is Williams' motion
to compel discovery based upon alleged deficiencies in
Defendants' responses to his interrogatories and request
for production of documents. ECF No. 89. For the reasons
discussed below, the motion will be GRANTED IN PART and
DENIED IN PART.
Standard of Review
general, the scope and limits of discovery are governed by
Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Specifically, Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 (b) (1) defines the scope of
discovery 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 "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.'" Allen
v. Eckard, 2019 WL 1099001, at *2 (M.D. Pa. March 3,
2019) (citing In re Suboxone (Buprenorphine Hydrochloride
& Naloxone) Antitrust Litig., 2016 WL 3519618, at *3
(E.D. Pa. June 28, 2016). Although relevance in discovery is
broader than for evidentiary purposes, it is not without its
limits. Stabilus v. Haynsworth, Baldwin, Johnson
& Greaves, P.A., 144 F.R.D. 258, 265 (E.D.
Pa. 1992). "In ascertaining which materials are
discoverable and which are not, a district court must further
distinguish between requests that 'appear reasonably
calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence,
and demands that are 'overly broad and unduly
burdensome.'" Westfield Insurance Co. v. Icon Legacy
Custom Modular Homes, 321 F.R.D. 107, 111 (E.D.
Pa. 2017) (citing Miller v. Hygrade Food Products
Corp., 89 F.Supp.2d 643, 657 (E.D. Pa. 2000);
see also Bell v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 270 F.R.D.
186, 191 (D.N.J. 2010).
Rule of Civil Procedure 37 allows a party who receives
evasive or incomplete discovery responses to seek a court
order compelling additional disclosure or discovery. A party
moving to compel discovery bears the initial burden of
proving the relevance of the requested information. Olin
Corp., 298 F.R.D. at 263 (citing Bracey v.
Harlow, 2012 WL 4857790, *2 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 12, 2012).
Once that burden is met, "the party resisting the
discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevance
by demonstrating that the requested discovery either does not
come within the broad scope of relevance as defined under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or is of such marginal relevance that
the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the
ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure."
relevance of each of the discovery requests at issue must be
assessed in the context of Williams' claims and the
issues of the case. Williams asserts a claim under the Prison
Rape Elimination Act, 28 C.F.R. § 115
("PREA"). See Generally ECF No. 1. Williams alleges
that, primarily in 2015, Defendant Beddick subjected him to a
"campaign of harassment" in retaliation for his
submission of the PREA claim and additional grievances.
Williams also alleges that Defendants Girioux, Clark, Franz,
Meure, Irwin, Jones, Anders, Bashor, Szelewski, and Susiak
acquiesced to Defendant Beddick's conduct and failed to
comply with PREA investigation procedures. Id.
Williams seeks discovery regarding the following: medical and
mental health records; information regarding other inmates;
copies of Departmental policies and procedure, and
Departmental staff assignments. See Generally ECF
No. 89. At the outset, the Court notes that Defendants
represent that they have already produced much of the
information Williams seeks in these requests. Defendants have
objected to numerous requests for production of documents and
interrogatories concerning which Williams now seeks an order
compelling discovery. The subject requests/interrogatories,
the Defendants' objections, and the Court's rulings
are detailed as follows.
Requests for Production of Documents directed to Defendants
Franz, Giroux, Szelewski, Beddick, Anderson, and Bashor
Request Nos. 4 & 5
Request No. 4 and No. 5, Williams asks for "any and all
records, notes, memos, writings, reports, and filings"
contained in the Williams' DC-14 and DC-15 files. ECF No.
89. Defendants object to this request as overbroad and
irrelevant. They maintain that the requests encompass
"nearly every piece of paper generated by the Department
of Corrections on Williams for four years." ECF No. 98.
Defendants also object because the request asks for highly
confidential information, including mental impressions and
considerations of staff members. Id.
Court agrees that the requests are overly broad and lack
relevancy. Williams' request for these files is not
limited to any specific timeframe but instead seeks the files
in their entirety-from the date of his incarceration at SCI
Albion to the day he sought discovery. The Court also notes
that DC-14 counselor documents contain mental impressions of
staff members and Defendants have valid security concerns
associated with a wholesale release of Williams' records.
Confidentiality and security concerns relating to the release
of such records outweigh any possible relevance of the
information. Finally, the Court notes that Defendants have
produced the full grievances from February 2015-October 2017,
misconducts B836085 and B591898, and the OSII investigation
materials relating to Plaintiff and Defendant Beddick. These
documents appear to comprise the investigatory information
relevant to the claims and defenses of this case Therefore,
the motion to compel is DENIED as to Requests No. 4 and 5.
Request No. 12
same is true for Request No. 12. Here, Williams requests the
"housing unit log entries from the SCI Albion
Diversionary Treatment Unit." ECF No. 89. He claims that
the "log entries" are necessary to determine
"signature entries of all staff and officials who
entered the DTU on December 12, 2015." Id.
Defendants objected to this request as irrelevant and unclear
as to what "log book entries" Plaintiff is seeking.
The Court agrees with Defendants' objection. Further,
Williams has not made any proffer to explain why
identification of all staff and officials who entered the DTU
is relevant or proportional ...