United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL
[ECF NO. 24]
RICHARD A. LANZILLO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Oke, a prisoner in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department
of Corrections ("DOC"), filed the underlying
pro se action on October 26, 2018. ECF No. 3.
Presently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs motion to
compel discovery based upon alleged deficiencies in
Defendant's responses to his interrogatories and requests
for production of documents. ECF No. 24. For the reasons
discussed below, the motion will be GRANTED IN PART and
DENIED IN PART.
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. Trash
v. Olin Corp., 298 F.R.D. 244, 263 (W.D. Pa. 2014)
(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
relevance of each of the discovery requests at issue must be
assessed in the context of Plaintiff s claims and the issues
of the case. Plaintiffs complaint asserts one count pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for retaliation in violation of the
First Amendment. See generally ECF No. 3. Plaintiff
alleges that he was caught passing a pepper and an onion to
Inmate Robinson on October 17, 2016. Id. at 3. The
misconduct was referred to Defendant Crowuther for informal
resolution, due to the pettiness of the offense. Id.
During the informal resolution, Plaintiff asserted a
procedural defense; specifically, that Defendant Crowuther
failed to commence the proceeding within "seven working
days" of the offense, and was thus barred by a Seven Day
Rule from prosecuting the misconduct. Id. at 3-4.
Defendant Crowuther explained that, due to a prison lockdown,
the Seven Day Rule was tolled. Id. at 4. The
argument escalated, and the matter was then referred by
Defendant Crowuther to a Hearing Examiner for a formal
hearing, which involves harsher sanctions than informal
hearings. Id. at 5.
motion seeks the discovery of information which can be
arranged by category: information regarding other inmates,
information regarding misconduct proceedings, and his own
complete prison records. See Generally ECF No. 24.
Defendants have objected to numerous requests for production
of documents and interrogatories. Plaintiff now seeks an
order compelling discovery of these matters. The disputes are
highlighted below, as are the Court's rulings.
Documents Related to Inmates Giddens and Robinson
Interrogatories Nos. 5, 6, 12, and 14, as well as First
Request for Production No. 2, Second Request for Production
Nos. 4 and 6, and Third Request for Production Nos. 2, 3, and
5, Plaintiff asks for information pertaining to inmates
Giddens and Robinson. Plaintiff asserts that this information
is needed to show that: (1) inmate Giddens had a misconduct
charge dismissed due to the DOC's noncompliance with the
7-Day Rule, and (2) inmate Robinson received a less harsh
sanction for substantially the same misconduct involving the
pepper and onion.
policy prohibits inmates from receiving information about
another inmate. See, e.g., Sloan v. Murrary, 2013 WL
5551162 at *4 (M.D. Pa. Oct 8, 2013) (denying motion to
compel grievance responses that concerned other inmates,
citing DOC policy prohibiting inmates from receiving
information about one another); Torres v. Harris,
2019 WL 265804, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Jan 18, 2019). Here, the
Court finds that Plaintiffs request for the discovery of
other inmates' information implicates important privacy
interests. More importantly, the relevance of the
information, and its potential for leading to admissible
evidence, is minimal. Any possible relevance of this
information is substantially outweighed by privacy and
confidentiality interests. Finally, the Court ...