United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL [ECF NO.
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, 2016. ECF No. 3.
Presently pending before the Court is Plaintiff's second
motion to compel discovery based upon alleged deficiencies in
Defendant's responses to his interrogatories. ECF No. 37.
of background, this Court previously granted in part
Plaintiff's first motion to compel [ECF 24] and Ordered
[ECF 30] Defendant Michele Crowuther to properly respond to
Interrogatory Eight of Plaintiff's First Set of
Interrogatories. Plaintiff now takes issue with the response
served by Defendant pursuant to this Court's Order, as
well as her response to Interrogatory One of his Fourth Set
of Interrogatories. For the reasons discussed below,
Plaintiff's motion will be GRANTED.
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. Trask
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 disclosure.” Id.
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. Plaintiff's complaint asserts one
count pursuant to section 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.
current motion seeks to compel proper responses to this
Court's Order dated July 25, 2019 [ECF 30] and Number One
of his Fourth Set of Interrogatories. See Generally
ECF No. 37.
This Court's Order Dated July 25, 2019
Interrogatory Eight of his First Set of Interrogatories,
Plaintiff asked Defendant if she had ever held informal
misconduct hearings during a lockdown, and if so, what were
the dates and misconduct numbers. Defendant responded that
she “cannot recall.” The Court found this
response to be insufficient because Defendant merely stated
that she did not recall, but provided no information relating
to the efforts she made to ascertain the requested
information. See Hansel v. Shell Oil Corp., 169
F.R.D. 303 ...