United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
F. FREDERIC FOUAD, Plaintiff,
MILTON HERSHEY SCHOOL, et al., Defendants.
C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge
BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:
lawsuit represents the latest chapter in what has been
longstanding and bitter strife between two antagonists:
Frederic Fouad and the Milton Hershey School. As we have
noted in the past, it seems that litigation has become the
field upon which these protagonists have chosen to engage in:
a longstanding and intractable conflict between the Milton
Hershey School, an advocacy group, Protect Hershey's
Children (“PHC”), and PHC's President, an
attorney named Ric Fouad. The conflict between Fouad, PHC,
and Hershey spans many years and is marked by competing
accusations, mutual recriminations, and shared, profound, and
unshakeable suspicions. For its part, the Milton Hershey
School apparently views PHC and Fouad as unscrupulous
provocateurs, who disseminate baseless allegations against
the Milton Hershey School and then instigate grieving
families to file meritless lawsuits in pursuit of their
ideological goals. PHC and Fouad, in turn, identify
themselves as public spirited whistle-blowers, who believe
that they are the victims of a campaign of harassment,
oppression, and unwarranted calumny orchestrated by a
multi-billion dollar corporate monolith.
Wartluft v. Milton Hershey Sch. & Sch. Tr., No.
1:16-CV-2145, 2018 WL 3995697, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 21,
latest iteration of this internecine legal warfare began in
2018 when Fouad commenced this lawsuit in New York state.
Fouad's complaint was removed to federal court in New
York and then transferred to this court. The latest
manifestation of this dispute is embodied in Fouad's
amended complaint, (Doc. 171), a 95-page, 344-paragraph
pleading which levels an array of claims against some 17
individual and institutional defendants. Presently, there are
three motions to dismiss pending in this case. (Docs. 173,
174, 229). The parties are completing the briefing of these
dispositive motions and the resolution of these motions may
fundamentally alter and define the scope of this sweeping
parties are concurrently mired in discovery disputes which
have been referred to the undersigned. These discovery
disputes reflect the enmity that exists between these
parties. Thus, we are presented with competing motions to
compel and for sanctions, (Docs. 226 and 241); a hotly
contested motion for extension of discovery deadlines, (Doc.
233); a bitter dispute over what typically is a matter of
routine, i.e., the number of discovery demands that the
parties may propound, (Doc. 251); and the prospect of
multiple, additional discovery motions. (Docs. 260-63,
269-70). Simply put, the parties, by their conduct,
foreshadow a protracted, acrimonious course of discovery on
claims whose threshold legal merits have yet to be assessed
by the district court.
participated in a telephonic conference with counsel on
December 9, 2019. At that conference, and in a
post-conference order, we raised a proposal designed to
promote rationality over acrimony in discovery management.
Specifically, we asked the parties to consider whether their
mutually antagonistic discovery should be stayed until after
the district court has ruled upon the various motions to
dismiss, thus defining for us what claims, if any, have
sufficient legal merit to warrant discovery. (Docs. 245-49).
which have transpired since this December 9 conference
further underscore for us the merit of this idea, which
allows the parties to know what the legal terrain of this
case may be before they begin laying cudgels upon one another
through discovery. For example, we have received
correspondence from plaintiff's counsel which seems to
protest the discovery motion briefing schedule that we
understood him to propose during the December 9 telephone
conference. The parties also advance utterly irreconcilable
approaches to what should have been a matter agreed upon at
the outset of this litigation-the number of discovery demands
which each party may propound. Given the apparent inability
of the parties to reach an accord on even the most routine of
discovery matters, we think it is prudent to await a
determination of how many parties remain in this lawsuit
through rulings upon the various pending motions to dismiss
before we are required to decide how many discovery demands
each of these parties may propound. Accordingly, for the
reasons set forth below we will STAY further discovery
pending resolution of the motions to dismiss filed in this
basic guiding principles inform our resolution of the instant
discovery issues. At the outset, rulings regarding the proper
scope and timing of discovery are matters consigned to the
court's discretion and judgment. Thus, it has long been
held that decisions regarding Rule 37 motions are
“committed to the sound discretion of the district
court.” DiGregorio v. First Rediscount Corp.,
506 F.2d 781, 788 (3d Cir. 1974). Similarly, issues relating
to the timing and scope of discovery permitted under Rule 26
also rest in the sound discretion of the Court.
Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 812
F.2d 81, 90 (3d Cir. 1987). Thus, a court's decisions
regarding the conduct of discovery will be disturbed only
upon a showing of an abuse of discretion.
Marroquin-Manriquez v. I.N.S., 699 F.2d 129, 134 (3d
Cir. 1983). This far-reaching discretion extends to rulings
by United States Magistrate Judges on discovery matters. In
District courts provide magistrate judges with particularly
broad discretion in resolving discovery disputes. See
Farmers & Merchs. Nat'l Bank v. San Clemente Fin.
Group Sec., Inc., 174 F.R.D. 572, 585 (D.N.J. 1997).
When a magistrate judge's decision involves a
discretionary [discovery] matter . . ., “courts in this
district have determined that the clearly erroneous standard
implicitly becomes an abuse of discretion standard.”
Saldi v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co., 224 F.R.D. 169,
174 (E.D. Pa. 2004) (citing Scott Paper Co. v.
United States, 943 F.Supp. 501, 502 (E.D. Pa.
1996)). Under that standard, a magistrate judge's
discovery ruling “is entitled to great deference and is
reversible only for abuse of discretion.” Kresefky
v. Panasonic Commc'ns and Sys. Co., 169 F.R.D. 54,
64 (D.N.J. 1996); see also Hasbrouck v. BankAmerica Hous.
Servs., 190 F.R.D. 42, 44-45 (N.D.N.Y. 1999) (holding
that discovery rulings are reviewed under abuse of discretion
standard rather than de novo standard); EEOC v. Mr. Gold,
Inc., 223 F.R.D. 100, 102 (E.D.N.Y. 2004) (holding that
a magistrate judge's resolution of discovery disputes
deserves substantial deference and should be reversed only if
there is an abuse of discretion).
Halsey v. Pfeiffer, No. 09-1138, 2010 WL 3735702, *1
(D.N.J. Sept. 17, 2010).
note that our broad discretion over discovery matters extends
to decisions under Rule 26 relating to the issuance of
protective orders limiting and regulating the timing of
discovery. Indeed, it is undisputed that: “
‘[t]he grant and nature of [a protective order] is
singularly within the discretion of the district court and
may be reversed only on a clear showing of abuse of
discretion.' ” Dove v. Atlantic Capital