United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Nicholas Ranjan Magistrate District Judge
MEMORANDUM ORDER RE: ECF NO. 61
Maureen P. Kelly Judge
Thuy Vo ("Plaintiff) initiated this pro se
prisoner civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 on October 15, 2018. ECF Nos. 1, 8. Plaintiff is
incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene
("SCI-Greene"), and he asserts claims against three
SCI-Greene employees. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants
violated his Fourth Amendment right to bodily privacy through
its policy of video-recording strip searches.
before the Court is Plaintiffs Motion for an Order Compelling
Discovery ("Motion to Compel Discovery") filed by
Plaintiff and Defendants' Response thereto. ECF Nos. 61,
63. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs Motion to
Compel Discovery is denied.
RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Complaint was filed on November 27, 2018, and he later filed
the operative Amended Complaint on February 22, 2019. ECF
Nos. 8, 26. In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff claims that
Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights by
"implement[ing] a policy of video-recording strip
searches of inmates going to, and coming from contact visits,
and while using the bathroom." ECF No. 26 ¶ 8.
Plaintiff alleges that inmates are subjected to strip
searches "with their genitals and private parts in full
view of a 360 degree ceiling camera every time they wish to
have contact visits, or use the bathroom during visits."
Id. ¶ 12. These recordings are stored and
"viewed at all times by SCI-Greene's security
staff," which includes prison officials not present
during. the search and individuals of the opposite sex.
Id. ¶ 13.
March 11, 2019, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiffs
Amended Complaint. ECF No. 30. Defendants argued that
Plaintiffs claims should be dismissed because the searches
are reasonable under the standard set forth in Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 558 (1979), and therefore do not
violate Plaintiffs Fourth Amendment rights. ECF No. 31. In
support of their Motion, Defendants relied in part on a
declaration from Defendant Michael Zaken (the "Zaken
Declaration"). Zaken identified various precautions that
SCI-Greene officials purportedly have taken to ensure that
inmates' private areas are not recorded during strip
searches and to limit the circumstances in which the videos
are viewed. ECF No. 31-1. The Zaken Declaration that
Defendants filed is partially redacted. Id.
24, 2019, the Court issued a Report and Recommendation which
recommended that the Motion to Dismiss be denied. ECF No. 44.
The Court concluded that "Plaintiffs allegations that
nude images of Plaintiff are recorded and stored for an
unknown amount of time, are viewed by various prison
officials, including officials of the opposite sex, and that
this policy was imposed for retaliatory purposes, raise
questions of fact regarding the reasonableness of relevant
searches under Bell and therefore preclude dismissal
at this early stage." Id. at 5. United States
District Judge Nicholas J. Ranjan adopted the Report and
Recommendation on August 13, 2019. ECF No. 47.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) defines the permissible
scope of discovery as follows:
Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of
discovery is 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
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).
regarding the proper scope of discovery, and the extent to
which discovery may be compelled, are matters consigned to
the Court's discretion and judgment. It has long been
held that decisions relating to the 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). A party moving to compel
discovery bears the initial burden of proving the relevance
of the requested information. Morrison v. Phila. Hous.
Auth., 203 F.R.D. 195, 196 (E.D. Pa. 2001). Once that
initial burden is met, "the party resisting the
discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevance
by demonstrating that the requested discovery (1) does not
come within the broad scope of relevance as defined under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevance
that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would
outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad
disclosure." In re Urethane Antitrust Litig.,
261 F.R.D. 570, 573 (D. Kan. 2009).