Dunn et al v. Thomas et al
OPINION AND ORDER: It is ORDERED that the discovery process in this case is restructured as follows: (1) First, any party seeking resolution of a discovery dispute must file a request for mediation with the magistrate judge. (2) Mediation will take p lace with the magistrate judge as mediator. (3) Because the resolution of discovery disputes has been so contentious in this case, any and all discovery disputes resolved by mediation must be reduced to writing. The court will not recognize any oral agreements. (4) The parties may file an appropriate objection or motion for resolution of those discovery disputes not resolved in mediation before the magistrate judge. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 7/27/2015. (dmn, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, NORTHERN DIVISION
JOSHUA DUNN, et al.,
JEFFERSON S. DUNN, in his
official capacity as
Commissioner of the
Alabama Department of
Corrections, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
OPINION AND ORDER
following claims: inadequate medical and mental-health
treatment in Alabama prison facilities; denial of due
process for involuntary medical treatment; failure to
accommodate prisoners with disabilities properly; and
denial of prisoners’ rights to communicate with counsel
Amendments (as enforced through 42 U.S.C. § 1983); the
§§ 12131-12134); and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of
1973 (29 U.S.C. § 794).
The defendants are the Alabama
Department of Corrections, its Commissioner, and its
Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal
question) and 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (civil rights).
This cause is
court on the
whether the protocol for resolving discovery matters in
this case needs to be restructured.
For the reasons
explained below, the answer is “Yes,” and this opinion
explains why and how.
To date, discovery has proceeded in this case with
a magistrate judge at the helm, but with objections to
the magistrate judge’s discovery orders then reviewed
by the court.
This means that, between the magistrate
that already have arisen.
This duplication of efforts
parties and the court.
The first discovery dispute in this case arose over
Production of Documents (doc. no. 109).
motion was filed, the magistrate judge has issued three
orders on discovery, see Orders dated April 8, 2015,
May 12, 2015, & June 10, 2015 (doc. nos. 133, 163, &
199); the plaintiffs have filed objections to each, see
Production of Documents, Plaintiffs’ Renewed Objection
to Order on Motion to Compel Production of Documents, &
Adequate Site Inspections (doc. nos. 146, 173, & 202);
and both parties have filed numerous briefs and engaged
in long hearings before the magistrate judge.
Moreover, it is clear from the parties’ responses to
jurisdiction over discovery by the magistrate judge in
this case will result in further appeals.
(doc. no. 213); Defendants’ Response (doc. no. 214);
Plaintiffs’ Response (doc. no. 216).
1. The court’s show-cause order was as follows:
“Chief Judge W. Keith Watkins entered the
Community Service, Inc., et al. v. Warren, et
al., civil action no. 3:06cv1113-WKW:
‘Upon review of the plaintiffs’ appeal
Magistrate Judge ... and the filings
related to the deferred portions of
the plaintiffs’ motions to compel ...,
it is obvious to the undersigned that
discovery and other pretrial rulings
by the Magistrate Judge will very
likely result in further appeals,
resources of the parties and of the
Accordingly, it is ORDERED
that reference of discovery motions to
the Magistrate Judge is withdrawn
until further order of the court.’
It is ORDERED that the parties in this
case show cause, if any there be, in writing by
July 1, 2015, as to why a similar order is not
warranted in this case.” Order (doc. no. 213).
court’s determination on the matter--has been delayed
until these disputes are resolved, which could delay
the trial of the case.
The court recognizes that, due to the scale of this
case, discovery is both voluminous and complex.
within the defendants’ control makes sense: The nature
of this case means that the strength of the parties’
determinations on the dispositive questions, they have
Nevertheless, many of the discovery disputes boil down
to logistical, practical issues.
discovery issues are resolved in this case, they tend
to be resolved most expeditiously, and more likely to
magistrate judge or the court.
Based on these concerns and observations, the court
is convinced that the case would proceed more smoothly,
and more swiftly, if the court’s resources were used in
a different way and thus that it is the best interest
discovery disputes in this case.2
2. Also, the court cannot overlook that, while
researching the issue at hand, it became apparent that
there is no standing order or local rule in this
district referring discovery matters to its magistrate
The referral of matters to magistrate judges is
Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261,
268 (1976) (citing S. Rep. No. 371, 90th Cong., 1st
Sess., 11 (1967)).
Here, on the one hand, instead of
increasing efficiency, the referral of discovery to the
magistrate judge for formal resolution has resulted in
delays and inefficiency.
On the other hand, there are
which, as said, are logistical) that could benefit from
an informal first pass by a mediator familiar with the
case, who can assist the parties in coming to a quick
resolution on certain disputes and reduce the parties’
need to resort to the formal, adversarial process on so
Nor is there any formal order of referral in
It appears that referral of such matters
has been done by custom only.
procedure, there is the concern that the referral of
this matter to the magistrate judge, without a local
rule, a standing order, or a formal order in the
instant case, was not proper in the first place.
many discovery-related questions.
A mediator also can
necessary, and, at the very least, can winnow down the
number of issues that must be presented to this court.
In short, the court believes that a mediation process
would best serve all in getting done what needs to be
While the court’s show-cause order, see supra
note 1, suggested withdrawing discovery from the reach
of the magistrate judge altogether, the court believes
that it still needs the help of the magistrate judge
The court has already discussed this new process
mediation, and he concurs that the process will likely
result in a more expeditious resolution of discovery
* * *
process in this case is restructured as follows:
mediation with the magistrate judge.
(2) Mediation will take place with the magistrate
judge as mediator.
(3) Because the resolution of discovery disputes
has been so contentious in this case, any and
all discovery disputes resolved by mediation
must be reduced to writing.
The court will not
recognize any oral agreements.
(4) The parties may file an appropriate objection
disputes not resolved in mediation before the
DONE, this the 27th day of July, 2015.
___/s/ Myron H. Thompson____
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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