Pursley v. Williams et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order (related to 110 and 123 ) Signed by the Honorable M. David Weisman on 10/24/2017. Mailed notice (ao,)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
WARDEN TARRY WILLIAMS,
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF
GODINEZ, DOCTOR SALEH
OBAISI, KEVIN HOLLARAN and
Hon. Virginia M. Kendall
Magistrate Judge M. David Weisman
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter involves claims of constitutional violations based on Defendants’ alleged
failure to provide appropriate medical care, and the conditions of confinement under which
Plaintiff was being held. Plaintiff was an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center, which is part
of the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). According to the controlling complaint,
Plaintiff has been released from custody because he was wrongfully convicted. (Dkt. 102 at ¶
14.) Defendants Obaisi and Hollaran (hereinafter “Defendants”) have filed a motion for a
protective order, essentially seeking to stay discovery while their motion to dismiss is resolved
by the district court . 1 Plaintiff opposed the motion, seeking to proceed with discovery in
general, and the discovery requests at issue in the instant motion. For the reasons explained
herein, as well as those reasons stated on the record, the Court grants in part and denies in part
Defendants’ motion for a protective order but provides other relief as detailed below.
The controlling complaint contains three counts and alleges the following constitutional
violations: (1) cruel and unusual punishment and (2) denial of medical care. (Dkt. 102 at pp. 11–
Defendants Williams and Pfister (“State Defendants”) asked to join in Defendants’ motion for a protective order
after the Court made a preliminary oral ruling on the motion. Plaintiff objected to this relief. The State Defendants
have filed a motion seeking the same relief and Plaintiff will have an opportunity to respond to such motion on
November 1, 2017. (Dkt. 115, 118.) For the current time, this ruling only applies to Defendants.
To prosecute these claims, Plaintiff has tendered 20 interrogatories and 49 requests to
produce. In addition to the sheer number of discovery requests, the four pages of included
instructions and definitions (discussed further below) create an extremely large breadth of
meaning and scope of required response.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1 requires that the parties, counsel, and the Court
construe the federal rules in a way that secures “the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination
of every action and proceeding.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 1 (emphasis added). This rule is entitled to the
same consideration and control as every other federal rule of procedure. Additionally, Rule 26
defines the appropriate 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.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) (emphasis added). This opinion is animated primarily by the principles
contained in these two rules – principles that Plaintiff’s discovery requests fail to reflect.
Here are some examples of the completely untethered approach to discovery embodied in
In Interrogatory #3, Plaintiff requests a statement under oath as to all complaints “ever”
made about medical care or prison conditions. This request is not limited to a lawsuit or even a
formal grievance because “complaint” as defined by Plaintiff includes “any complaint or
criticism relating in any manner to the job performance of any Defendant.” (See Dkt. 110-1 at
Definition #10 (emphasis added).) Plaintiff further demands an explanation as to how each of
these “criticisms” was resolved. The Court notes that this incredibly broad request is echoed in
other discovery requests. For example, Interrogatory #4 includes a similar request about any
“complaint” (read to include “criticism”) “ever . . . made against” a defendant as to constitutional
In Interrogatory #15, Plaintiff requests a narrative answer describing “any and all changes
made in the last fifteen years . . . relating to . . . providing medical care to inmates.” While that
request is exceedingly broad, its actual scope is exponentially broader as “relating to” is defined
to include “being connected with, reflecting upon, or having any logical or factual connection
with a stated subject matter.” (Id. at Definition #12 (emphasis added).) Such a broadly framed
request would be difficult to defend in any case; it is indefensible in light of Plaintiff’s current
allegations as to lack of medical care which are limited to a respiratory infection and rib injury.
(Dkt. 102 at ¶¶ 39–48.)
Request to Produce Document #12 seeks inter alia “communications of any kind”
between a defendant “and any person who may have discoverable information or knowledge of
the allegations in the Plaintiff’s complaint.” (Dkt. 110-2 at RFP #12.) As framed, this expansive
request would include all communications between Dr. Obaisi and a member of his clinical staff
who may have had contact with Plaintiff. The clinical staff member “may” have information
related to the incident, and the request is not limited to communications about Plaintiff. Instead,
the request seeks “communications of any kind.” Thus, this request would likely include a
multitude of communications related to other inmates, including some of their most private
information regarding their physical and medical condition. Further aggravating the problem is
that the breadth of this request is broadened even more by the policy allegations as to insufficient
medical care alleged in the Revised First Amended Complaint. (See Dkt. 102.) Thus, this
discovery request would seemingly obligate Dr. Obaisi to produce any communication of any
kind between himself and a member of his medical staff.
Request to Produce #31 seeks all documents related to “treatment of prisoners at
Stateville by an outside healthcare provider.” (Dkt. 110-2 at RFP #31.) Plaintiff does not even
allege that he was denied access to an outside healthcare provider. (See Dkt. 102 at ¶¶ 39–48.)
Request to Produce #43 seeks documents identifying the policymakers responsible for
any “policy, procedure or practice” identified in Request to Produce #30. (Dkt. 110-2 at RFP
#30, 43.) Yet, Request to Produce #30 does not seek policy information. Similarly, Request to
Produce #44 seeks documents related to “policymakers” involved in Request to Produce #38, yet
that request to produce also has nothing to do with policy making issues. (Id. at RFP #38, 44.)
This exercise could continue. There are many more examples of disproportionate
overbreadth, as well as poor draftsmanship as noted on the record. Suffice to say, the Court
believes it has made its point. It is indisputable that Plaintiff’s discovery requests fail to comply
with the general standards required by the federal rules of civil procedure.
As illustrated by the examples above, these deficiencies are basic and fundamental, and
demonstrate at best a lack of care by Plaintiff in crafting discovery, and at worst a concerted
attempt to abuse the discovery process. The Court presumes the former controls these
In either event, the Court will apply its inherent authority to control the discovery process
, to ensure that the parties meet the district court’s current discovery schedule. See Ramirez
v. T&H Lemont Inc., 845 F.3d 772, 776 (7th Cir. 2016) (noting that “a court has the inherent
authority to manage judicial proceedings and to regulate the conduct of those appearing before it,
and pursuant to that authority may impose appropriate sanctions to penalize and discourage
misconduct”) (citing Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 46–50 (1991)). Therefore, Plaintiff
is limited to issuing 10 interrogatories and requests to produce to each Defendant and must issue
this discovery to the Defendants by COB on 10/23/17.
In closing, the Court makes the following observations. Rule 26, when amended,
included the concept of proportionality as a measure for the appropriate scope of discovery. Fed.
R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). From this Court’s perspective, proportionality is an evolving measuring
point, informed by the developments that occur during the litigation process. Thus, these
limitations are open to reconsideration if Plaintiff can demonstrate that there is a proportionate
need for further discovery.
Rule 26 instructs the Court to consider, inter alia, the importance of the issues raised in
the litigation when assessing the proportionality of the discovery needs. None of the Court’s
comments herein should be read to mean that this Court does not consider the condition of
Plaintiff’s confinement to be an important issue. To the contrary, the Court acknowledges the
importance of the issue both to Plaintiff and more generally to society at large. Counsel cannot
rely on the importance of the issue alone, however, to justify poorly contemplated and crafted
discovery requests. Many issues brought before federal courts are of significant importance;
their importance cannot serve as a defense for counsel’s careless discovery practices.
Finally, the Court expects all counsel involved to engage in robust Rule 37 conferences in
an attempt to resolve all future discovery disputes. A simple exchange of emails will not suffice.
Counsel should thoughtfully consider and respond to the discovery concerns raised to avoid
unnecessary expenses and time in the litigation process.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants’
motion for a protective order . The Court looks forward to working with all counsel to
efficiently and expeditiously resolve this case.
M. David Weisman
United States Magistrate Judge
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