Chester et al v. Beard et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER -IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the 175 MOTION for Sanctions is DENIED. Signed by Chief Judge Yvette Kane on Jan. 14, 2013. SEE MEMORANDUM FOR DETAILS. (sc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
FRANK ROBERT CHESTER, et al.,
JOHN E. WETZEL, et al.,
Civil No. 1:08-cv-1261
(Chief Judge Kane)
Before the Court is Plaintiff Hubert Michael’s motion for sanctions. (Doc. No. 175.) For
the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the motion.
On October 23, 2012, Plaintiff Michael filed a motion for stay of execution, temporary
restraining order, or preliminary injunction in this class action challenging the constitutionality
of Pennsylvania’s lethal injection protocol. (Doc. No. 139.) The Court set an abbreviated
briefing and discovery schedule to accommodate Plaintiff Michael’s then-imminent execution
date of November 8, 2012. In the days before his scheduled execution, a discovery dispute arose
after Defendants refused to disclose information relating to the source of the drugs that they
intended to use in Plaintiff Michael’s execution, citing a state law that prohibited the disclosure.
Magistrate Judge Carlson and the undersigned issued orders directing Defendants to disclose the
requested information relating to the source of the drugs. (Doc. Nos. 156, 166.) On November
2, 2012, Plaintiff Michael filed the instant motion for sanctions pursuant to Rule 37 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, asking the Court to grant his motion for a stay of execution
due to Defendants’ discovery violation. (Doc. No. 175.)
On November 5, 2012, at an evidentiary hearing on Plaintiff Michael’s motion for stay of
execution, Defendants’ counsel informed the Court that Defendants complied with the order two
days earlier. Defendants’ disclosure revealed that the drugs were compounded by a
compounding pharmacy. Nonetheless, Plaintiff requested that the Court sanction Defendants by
precluding them from opposing his motion for stay of execution. Plaintiff Michael’s counsel
argued that due to Defendants’ eleventh-hour disclosure, he did not have sufficient time to fully
develop a claim that the use of compounded drugs would create a risk that he would suffer
unconstitutionally severe pain.
On November 6, 2012, the Court denied Plaintiff Michael’s motion for stay of execution,
and reserved ruling on his motion for sanctions. (Doc. No. 186.) Two days later, the Third
Circuit stayed Mr. Michael’s execution in a separate federal habeas corpus action not before the
undersigned. Michael v. Wetzel, No. 12-9006 (3d. Cir. Nov. 8, 2012). That case continues to be
litigated in the Third Circuit.
On November 19, 2012, Defendants filed a brief in opposition to the pending motion for
sanctions, arguing that their conduct does not warrant the imposition of sanctions. (Doc. No.
196.) The Court agrees that the sanctions that Plaintiff Michael requested are not warranted, and
will deny his motion. Extreme sanctions, such as deeming a claim to be unopposed, are
generally reserved for cases where bad faith can be demonstrated. See, e.g., National Hockey
League v. Metropolitan Hockey Club, Inc., 427 U.S. 639 (1976) (permitting the extreme sanction
of dismissal in a case of flagrant bad faith and callous disregard of discovery responsibilities). In
this case, the Court is satisfied that any discovery violations by Defendants were not in bad faith,
and resulted from a highly compressed briefing and discovery schedule in a complex case.
Moreover, as earlier stated, Defendants supplied the requested information on November 3,
2012, and the discovery deadlines in the case have been extended.
ACCORDINGLY, on this 14th day of January 2013, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED
THAT Plaintiff Michael’s motion for sanctions (Doc. No. 175) is DENIED.
S/ Yvette Kane
Yvette Kane, Chief Judge
United States District Court
Middle District of Pennsylvania
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