Moore v. Mann et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER re: 65 MOTION to Compel Discovery filed by Brian C Moore. IT IS ORDERED that the plaintiff's motion to compel (Doc. 65.) is DENIED without prejudice to the filing of up to ten additional interrogatories on or before May 19, 2017. Signed by Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson on April 18, 2017. (kjn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
ANGELA MANN, et al.,
CIVIL NO. 3:13-CV-2771
(Magistrate Judge Carlson)
This is a pro se prisoner civil rights action brought by a state prisoner which
is currently proceeding against six correctional defendants on a single legal claim, an
Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim. (Doc. 53.) This Eighth Amendment
failure to protect claim stems out of remarks that Moore alleges the correctional
officers made in the presence of others in the Fall of 2011, identifying Moore as both
a snitch and a pedophile, remarks which Moore alleges placed him at grave risk of
The parties are advised that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, the district court
has orally referred the above-captioned case to the undersigned for pre-trial
management, resolution of non-dispositive motions, and preparation of reports and
recommendations on potentially dispositive matters.
There is a pending motion to compel discovery filed in this case by Moore.
(Doc. 65.) This motion, and further discovery, had been deferred for a period of time
while the court addressed other legal issues. However, with a series of rulings by the
district court on other matters in April of 2017, this motion is now ripe for resolution,
and on April 14, 2017, this matter was referred to the undersigned for our
We have now reviewed the parties’ pleadings with respect to these discovery
issues. While Moore’s motion to compel casts this discovery dispute as a wholesale
failure by the defendants to provide any discovery, a review of the defendants’
discovery responses shows that Moore’s assertion is incorrect. In fact, the defendants
have provided responses to many of Moore’s discovery demands, albeit in a fashion
which reveals very little factual support for Moore’s claims. Thus, the defendants
have responded to all of Moore’s interrogatories and requests for production of
documents, providing answers to many of these questions, lodging objections to some
requests, and submitting both answers and objections to the remaining requests.
While the defendants declined to address Moore’s propounded deposition on written
questions they did so for sound reasons, since this propounded discovery did not
comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
In a number of instances, the defendants objected to some of Moore’s specific
discovery demands, which sought personal, sexual information, information of a
limitless scope relating to the identities of third parties and other inmates, data
concerning other, unrelated inmate complaints against staff, social media histories
and passwords used by prison staff, or demanded documents and information which
was entirely unrelated to the issues in this case. Many of these discovery requests
were argumentative in tone, impermissibly broad in scope, and sought to delve into
areas that were both highly personal and irrelevant. However, in most instances, even
as the defendants objected to these matters, they provided responses, albeit responses
which largely contradicted and undermined Moore’s claims of staff misconduct.
Having conducted this review for the reasons set forth below, with the narrow
exception noted below, the motion to compel will be DENIED.
Several basic guiding principles inform our resolution of the instant discovery
dispute. At the outset, Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs
motions to compel discovery, and provides that:
(a) Motion for an Order Compelling Disclosure or Discovery
(1) In General. On notice to other parties and all affected persons, a
party may move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery. . . .
Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a).
The scope of what type of discovery may be compelled under Rule 37 is
defined, in turn, by Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Fed. R. Civ. P.,
Rule 26(b)(1), which provides that:
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 be
Fed. R. Civ. P., Rule 26(b)(1).
Rulings 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. 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
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).
Therefore, a court’s decisions regarding the conduct of discovery, and whether to
compel disclosure of certain information, 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 this regard:
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).
Furthermore, in a prison setting, wide-ranging and far-reaching inmate requests
for information can raise security concerns, and implicate a legitimate governmental
privilege, a governmental privilege which acknowledges a governmental needs to
confidentiality of certain data but recognizes that courts must balance the
confidentiality of governmental files against the rights of a civil rights litigant by
(1) the extent to which disclosure will thwart governmental processes by
discouraging citizens from giving the government information; (2) the
impact upon persons who have given information of having their
identities disclosed; (3) the degree to which governmental selfevaluation and consequent program improvement will be chilled by
disclosure; (4) whether the information sought is factual data or
evaluative summary; (5) whether the party seeking the discovery is an
actual or potential defendant in any criminal proceeding either pending
or reasonably likely to follow from the incident in question; (6) whether
the police investigation has been completed; (7) whether any intradepartmental disciplinary proceedings have arisen or may arise from the
investigation; (8) whether the plaintiff’s suit is non-frivolous and
brought in good faith; (9) whether the information sought is available
through other discovery or from other sources; and (10) the importance
of the information sought to the plaintiffs case.
Frankenhauser v. Rizzo, 59 F.R.D. 339, 344 (E.D. Pa. 1973).
Judged by these standards, we note that many of Moore’s discovery demands
sought personal, sexual information, information of a limitless temporal scope
relating to the identities of third parties and other inmates, data concerning other,
unrelated inmate complaints against staff, social media histories and passwords used
by prison staff or other information which is completely unrelated to this case.
Furthermore, many of these discovery requests were argumentative in tone,
impermissibly broad in scope, and sought to delve into areas that were both highly
personal and irrelevant. Thus, as we have noted in the past:
These are precisely the kinds of sweeping, generalized and overly broad
discovery requests judges in the Middle District of Pennsylvania have
rejected as being not only overly broad, but unduly infringing upon the
privacy interests of other inmates who may have sought to grieve
unrelated issues that they had with staff. See, e.g., Montanez v. Tritt,
Civ. No. 3:14-CV-1362, 2016 WL 3035310, at *4 (M.D. Pa. May 26,
2016)(denying motion to compel production of incident reports,
grievances and other documents involving other inmates where they
were found to be “overly broad, irrelevant, confidential, [and to]
bear no sufficient connection to this case, and raise obvious privacy
and security issues.”) (Mariani, J.); Lofton v. Wetzel, Civ. No. 1:12CV-1133, 2015 WL 5761918, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 9, 2015) (Conner,
C.J.) (“It is apparent that [the plaintiff's] requests for ‘any and all’
records of inspection, and ‘all’ incident reports and grievances are
a grossly overstated fishing expedition. [His] request for incident
reports and grievances regarding other inmates raises obvious
privacy and security issues, and the relevance of such information
is questionable at best.”); Sloan v. Murray, No. 3:11-CV-994, 2013
WL 5551162, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 8, 2013) (Caputo, J.) (denying
motion to compel grievance responses that concerned other inmates,
citing DOC policy prohibiting inmates from receiving information
about one another); Torres v. Clark, Civ. No. 1:10-CV-1323, 2011 WL
4898168, at *2-3 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 13, 2011) (Caldwell, J.) (denying
motion to compel inmate request for discovery of 27-months of
grievances about a specific cell block, finding it to be overly broad,
burdensome, and potentially implicating privacy interests of other
inmates); McDowell v. Litz, Civ. No. 1:CV-08-1453, 2009 WL
2058712, at *3 (M.D. Pa. July 10, 2009) (Rambo, J.) (finding requests
for discovery of grievances filed by non-party inmates to be
“overbroad and overly burdensome” and agreeing with the
defendants' “concerns about accessing private information with
respect to other inmates' grievances.”); Callaham v. Mataloni, Civ.
No. 4:CV-06-1109, 2009 WL 1363368, at *3-4 (M.D. Pa. May 14,
2009) (Jones, J.) (denying motion to compel, inter alia, grievances
relating to medical treatment of other inmates, citing privacy
concerns); cf. Banks v. Beard, Civ. No. 3:CV-10-1480, 2013 WL
3773837, at *5 (M.D. Pa. July 17, 2013) (Munley, J.) (denying motion
to compel account statements for other inmates despite plaintiff's
claim of relevance).
Mercaldo v. Wetzel, No. 1:13-CV-1139, 2016 WL 5851958, at *4 (M.D.
Pa. Oct. 6, 2016).
Given the sweeping, personally intrusive, argumentative, and largely irrelevant
nature of many of Moore’s requests for production or interrogatories that have been
objected to by the defendants, and the otherwise fulsome discovery provided to
Moore by the defendants, in the exercise of our discretion we will decline Moore’s
invitation to compel further answers to these interrogatories and requests for
production of documents.
We note that there was one additional category of discovery propounded by
Moore which the defendants declined to answer in its entirety, a series of proposed
depositions on written questions submitted by Moore. We have reviewed these
propounded deposition questions and find that Moore had not fully complied with
Rule 31 since “he has not actually taken the steps necessary to retain a suitable
officer, [and] he has not informed the court or the defendants how he intends to pay
the cost of these depositions.” Eggleston v. Mitchell, No. 1:12-CV-1220, 2013 WL
5351053, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 23, 2013). On this score, “the plaintiff . . . bears the
burden of complying with the procedural and financial requirements that such
discovery commands. At this point, the plaintiff has not demonstrated that he has
fulfilled the requirements imposed by Rule 31 . . . of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, and he must do so before he will be able to avail himself of this
discovery.” Id. at *6.
Recognizing, however, that in these proffered depositions on written questions
the plaintiff proposed to propound a limited number of questions to a discrete number
of witnesses, we will in the exercise of our discretion over discovery matters permit
the plaintiff to propound some additional questions as interrogatories pursuant to
Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, provided the plaintiff tenders these
interrogatories within the revised deadline for discovery set by this order and limits
these inquiries to properly framed requests for relevant information.
Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED that the plaintiff's
motion to compel (Doc. 65.) is DENIED without prejudice to the filing of up to ten
additional interrogatories on or before May 19, 2017.
interrogatories shall comply with this order and seek relevant information, focused
on the remaining claim in this case, reasonably confined in time and place, set forth
in a non-argumentative fashion.
So ordered this 18th day of April, 2017.
/s/ Martin C. Carlson
Martin C. Carlson
United States Magistrate Judge
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