United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge
who is incarcerated at Fox Lake Correctional Institution,
filed a pro se complaint alleging that his civil
rights were violated. (Docket #1). His complaint centers
around a slip and fall he attributes to dangerous prison
conditions, as well as allegedly inadequate medical care
Plaintiff received after the fall, and a cover-up of both by
prison officials in order to avoid responsibility for the
incident. See Id. at 3. Before the Court is
Plaintiff's motion to compel certain discovery responses.
(Docket #43). Defendants oppose the motion. (Docket #48).
motion, Plaintiff seeks supplemental document production as
to his Requests for Production Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 12. (Docket
#43 at 2). Those requests are as follows:
Request No. 1: Provide a copy of any and all documents
concerning misconduct, reprimands, internal administrative
complaints filed, or disciplinary action taken against the
defendants from the year 2006 to present date.
Request No. 2: A complete copy of any and all documents
showing work performance evaluations of the defendants, while
employed within the Department of Corrections from 2006 to
Request No. 3: A complete copy of Plaintiff's medical
files concerning the claims raised in Plaintiff's
complaint, files which consist of: (a) progress notes; (b)
prescriber's orders; (c) off-site service request &
report; (d) nursing encounter protocols; (e) any doctor's
or radiology reports; (f) any DOC-3559 evaluation reports;
(g) any DOC-3484 Form [for] correction of health information;
(h) any DOC-3035 Health Service request forms; [and] (i) any
written or electronic notes between staff on Plaintiff's
Request No. 12: A complete copy of any documents that show a
detailed listing of Fox Lake Correctional Institution (FLCI)
institutional complaint[s] filed by inmates to the ICRS,
regarding physical conditions at FLCI. This includes
dispositions and recommendations made.
(Docket #44-1 at 1-7). Defendants objected to each of these
requests and have apparently provided no responsive
documents. See (Docket #49-1 at 12-14). Plaintiff
claims that Defendants' responses to these requests were
“generalized, evasive, incomplete, and
non-responsive.” (Docket #44 at 1). He requests an
order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a) to
compel compliance with these requests. Id.; Fed. R.
courts have broad discretion in deciding matters relating to
discovery. Packman v. Chicago Tribune Co., 267 F.3d
628, 646-47 (7th Cir. 2001); Rennie v. Dalton, 3
F.3d 1100, 1110 (7th Cir. 1993). Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 26(b)(1), 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.” Id. 26(b)(1). The
information sought need not itself be admissible to be
discoverable. Id. In considering matters of
proportionality, the Rule directs courts to consider
“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.” Id. While these
proportionality concerns have always been a part of the Rule,
they now enjoy pride of place after the 2015 Rule amendments
and must form a part of the Court's discoverability
analysis. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1), advisory
committee notes, 2015 Amendment; Elliot v. Superior Pool
Prods., LLC, No. 15-cv-1126, 2016 WL 29243, at *2 (C.D.
Ill. Jan. 4, 2016). The Supreme Court has instructed that
“discovery, like all matters of procedure, has ultimate
and necessary boundaries. . . . [L]imitations come into
existence when the inquiry touches upon the irrelevant or
encroaches upon the recognized domains of privilege.”
Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507-08 (1947).
Court finds that Plaintiff's motion must be denied in all
respects at this time. First, Requests Nos. 1 and 2 are
overbroad and premature. At its core, Plaintiff's case
concerns dangerous prison conditions, inadequate health care,
and a cover-up of both. Requesting all documents concerning
any misconduct by Defendants, however minor, or their work
evaluations, of whatever type, is not tailored to such
claims. Notably, Plaintiff concedes in his brief that he
plans to use this evidence to show Defendants'
“propensity to turn a blind eye to misconduct, ”
a purpose for which such evidence may not be
offered. See Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) (“Evidence
of a crime, wrong, or other act is not admissible to prove a
person's character in order to show that on a particular
occasion the person acted in accordance with the
character.”). In United States v. Gomez, 763
F.3d 845, 853 (7th Cir. 2014), the court stressed that
“the district court should not just ask whether the
proposed other-act evidence is relevant to a non-propensity
purpose but how exactly the evidence is relevant to that
purpose-or more specifically, how the evidence is relevant
without relying on a propensity inference.”
contrary to Gomez, Plaintiff gives no explanation of
the relevance of this evidence other than to prove
Defendants' propensity to commit the same bad acts
alleged in this case. Id. (“It's not
enough for the proponent of the other-act evidence simply to
point to a purpose in the ‘permitted' list and
assert that the other-act evidence is relevant to
it.”). Further, Plaintiff offers no reason why a
decade-long time frame for the requests, even if offered for
a non-propensity purpose, is proportionate to the issues
raised in the complaint, which concern a single incident that
occurred in January 2015. Thus, there is an insufficient
basis on which to conclude that the discovery sought is
relevant and proportional to the issues at stake.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).
extent these documents may become relevant, it will only be
to assist the jury in making credibility determinations at
trial. Since courts do not consider the credibility of
witnesses at the summary judgment stage, the documents will
not be relevant unless this case proceeds past that stage.
Springer v. Durflinger, 518 F.3d 479, 484 (7th Cir.
2008). If this occurs, Plaintiff may raise his motion again
as to these requests. See Peace v. Pollard, Case No.
15-cv-481-pp, 2017 WL 564016, at *3 (E.D. Wis. Feb. 10, 2017)
(denying without prejudice a motion to compel disciplinary
records since their only use “would be to challenge the
defendants' credibility, ” making them irrelevant
at the summary judgment stage).
the Court must deny Plaintiff's motion with respect to
Request No. 3 because he is not entitled to have Defendants
pay for copies of his medical records. Rule 34 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure requires only that a party answering
a request for production make the responsive documents
available; the answering party need not actually undertake
the expense of copying. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1) (requiring a
party in response to a document request to “to produce
and permit the requesting party or its representative to
inspect [or] copy” the documents); Singletary v.
Reed, No. 06-C-323-C, 2006 WL 3591868, at *1 (W.D. Wis.
Dec. 8, 2006) (“Rule 34 does not require the defendant
to provide [plaintiff] with free copies of the documents he
wants. If plaintiff wishes to have copies of materials in
defendant's possession for his own records, he will be
responsible for paying the costs of duplicating the
material.”). In this case, Plaintiff has always had the
ability to obtain, at his cost, copies of his medical
records. He cannot foist the expense onto Defendants through
a discovery request. The fact that he has been granted in
forma pauperis status does not change this. Porter
v. Dep't of Treasury, 564 F.3d 176, 180 n.3 (3d Cir.
2009) (noting that “granting of IFP status exempts
litigants from filing fees only. It does not exempt litigants
from the costs of copying and filing documents; service of
documents other than the complaint; costs; expert witness
fees; or sanctions.”) (internal citations omitted);
see also Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1111
(7th Cir. 2003) (“[L]ike any other civil litigant, [a
prisoner] must decide which of [his] legal actions is
important enough to fund.”).
the Court is obliged to deny Plaintiff's motion as to
Request No. 12 because it is overbroad and infringes on the
privacy interests of non-parties. To the extent Plaintiff
seeks copies of his own grievances, Defendants may make them
available to him as permitted under Rule 34. But to the
extent Plaintiff seeks copies of other inmates'
grievances, he has not raised any argument as to why such
grievances are relevant, except to say that he will
“show a pattern and practice of deliberate indifference
by medical staff that is continuous and ongoing at
FLCI.” (Docket #43 at 4). This explanation fails to
satisfy, since Plaintiff's complaint concerns only his
individual treatment, not a prison policy or practice.
See (Docket #1); see also Monell v. Dep't of
Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978);
Freeman v. City of Milwaukee, 994 F.Supp.2d 957,
965-70 (E.D. Wis. 2014) (describing different standards
applicable to Monell and civil conspiracy claims).
Additionally, the Court credits Defendants' assertion
that other inmates' grievances are generally confidential
pursuant to Wis. Admin. Code § DOC 310.16, and are not
opened up to discovery simply because Plaintiff has filed a
lawsuit. (Docket #48 at 3); Cherry v. Bray, No.
03-C-129-C, 2003 WL 23100287, at *1 ...