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Hall v. Spears

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

July 2, 2018




         Pro se plaintiff Charles Deshawn Hall is proceeding in this case on claims that defendant Deputy Spears used excessive force against him by deploying pepper spray against another inmate in close proximity to plaintiff's cell. He also contends that defendants Deputies McCarragher, Anderson, Roper, Francis, Arneson, Wilk and Wagner were present at the time and failed to intervene to prevent the excessive force. Now before the court are plaintiff's motion to compel, dkt. #25, and motion for assistance in recruiting counsel. Dkt. #26. For the reasons below, plaintiff's motion to compel will be granted in part and denied in part. His motion for assistance in recruiting counsel will be denied.


         A. Motion Regarding Discovery

         In his motion to compel, plaintiff contends that defendants improperly objected to his requests for several types of evidence. I address each category of plaintiff's discovery requests below.

         1. Depositions of defendants and prisoner witnesses.

         Plaintiff requested that defendants arrange depositions of each defendant as well as prisoner witnesses present at the time of the incident at issue in this case. Defendants objected on the ground that plaintiff had failed to comply with the rules relating to depositions set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30. Defendants are correct. Defendants are not required to arrange or pay for any depositions on plaintiff's behalf. If plaintiff wishes to depose defendants, he must comply with the procedures set forth in Rule 30, including arranging to record the deposition at his expense. Additionally, defendants do not have control over “prisoner witnesses” and have no authority or obligation to produce witnesses who are not parties to this lawsuit. Therefore, plaintiff's motion to compel depositions will be denied.

         2. Camera footage from the time of the incident's occurrence.

         Plaintiff requested from defendants all camera footage taken inside Unit 712, where the incident occurred, as well as footage from the area leading into Unit 712. Although jail and prison security footage is routinely disclosed in the context of litigation about alleged abuse by staff, defendants object on the ground that plaintiff's request is too broad because it encompasses areas of the jail that would be irrelevant to plaintiff's claim. Defendants also argue that showing video footage of the jail to plaintiff raises security concerns.

         Both plaintiff and defendants make valid points. Plaintiff has not explained adequately why he would need to see all areas of Unit 712, as opposed to the particular area in which defendants entered the unit and used pepper spray. Thus, I will deny his request for access to video footage of the entire unit and surrounding area.

         However, defendants have provided little basis for denying plaintiff access to area of Unit 712 in which the pepper spray incident occurred. Generally, jail officials are not required to disclose information to inmates when doing so “would entail a security risk.” Piggie v. Cotton, 344 F.3d 674, 679 (7th Cir. 2003). On the other hand, a jail or prison cannot just assert “a blanket policy of keeping confidential security camera videotapes for safety reasons.” Id. In this case, defendants have not provided sufficient information to allow the court to conclude that there is actually a security risk in showing the video to plaintiff. They state only that disclosing security camera footage “may reveal rotation schedules, watch schedules, the deputies' work schedules, the precise location of specific inmates, and confidential security measures taken by Dane County Jail.” Dfts.' Br., dkt. #27, at 4. Reliance on a such vague security concerns is not enough. If defendants wish to withhold the video from plaintiff, they must explain specifically why the particular video footage raises a security risk. Defendants may do so by filing a copy of the video, assuming such video exists, with the court under seal within two weeks of the date of this order, along with a sealed affidavit attaching a schematic of the area being recorded, designating location of all video cameras and explaining which parts of the footage in particular raise security concerns. The court will then review the video footage in camera and determine whether defendants' security concerns outweigh the video's relevance in this suit. In the alternative, defendants may contact the Federal Correctional Institution at Oxford, where plaintiff is incarcerated, and arrange for plaintiff to view the video footage. If defendants elect this option, they must make these arrangements within two weeks of the date of this order.

         3. Medical records deputies and other prisoners

         Plaintiff has requested that defendants provide “all acquired medical records of . . . any deputies or other prisoners stemming from the actions of the incident.” Defendants object to the request on the ground that it is disproportional to the needs of this case and seeks information protected from disclosure under federal and state law.

         This request will be denied. Generally, medical records are confidential and will be released only if the subject of the records agrees to the release. Plaintiff is the only party in this case that seeks damages for personal injury resulting from the pepper spray incident and thus, the only party that has been asked to disclose his medical records. Even if other prisoners were injured, their records are confidential and plaintiff is not entitled to view them. With respect to the deputy defendants, their medical records are also immaterial unless they attempt to argue that they were not injured in any way as a result of the incident. They have not made that argument at this ...

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