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Ayuso v. Butkiewieus

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 11, 2019

JOSE A. AYUSO
v.
BUTKIEWIEUS, et al.

          RULING ON MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY [Doc. #105]

          HON. SARAH A. L. MERRIAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Self-represented plaintiff Jose A. Ayuso (“plaintiff”) has filed a “Motion for Pre-Trial Evidentiary Hearing (In Camera Review)” seeking in camera review of documents produced by defendant Lieutenant Roy (“defendant” or “Roy”) in response to plaintiff's requests for production (“RFP”) dated July 13, 2018. Doc. #105. In that motion, plaintiff also seeks production of additional materials. See id. at 2, 4. Accordingly, the Court construes plaintiff's motion as a motion to compel additional production of documents. Defendant did not object to the motion, and on January 22, 2019, this Court agreed to conduct the requested in camera review. See Doc. #114. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES, in large part, and GRANTS, in part, plaintiff's motion to compel [Doc. #105].

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, a prisoner, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging violations of the First and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution by correctional officials working at MacDougall Correctional Institute. See generally Doc. #54. Specifically, plaintiff brings: “(1) [a] First Amendment retaliation claim ... against defendants Butkiewieus and Roy and (2) an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against defendants Melendez and Bosque related to the confiscation and retention of the plaintiff's eyeglasses[.]” Doc. #43. Plaintiff alleges a violation of his rights under the First Amendment based on alleged retaliation against plaintiff for a grievance he filed on January 12, 2015, in response to a “shakedown” of his cell conducted in December 2014, which resulted in confiscation of his property. See Doc. #54 at 5, 11. Plaintiff also claims that he was threatened with the issuance of a disciplinary report, which would result in the loss of privileges, if plaintiff did not become an informant for Roy and Butkiewieus. See id. at 6-9, 14. Additional details regarding plaintiff's claims are set forth in the Court's ruling on plaintiff's first motion to compel. See Doc. #93 at 1-4.

         As relevant to the instant motion, on July 24, 2018, counsel for defendant received a set of requests for production from plaintiff. See Doc. #80 at 22, n.1. Defendant, after an extension of time was granted, provided his responses and objections to plaintiff on September 24, 2018. See id. Plaintiff argued that defendant's responses were insufficient to meet his discovery obligations and filed a motion to compel production of additional materials. See Doc. #80. Following this Court's November 14, 2018, order granting, in part, plaintiff's first motion to compel, see Doc. #93, defendant provided plaintiff with supplemental responses. See Doc. #116; Doc. #117.

         On December 27, 2018, plaintiff filed the instant motion seeking an in camera review of the supplemental responses provided by defendant. See Doc. #105. This Court granted plaintiff's request for in camera review on January 22, 2019, absent objection, see Doc. #114, and defendant subsequently provided the Court with separate redacted and unredacted copies of all material provided to plaintiff in response to plaintiff's July 24, 2018, requests for production, see Doc. #116; Doc. #117; Doc. #118; Doc. #119. Documents #116 and #117 are copies of the materials plaintiff received in response to his request for production; Documents #118 and #119 are unredacted versions, which have not been provided to plaintiff.[1]

         II. Legal Standard

         Plaintiff contends that the responses defendant has produced to date do not satisfy his discovery obligations, and moves to compel additional production. See generally Doc. #105.

         Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the scope and limitations of permissible discovery:

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 discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “[T]he burden of demonstrating relevance [is] on the party seeking discovery.” Bagley v. Yale Univ., 315 F.R.D. 131, 144 (D. Conn. 2016) (citation and quotation marks omitted), as amended (June 15, 2016). “‘Relevance' under Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure has been construed broadly to include ‘any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case.'” Sullivan v. StratMar Sys., Inc., 276 F.R.D. 17, 19 (D. Conn. 2011) (quoting Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978)). Once the party seeking discovery has demonstrated relevance, “[t]he party resisting discovery bears the burden of showing why discovery should be denied.” Cole v. Towers Perrin Forster & Crosby, 256 F.R.D. 79, 80 (D. Conn. 2009).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff's motion seeks review of the redacted contents of documents produced in response to RFP #11 and #14, and alleges that defendant's responses to RFP #1, #2, #3, #5, #6, #8, #10, #15, and #18 are insufficient.[2] See generally Doc. #105.

         As a threshold matter, the Court notes that plaintiff appears to be under the impression that the contents of Doc. #117, which is defendant's December 12, 2018, redacted response to RFP #11 and #14, are intended to be responsive to all of the July 24, 2018, requests for production. Plaintiff raises objections to various responses by defendant on the ground that plaintiff is unable to determine if the responses are complete due to the heavy redaction. See e.g. Doc. #105 at 3 (noting concerns related to redaction of documents related to RFP #3, #5, #6, and #8).

         Defendant has provided plaintiff with additional unredacted materials, and has both provided and identified documents specific to the requests for production as to which the Court granted plaintiff's fist motion to compel. See generally Doc. #116 at 75-99. Doc. #117 is responsive only to RFP #11 and #14. See Doc. #116 at 100. Defendant's supplemental responses to other requests for production, made on December 4, 2018, are contained at pages 75 to 99 of Doc. #116.

         In response to RFP #5, #6, #8, #10, and #18, defendant states either that he is not in possession of any responsive materials at all, or that he has provided all responsive materials in his possession. See Doc. #116 at 78-80, 83. The Court accepts these representations and finds that no further response is necessary. See Mirmina v. Genpact LLC, No. 3:16CV00614(AWT)(SALM), 2017 WL 3189027, at * 2 (D. Conn. July 27, 2017) ...


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