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Burns v. Rovella

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 14, 2019

CHRISTOPHER BURNS
v.
JAMES C. ROVELLA, et al.

          RULING ON MOTION TO COMPEL [Doc. #40]

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

         Pending before the Court is a motion by plaintiff Christopher Burns (“plaintiff”) seeking to compel the production of unredacted copies of a criminal investigation report. [Doc. #40]. Defendants[1] have filed a memorandum in opposition to plaintiff's motion to compel, [Doc. #44], to which plaintiff has filed a reply, [Doc. #46]. For the reasons articulated below, plaintiff's motion to compel [Doc. #40] is DENIED, without prejudice to re-filing.

         A. Background

         The Court presumes general familiarity with the background of this matter, which is set forth in the parties' briefing and Judge Janet C. Hall's October 30, 2019, Ruling on Motion to Dismiss. See Doc. #48. However, the Court will briefly address the procedural and factual background as relevant to the pending motion to compel.

         Pursuant to Judge Hall's Standing Order Relating to Discovery [Doc. #5], on September 9, 2019, counsel for plaintiff faxed a letter to Judge Hall's chambers asserting that defendants had failed to produce documents responsive to the Court's Initial Discovery Protocols [Doc. #6]. Plaintiff asserts that defendants failed to produce all “[d]ocuments concerning investigation(s) of any complaint(s) about the plaintiff or made by the plaintiff, if relevant to the plaintiff's factual allegations or claims at issue in this lawsuit and not otherwise privileged.” Doc. #40 at 1. At that time, plaintiff specifically sought the production of documents related to a criminal investigation into steroid use and distribution, in which plaintiff was implicated. On September 10, 2019, Judge Hall referred the discovery dispute to the undersigned. [Doc. #33].

         The Court held a telephonic status conference on October 8, 2019, to address the issues raised by plaintiff's September 9, 2019, letter to Judge Hall. See Docs. #37, #39, #47. During that call, counsel for plaintiff reported that he had received the documents related to the steroid investigation, but that the documents were heavily redacted. See Doc. #47, Transcript of October 8, 2019, Status Conference at 4:8-5:3. During the call with the Court, counsel for plaintiff confirmed that he now seeks an unredacted version of the documents produced, namely the “police report regarding a criminal investigation of which [plaintiff] is one of the targets.” Id. at 9:2-7; see also Id. at 5:4-18. Counsel for defendants asserted that the documents had been redacted on grounds of “[p]rivacy and security[.]” Id. at 6:13. At the conclusion of the call, the Court ordered the parties to submit additional briefing regarding the basis for the redactions. See Id. at 7:18-20. The Court then entered an Order requiring that plaintiff file a motion to compel on or before October 15, 2019, and that defendants file a response by October 22, 2019. See Doc. #38. The parties have timely complied with that Order. See Docs. #40, #44.

         B. Applicable Law

         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 remains on the party seeking discovery.” Bagley v. Yale Univ., 315 F.R.D. 131, 144 (D. Conn. 2016) (citation omitted), as amended (June 15, 2016); Republic of Turkey v. Christie's, Inc., 326 F.R.D. 394, 400 (S.D.N.Y. 2018) (same). Once the party seeking discovery has demonstrated relevance, the burden then shifts to “[t]he party resisting discovery ... [to] show[] why discovery should be denied.” Cole v. Towers Perrin Forster & Crosby, 256 F.R.D. 79, 80 (D. Conn. 2009) (alterations added).

         C. Discussion

         Before turning to the substance of the parties' arguments, the Court first addresses two preliminary issues.

         1. Preliminary Issues

         First, plaintiff dedicates a considerable amount of his briefing to defendants' alleged discovery abuses. See Doc. #40-1 at 3-4, Doc. #46 at 3-4. Although the Court does not take such allegations lightly, this aspect of plaintiff's briefing detracts from the substance of his argument concerning the redactions specifically at issue. Regardless, the Court expects all parties, and their counsel, to comply with their respective discovery obligations, and with the Local and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Unless and until a motion for sanctions is filed, which the Court certainly does ...


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