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Chatman v. Felker

January 22, 2009



Plaintiff is a state prison inmate proceeding pro se with a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against numerous correctional personnel at High Desert State Prison. He has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, a motion for a telephonic conference, a voluntary dismissal of the action against defendants Brown and Dharlingue, and a motion to compel discovery.

I. Dismissal Against Defendants Brown And Dharlingue

As there has been no objection from the other defendants, this request is well- taken. Because Brown is being dismissed from the action, the court will not address those portions of the motion to compel that challenge Brown's response to plaintiff's discovery requests.

II. Requests For Injunctive Relief

Plaintiff has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, a request that the court order defendants Peddicord and Lieutenant Griffith to return his legal documents relating to this action, and a request for a telephonic conference, all of which the court construes as requests for injunctive relief.

Two principles inform the resolution of these motions. The first is that this court is unable to issue an order against individuals who are not parties to a suit pending before it. Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 395 U.S. 100 (1969). The second is that the plaintiff "must necessarily establish a relationship between the injury claimed in the party's motion and the conduct asserted in the complaint." Devose v. Herrington, 42 F.3d 470, 471 (8th Cir. 1994). In Devose, the court rejected an inmate's request that the court direct the defendants to stop retaliating against him for filing the underlying lawsuit because it found no relation to the underlying suit, which was based on injuries suffered in an accident.

A. Request For An Emergency Telephonic Conference; Request For Order Directing Defendants To Return Legal Documents

Plaintiff has asked for an emergency telephonic conference because of the privations he says he has been subjected to at High Desert State Prison. He supports this request with his declaration, averring that defendant Peddicord threatened to deprive plaintiff of all his legal materials when plaintiff was in administrative segregation in the hope that plaintiff's pending legal actions would thereby be dismissed. See Pl.'s Request for Emergency Telephone Conference (Docket No. 124) at 5.*fn1 He also alleges that a number of other correctional officers, not defendants in this case, have restricted his right to correspond with others, have tampered with his food, have read his correspondence, have housed him in a cell with inadequate ventilation next to an inmate with inadequate hygiene, and have used a waist chain on him improperly. Id. at 7-9. He asks the court to intervene.

Most of those named in this request are not defendants in this suit and so are not subject to this court's jurisdiction. Plaintiff does contend that Peddicord, a defendant in this action, threatened to deprive him of his legal materials; these allegations, however, are not related to those in the complaint against Peddicord, which involve Peddicord's alleged use of waist chains on plaintiff, in violation of a medical chrono.*fn2 See Order filed Oct. 27, 2005 at 2 (describing claims served).

B. Motion For Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction

Plaintiff asks the court to direct defendant Peddicord to stop harassing him. Specifically, he alleges that Peddicord has confiscated much of his property, including his legal property. Plaintiff has supported this motion with his declaration, in which he alleges that defendant Peddicord, the captain of the facility where plaintiff is housed, and other officers have undertaken a course of harassment against him. Most of these claims either are not based on plaintiff's personal knowledge or fail to disclose how plaintiff knows that defendant is "very successful in manipulating prisoners" as plaintiff alleges. Mot. for Temp. Restraining Order (Docket No. 116) at 13-14, ¶ 8. Plaintiff also has submitted over 100 pages of exhibits, most of which are copies of grievances and correspondence relating to plaintiff's attempts to obtain redress for the alleged problems and correspondence relating to some "inventions" that plaintiff alleges have been confiscated. Plaintiff does not explain how these exhibits support his claim for injunctive relief. Should plaintiff continue to provide numerous exhibits of unclear relevance in support of his motions and pleadings, he may be subject to sanctions or restrictions, including limits on the length of subsequent pleadings.

As noted above, plaintiff has not shown that the relief he seeks in the current motion has a sufficient relation to the underlying civil rights action so as to justify injunctive relief. In addition, he seeks to restrain those who are not parties to the underlying civil action. Finally, he has not presented any support for the claimed relief except his conclusory declaration and a large quantity of exhibits of questionable relevance. The motion is not well-taken. See American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada v. City of Las Vegas, 13 F.Supp.2d 1064, 1071 (D. Nev. 1994) ("courts should be wary of granting a preliminary injunction based 'solely on allegations and conclusory affidavits submitted by plaintiff'").

III. Motion To Compel Discovery

Plaintiff seeks an order compelling the defendants to respond to his requests for the production of documents, which were served on the defendants as a group, and to certain interrogatories. A party may bring a motion to compel discovery when another party has failed to respond or respond adequately to a discovery request. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3). A party may "obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense" but "for good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b). Defendants have opposed the motion.

A. Interrogatories: No Responsive Information After Diligent Search

Plaintiff asked defendant Roberts if he was interviewed by Lt. Beckham regarding one of plaintiff's grievances and for the names of some correctional officers. Motion to Compel (MTC) (Docket No. 99), Ex. D, Nos. 4, 18. He asked defendant Amero for the names and "din" numbers of inmates and the names of correctional officers. Id., Ex. E, Nos. 4, 6-8, 15, 24. He asked similar questions of defendant Weaver and inquired, as well, why he moved plaintiff on March 15, 2003. Id., Ex. F, Nos. 2-5, 10, 15-16, 18. Plaintiff asked defendant Runnels the location of certain correspondence plaintiff sent to him; whether he reviewed a videotaped interview of plaintiff; and whether certain officers and inmates were interviewed in connection with plaintiff's allegations of staff misconduct. Id., Ex. G, Nos. 14-15, 17-20. Plaintiff's interrogatories to defendant Goforth centered on the events of March 15, 2003. Id., Ex. H, Nos. 3-8. Finally, he asked defendant Peddicord for the identity of the officers who escorted plaintiff from D-Facility to Ad Seg on March 20, 2003. Id., Ex. M, No. 14.

The defendants posed a number of objections to these interrogatories and, without waiving those objections, answered in the following language: "After a reasonable search and diligent inquiry, Responding Party does not have information responsive to this request." Id., Exs. D-H, M.

Although plaintiff takes issue with defendants' objections, defendants ultimately answered these questions by averring that their diligent inquiries did not disclose any substantive answers. Because there was a response to the questions, however distasteful to plaintiff, the court will not analyze the objections but rather turn to the sufficiency of the answers given.

Plaintiff questions the bona fides of these responses, arguing that the defendants pretended not to have information responsive to the various requests. See, e.g., MTC at 12. However, plaintiff has pointed to nothing concrete that casts doubt on these answers and so has not borne his burden to compel discovery. Alexander v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 186 F.R.D. 128 (D.D.C. 1998); see also Equal Rights Center v. Post Properties, Inc., 246 F.R.D. 29, 32 (D.D.C. 2007) ( party moving to compel discovery has the burden of proving that an answer to an interrogatory was incomplete or evasive). This court cannot compel the defendants to answer questions when they insist they cannot do so nor will it compel them to conduct discovery in the manner plaintiff prefers. Usery v. Brandel, 87 F.R.D. 670, 685 (W.D. Mich. 1980); Vaughn v. City of Puyallup, 2007 WL 3306743 at *2 (W.D. Wash. 2007).

B. Interrogatories: No Recollection

Plaintiff asked defendants Roberts, Amero, Weaver, Goforth, Zills, Pontarolo and Peddicord for their post numbers on the dates of the incidents described in the amended complaint; each defendant says he does not recall. MTC, Ex. D, No. 5, Ex. E, No. 1, Ex. F, No. 1, Ex. H, No. 2, Ex. J, No. 2, Ex. K, No. 2 & Ex. M, No. 2. Plaintiff suggests the answers are evasive, but has not borne his burden of so demonstrating. Equal Rights Center, 246 F.R.D. at 32.

C. Interrogatories and Request For Production: Staff Complaints

In the amended complaint filed December 27, 2004, plaintiff alleges that defendant Weaver pushed plaintiff roughly several times and stood on plaintiff's feet; defendant Turner handcuffed plaintiff behind his back even though plaintiff has a chrono for a waist chain; defendant Goforth twisted plaintiff's arms behind his back while Turner did nothing to restrain him; defendant Roberts placed plaintiff on cell management status and ordered other correctional officers to deny plaintiff basic necessities; later, defendants Roberts, Peddicord and Amero ignored plaintiff's medical chronos for a waist chain rather than handcuffs; defendant Beckman threatened plaintiff's life in retaliation for plaintiff's use of the grievance process; defendant Zills left plaintiff's cell in disarray and attempted to have gang members assault plaintiff in retaliation for plaintiff's use of the grievance process; and defendant Pontarolo confiscated plaintiff's medication, medical aids and legal documents in retaliation for plaintiff's use of the grievance process. Am. Compl. at 7, 8, 12-14.

Plaintiff asked defendant Roberts whether he had ever been disciplined for abusing inmates. MTC, Ex. D, No. 12. Plaintiff posed similar questions to defendant Amero, asking whether he has "ever been brought up on departmental charges for assaulting a prisoner, both past and present" and the number of "staff complaints/grievances...filed against [him] at High Desert State prison by inmates...." Id., Ex. E, Nos. 22-23. He asked Weaver "since your employment at High Desert State Prison, how many times have inmates filed staff complaints/grievances against you for misconduct" and "how many times have you claimed inmates assaulted you." Id., Ex. F, Nos. 21-22. Plaintiff's interrogatories to defendant Goforth included the following questions: "how many staff complaints have inmates filed against you...," "have you ever been disciplined for assaulting inmates, if so, how many times" and "have any departmental charges been sustain [sic] against you for mistreatment of prisoners." Id., Ex. G, Nos. 9-11. He asked slightly different questions of defendant Beckman: "have any inmate(s) filed a staff complaint against you for threatening them during a disciplinary hearing or 602 appeal hearing;" "have you ever been under investigation or disciplined for falsifying documents" and "have you ever been under investigation or disciplined for suppressing evidence during an investigation surrounding Staff Complaints(s)." Id., Ex. I, Nos. 4, 21-22. With respect to defendant Zills, plaintiff asked if he had "ever been disciplined on any staff complaint filed by an inmate," the number of staff complaints filed against him "that were sustained," and why he was "relocated to another institution." Id., Ex. J, Nos. 10-11, 13. Plaintiff asked defendant Pontarolo if inmates had filed complaints against him for theft, confiscation or destruction of their property or if he had ever been sued for the ...

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