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Koehl v. Greene

June 30, 2008

EDWARD KOEHL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GARY GREENE, SUPERINTENDENT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: George H. Lowe, United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Currently before the Court in this pro se prisoner civil rights action are three Motions to Compel Discovery filed by Plaintiff, and a Motion for Sanctions filed by Defendants. (Dkt. Nos. 66, 69, 70, 74.) For the reasons set forth below, both Plaintiff's first Motion to Compel (Dkt. No. 66) and Defendants' Motion for Sanctions (Dkt. No. 69) are granted in part and denied in part; and both Plaintiff's second and third Motions to Compel (Dkt. Nos. 70 and 74) are denied.

Because the four Motions before the Court are somewhat intertwined, the Court will first review the contentions of each party with respect to each Motion and, thereafter, discuss the merits of each Motion.

I. REVIEW OF PENDING MOTIONS

A. Plaintiff's First Motion to Compel Discovery

Plaintiff filed his first Motion to Compel Discovery on March 27, 2008. (Dkt. No. 66.) In that Motion, Plaintiff asserts that, on February 2, 2008, he served his first set of Interrogatories, "an informal request for access to documents" for specific grievances, and "adequate and meaningful access to all his medical records." (Dkt. No. 66.) Plaintiff also asserts that, on February 21, 2008, he served a second set of Interrogatories and a supplemental request for access to his pre-2002 medical records. (Id.) Finally, he asserts that the Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") unreasonably seeks to charge a fee of fifty cents (50ó) per page for photocopies of each document Plaintiff requested. (Id.)

As relief, Plaintiff requests that the copying fee be reduced to ten cents (10ó) per page in accordance with prior rulings from the Northern District of New York. (Id.) In addition, Plaintiff requests that the Court direct the Defendants to respond to the first and second sets of Interrogatories he served, to provide access to the grievance documents he requested, and to permit him meaningful access to his medical records.*fn1 (Id.)

In their Response, Defendants assert that they mailed their responses to the first and second sets of Interrogatories to Plaintiff on March 26, 2008. (Dkt. No. 69.) Further, Defendants justify their request for the 50ó per page fee based upon what this Court charges litigants. (Id.) Defendants base their assertion on a 1993 decision issued by District Judge McAvoy and counsel's April 1, 2008, telephone conversation with an unidentified person at the Clerk's Office for the Northern District of New York. (Id.)

B. Plaintiff's Second Motion to Compel Discovery

Plaintiff filed his second Motion to Compel Discovery on April 7, 2008. (Dkt. No. 70.) In that Motion, Plaintiff asserts that he received answers to his first and second sets of Interrogatories on March 31, 2008. (Id.) Plaintiff also asserts that "Defendants' objected to many questions in the first set for various reasons. And, minus one or 2 questions, refused to answer Plaintiff's second set of interrogatories pursuant to FRCP 33(a)(1)." (Id.) Finally, Plaintiff asserts that, because there was no agreement or Court order to extend Defendants' response time, Defendants waived any objections to the discovery demands, and, that Defendants' late service after expiration of the discovery deadline was calculated to frustrate discovery in this action. (Id.) Accordingly, Plaintiff requests that (1) the Court find that Defendants waived their right to object to the Interrogatories and direct that Defendants answer the Interrogatories, or (2) in the alternative, the Court grant Plaintiff leave to serve one additional set of Interrogatories and that Defendants be directed to respond to same. (Id.)

Defendants assert that their response to the first set of Interrogatories was delayed, but with good cause. (Dkt. No. 72.) Defendants explain that the Interrogatories were received by counsel's office on February 5, 2008, and that, when served, the demands were untimely based upon the February 29, 2008 discovery deadline that was then in effect. (Id; see also Dkt. No. 40 [Pretrial Scheduling Order].) Defense counsel asserts that, as a result, he instructed his secretary that the response to each Interrogatory would be an objection based upon the timing of discovery, and further instructed her there was no immediate rush to prepare the response. (Dkt. No. 72.) However, asserts defense counsel, on February 22, 2008, this Court extended the discovery deadline to March 28, 2008. (Dkt. No. 60.) Defense counsel asserts that, when he learned of this deadline extension on February 25, 2008, he realized that Plaintiff's demands could now be considered timely. (Dkt. No. 72.) Thus, asserts defense counsel, on March 3, 2008, he sent a letter to Plaintiff stating that he required additional time to respond to the demands, and he began contacting the Defendants to prepare responses. (Id.) Defendants' counsel asserts that he mailed a complete package of all responses to Plaintiff on March 26, 2008, and that the complete package included responses and objections to both the first and second set of Interrogatories and the "grievance packages" for the nine grievances plaintiff inquired about. (Id.) Defendants argue that, as a result, their response to the second set of Interrogatories was timely, and that there was good cause for their delay in responding to the first set of Interrogatories. (Id.)

In his reply, Plaintiff states that he objects to the letter request, and that a one-sided letter to him does not constitute an agreement to extend the response deadline. (Dkt. No. 73.) Plaintiff does not provide the Court with any correspondence in which he raised this objection with the Defendants. (Id.) Plaintiff further asserts that he has been prejudiced because the late service of the responses has precluded Plaintiff from pursuing "other avenues of the discovery process." (Id.) Plaintiff does not indicate what other avenues of discovery would have remained timely as of the original response date for the first set of Interrogatories. (Id.)

C. Plaintiff's Third Motion to Compel Discovery

Plaintiff filed his third Motion to Compel Discovery on April 25, 2008. (Dkt. No. 74.) Plaintiff asserts that he served a Request for Admissions for each Defendant on April 1, 2008. (Id.) Plaintiff further asserts that, on April 10, 2008, Defendants returned the Requests for Admissions, stating that they were received after the discovery deadline expired. (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that the Defendants' failure to respond to the Request for Admissions is wrongful and deliberate. (Id.)

Defendants respond that they initially rejected the Request for Admissions as untimely, based upon their belief that the discovery deadline was March 28, 2008. (Dkt. No. 78.) However, argues Defendants, defense counsel subsequently learned that the Court had re-set the discovery deadline to April 17, 2008 (Dkt. No. 64) and sent a second letter to Plaintiff stating that Defendants still objected to the Request for Admissions because they were untimely served under Local Rule ...


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