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Annabel v. Frost

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

September 30, 2017

JACK FROST, ET AL., Defendants.

          District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow



         On January 17, 2014, Plaintiff Robert Annabel, a prison inmate in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), filed a pro se civil complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. #1], asserting First Amendment retaliation and Due Process claims against Defendants Campbell, Eaton, Frost, Kindinger, and McConnell. Before the Court are his motion to compel discovery filed on January 3, 2017 [Doc. #73] and his motion to compel discovery filed on February 16, 2017 [Doc. #84]. For the reasons and under the terms discussed below, the motions are GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.


         In Watrobski v. FCA US, LLC, 2017 WL 4073955, at *1 (E.D. Mich. 2017), Magistrate Judge Majzoub described the general principles of discovery under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26:

“The scope of discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is traditionally quite broad. Lewis v. ACB Bus. Servs., 135 F.3d 389, 402 (6th Cir. 1998). Parties may obtain discovery on any matter that is not privileged, is relevant to any party's claim or defense, and is proportional to the needs of the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). ‘Relevant evidence' is ‘evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.' Fed.R.Evid. 401. Information need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). But the scope of discovery is not unlimited. ‘District courts have discretion to limit the scope of discovery where the information sought is overly broad or would prove unduly burdensome to produce.' Surles ex rel. Johnson v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 474 F.3d 288, 305 (6th Cir. 2007).”

         The Court's discretion is broad in determining the scope of discovery or whether a “discovery request is too broad and oppressive.” Surles, at 305.


         The Plaintiff's various interrogatories, requests to admit (“RTA”) and a document request, along with each Defendant's responses, are found as Exhibits to Defendants' response to each motion. See Doc. #78 (Response to Motion #73] and Doc. #86 (Response to Motion #84). The discovery requests at issue with respect to each Defendant are set forth and discussed below.

         Defendant Campbell

         Motion #84 Int. 22-answered.

         Int. 23- Plaintiff requests locations of security cameras at the Gus Harrison Facility. This request is both irrelevant and non-discoverable because of institutional security concerns. In general terms, this also runs counter to the proportionality standard of Rule 26(b).

         RTA #8 and #9 ask Defendant to admit to the authenticity of Plaintiff's exhibits. Defendant correctly declines to admit or deny because he has no knowledge or independent ability to verify.

         Motion #73

          Int. 1 and 4-answered.

         Int. 7 and Int. 8 request grievance identifiers for all grievances filed at Gus Harrison since July, 2010 with a certain rejection code at Step I, and grievances since July, 2010 that named Defendant. Defendant properly objected to this request as irrelevant and that the burden of production would outweigh the likely benefit. Defendant also notes that Step I grievances are only maintained at the institution for three years, and Step III grievances are only maintained in Lansing for six years. Furthermore, Defendant states that providing grievance material from other prisoners creates a security concern. I agree.

         Int. #10 and Int. #11 requests the “ratio of rejections” of all grievances filed by Plaintiff at Gus Harrison for identified time frames. Defendants object as irrelevant and burdensome. The percentage of rejections of Plaintiff's other grievances is not relevant to the question of whether Plaintiff was retaliated against. He undoubtedly has a First Amendment right to file grievances, but the outcome of grievances unrelated to those at issue in this case is irrelevant to the question of whether he suffered retaliation by these Defendants because of filing grievances, regardless of whether those grievances were upheld.

         Int. #19 asks for all prisoner lawsuits in which Defendant was a named Defendant, or where he was not a named party, but was alleged to have participated with the named defendants. As phrased, this is overly broad. However, it is fair game for Plaintiff to request all prisoner lawsuits where Defendant was alleged to have retaliated against an inmate in violation of the ...

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