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Tellis v. Leblanc

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

June 20, 2019

ANTHONY TELLIS, ET AL
v.
JAMES M. LEBLANC, ET AL

          FOOTE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          Mark L. Hornsby I U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Introduction

         The Advocacy Center, on behalf of inmates at the David Wade Correctional Center (“DWCC”), filed this putative class action to seek injunctive relief with respect to the mental health care afforded inmates who are held in extended lockdown on the south compound in buildings N-1 through N-4, which are solitary confinement and extended lockdown tiers. Several months before suit was filed, counsel for the Advocacy Center wrote DWCC and demanded that it place a litigation hold on relevant evidence, specifically including video footage from cameras located in the N tiers.

         Before the court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel (Doc. 133), which seeks an order from this court to compel Defendants to produce outstanding documents in response to Plaintiffs' discovery requests. For the following reasons, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         Applicable Law

         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. The information need not be admissible at trial to be discoverable. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26.

         Request for Production No. 3

         Plaintiffs request all documents and communications related to Administrative Remedy Procedures (ARP) regarding 15 prisoners, including the two named plaintiffs. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants did not provide responsive documents for inmates Hearne and Palmer, nor did Defendants certify that they had no such documents.

         Defendants respond that Palmer has not been housed at the facility since June 2017 and that there are no responsive documents for either offender. In their reply, Plaintiffs state that, regardless of Palmer's specific location, he has at all relevant times been in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Safety and Corrections (“LDPSC”), which is a named defendant. Therefore, Defendants should have responsive documents as to Palmer. Plaintiffs also request that Defendants certify that they have no responsive documents as to Hearne.

         Granted in part. If Palmer submitted ARPs while at DWCC, then Defendants are ordered to produce the requested documents. ARPs submitted by Palmer while held elsewhere are irrelevant. If there are no responsive documents for either Hearne or Palmer, the Defendants must say so.

         Request for Production No. 4

         Plaintiffs request all documents and communications related to ARPs on the topics of mental health, medication management, tier temperature, use of force, Policy 34, and interference with the mail system. Plaintiffs argue that Defendants have only provided ARPs for the two named Plaintiffs as well as individuals named in other requests, but the complete response should include ARPs on the specified topics filed by anyone on extended lockdown. Defendants objected to the request on the basis that the request sought information that was not relevant or admissible. Defendants also objected to the extent that the request called for a determination of what documents or classes of documents are “related” to the specified topics. Defendants further objected on the basis that the request sought confidential information and was unduly burdensome.

         In their response to the motion, Defendants argued that the request is not proportional to the needs of the case and that they have provided do cu m e n ts as t o th e named plaintiffs as well as 27 other offenders. Defendants also assert that the request is unduly burdensome as it would require them to view all of the ARPs at DWCC and determine which ones are related to the specified topics.

         Plaintiffs collectively addressed all of the blanket objections in their reply memorandum. They argue that Defendants have not made a showing, under Rule 34(a)(1), of undue burden. Plaintiff contends that the lawful process of discovery necessarily places some burden on litigants, but Defendants have not submitted evidence or affidavits to show that any of the requests would impose an undue burden.

         Granted. Defendants have not met their burden of showing the request is unduly burdensome. These requests go to the heart of this case, and the court finds that the requests are proportional, in light of the relevant time period that was defined.

         Request for Production No. 5

         Plaintiffs seek all mental health records for certain offenders. Plaintiffs claim that the records produced by Defendants contain certain gaps in the records, that some of the records are lacking signatures, and that there was no record provided for inmate Palmer. Defendants respond that there are no additional documents that have not already been provided. They state that the missing signatures are due to the records being printed from DWCC's system. Finally, no documents were produced for Palmer because he is not housed at DWCC.

         Denied. The court cannot force Defendants to produce something they do not have.

         Request for Production No. 6

         Plaintiffs request all documents related to suicide watch or extreme suicide watch for prisoners placed on either status during the relevant time period. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants have only provided responsive documents for individuals listed in other, separate requests rather than all suicide watch records. Plaintiffs argue that the requested documents are relevant to the case as an entire section of the complaint deals with suicide watch. Defendants objected to the request on the basis that it called for a determination of what documents are “related” to suicide watch and to the extent that the request sought confidential information. Subject to those objections, Defendants did provide some responsive documents.

         In their response, Defendants argue that the request is unduly burdensome to determine which offenders have been on suicide watch. Defendants would have to determine which documents are “related” to suicide watch. Defendants argue that the request is not sufficiently tailored to the needs of the case. Plaintiffs reply that Defendants “have made no showing that the universe of documents created by the prison in relation to an individual being placed on suicide watch is so vast as to render an ordinary person unable to determine its boundary.”

         Granted in part. The request is very overbroad as written, but the court will modify it include only the documents that were created by Defendants as a result of specific prisoners, to be identified by Plaintiffs, being placed on either type of suicide watch status during the relevant time period.

         Request for Production No. 7

         Plaintiffs seek documents sufficient to show the names, job title, and dates of employment of all mental health and medical staff employed by or contracting with DWCC. Plaintiffs assert that Defendants have not provided end dates for some of the staff. Defendants respond that they provided a responsive document, but it did not contain the end dates. Defendant argues that, pursuant to Stevens v. Omega Protein, Inc., 2002 WL 1022507, *3 (E.D. La. 2002), a request for production cannot compel the production of a document. Defendants state that they can provide end dates for the employees informally or through another discovery device.

         Granted in part as follows. Defendants are directed to provide the end dates informally (but in writing).

         Request for Production No. 8

         Plaintiffs request all documents sufficient to show the monthly inventory of all mental health medications at DWCC within the last 12 months. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants objected on the basis that they did not possess any responsive documents but referred to the medicine administration records and prescription records attached to their response to Request for Production No. 9.

         Defendants argue that DWCC does not have an onsite pharmacy, and its pharmacy needs are fulfilled by the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, which is not a party to this suit. In their reply, Plaintiffs point out that the records of Elayn Hunt are under the custody and control of defendant LDPSC.

         Granted. The court does not believe it would be difficult for Defendants to obtain this inventory information from Elayn Hunt.

         Request for Production No. 9

         Plaintiffs request all documents related to DWCC's prescription drug database. Plaintiffs allege that defendants did not provide any documents related to DWCC's prescription drug database but only provided pill call logs for a small number of individuals.

         Defendant objected to the request as vague with regard to the term “database.” Defendant asserts that it does not have a prescription drug database within the intent of the request as its pharmacy needs are fulfilled by Elayn Hunt. Defendant claims that it provided administration and pharmacy records in its possession for the named Plaintiffs and for whom Plaintiffs provided medical releases. As with Request No. 8, Plaintiff claims that the records of Elayn Hunt are within the custody and control of LDPSC, and Defendant must produce the documents.

         Denied. This request is redundant of No. 8. Furthermore, the request “for all documents related to …” is too broad in the context of this request.

         Request for Production No. 11

         Plaintiffs requested all unusual occurrence reports during the relevant time period pertaining to several individuals. Defendant did not provide reports for inmates Blanchard, Johnson, Kelly, or Palmer. Defendant objected to the request on the basis that it sought information regarding offenders who were not named plaintiffs and who had not authorized release of their information. Defendants again state that Palmer is not housed at DWCC, and Defendants have not located any responsive documents as to ...


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