United States District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division
Robert B. J ones Jr. United States Magistrate Judge
This matter comes before the court on the motions of Defendant Richard O. Broadwell, III for protective order as to Plaintiffs first set of interrogatories [DE-39] and as to Plaintiffs first request for production of documents [DE-49], and Plaintiffs motion for return of medical records [DE-48]. Plaintiff filed responses in opposition to Defendant Broadwell's motions. [DE-44, -51]. For the reasons that follow, Defendant Broadwell's motions for protective order are allowed and Plaintiffs motion for return of medical records is allowed in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff Lloyd Roberts ("Plaintiff), an inmate in the custody of the state of North Carolina, proceeding pro se, brought this action against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. [DE-1]. Pursuant to the court's order to particularize [DE-7], Plaintiff filed a particularized complaint alleging he failed to receive proper medical care for his eye [DE-10]. The court allowed Plaintiff s complaint to proceed on 28 U.S.C. § 1915A frivolity review. [DE-13]. On November 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed his first set of interrogatories with the court. [DE-32]. On January 20, 2015, Defendant Broadwell filed an answer asserting, among other things, the defense of qualified immunity [DE-38] and contemporaneously filed his first motion for protective order as to Plaintiffs interrogatories [DE-39]. On January 22, 2015, the court entered a scheduling order setting a March 23, 2015 deadline by which to file potentially dispositive motions. [DE-41]. On February 4, 2015, Plaintiff filed requests for production of documents with the court [DE-45], to which Defendant Broadwell responded with his second motion for protective order [DE-49]. On February 18, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion to obtain medical records. [DE-48]. On March 23, 2015, Defendant Broadwell filed a motion for summary judgment [DE-52] and Defendant Goodman filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings or motion for summary judgment [DE-56]. The clerk allowed Plaintiff an extension of time until May 13, 2015 to respond to the pending dispositive motions. [DE-64].
A. Defendant Broadwell's Motions for Protective Order [DE-39, -49]
Defendant Broadwell seeks a protective order, pursuant to Rule 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, related to Plaintiffs interrogatories and requests for production of documents and asks that all discovery be stayed pending resolution of Defendant Broadwell's qualified immunity defense. Def.'s Mot. [DE-39] at 1; Def.'s Mot. [DE-49] at 1. Plaintiff opposes the motions on the grounds that he needs the requested information to support his claims. PL's Resp. [DE-44] at 2; PL's Resp. [DE-51] at 2.
"A party or any person from whom discovery is sought may move for a protective order . . . [and] [t]he court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). On its own initiative or in response to a motion, the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by these rules or by local rule if it determines that:
(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive;
(ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or
(iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C). The court finds good cause to allow the motions for protective order.
This court has consistently provided defendants with relief from discovery pending a ruling on their qualified immunity defense. See, e.g., Bernardv. Lightsey, No. 5:13-CT-03274-BO, 2014 WL 7338952, at *2 (E.D. N.C. Dec. 23, 2014) (unpublished) ("This court has routinely recognized that 'defendants are entitled to resolution of their defense of qualified immunity before being subject to the burdens of litigation, including discovery.'") (quoting Green v. Beck, No. 5:10-CT-3003-D, 2011 WL 666258, at *2 (E.D. N.C. Feb. 14, 2011) (unpublished) (citations omitted)); Yagman v. Johns, No. 5:08-CT-3089-FL, 2010 WL 7765708, at *7 (E.D. N.C. Mar. 29, 2010) (unpublished) (withholding ruling on motion to compel pending decision on the issue of qualified immunity because defendants' motion for summary judgment raised the defense of qualified immunity) (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001); Lescs v. MartinsburgPolice Dep't, 138 F.App'x 562, 564 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (unpublished) ("The district court was required to rule on Defendants' dispositive motion to dismiss or for summary judgment raising sovereign and qualified immunity issues prior to allowing any discovery.")), aff'd, 397 F.App'x 841 (4th Cir. 2010). Accordingly, Defendant Broadwell's motions for protective order are allowed and he need not respond to any discovery at this time. Furthermore, Plaintiff shall serve ...