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Dalenko v. Stephens

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

May 14, 2015

DONALD W. STEPHENS, et al., Defendants.


ROBERT B. JONES, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court on Plaintiffs Motion to Compel Discovery Responses from Wake County Defendants, filed on March 10, 2015 [DE-134]. Defendants "unnamed prison officers and guards" ("Defendants") have responded [DE-143] and the matter is ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs motion to compel is granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, initiated the instant case on March 7, 2012, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that various members of the North Carolina judiciary acted under color of state law to deprive her of property, civil liberties, and freedom in violation of her due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment during the course of state litigation. Compl. [DE-1]. On May 22, 2012, Plaintiff filed a "Joined Complaint" asserting similar claims against additional members of the North Carolina judiciary. [DE-9]. The court then ordered Plaintiff to file "one amended complaint which lists all of the defendants in the caption and contains all of her allegations and claims" to ensure that all ofPlaintiffs claims were contained in a single document. May 25, 2012 Order [D E-13].

On July 2, 2012, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, including new allegations against Defendant F. Blare Williams, Assistant Clerk for the Wake County Superior Court, related to Williams' refusal to docket an action for Plaintiff in Wake County until Plaintiff complied with a 2001 Gatekeeper Order issued by Wake County Superior Court. [DE-25]. Plaintiff also added claims against Wake County Sheriff Donald Harrison and "unnamed" prison officers and guards, whom she alleged violated her civil rights during her confinement in the Wake County Jail from November 2 until November 9, 2009. !d. With leave of court, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint on July 19, 2012, which contained essentially the same allegations. [DE-36].

Defendant members of the North Carolina judiciary moved to dismiss Plaintiffs claims against them pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), (2), (5), and (6) [DE-41], and the court granted Defendants' motion on January 8, 2013 [DE-94]. Thereafter, Defendant Harrison moved, on behalf of himself and the unnamed prison officers and guards, to dismiss Plaintiffs claims based on insufficient service of process [DE-83], which the court denied on June 28, 2013 [DE-98]. Defendant Harrison then moved on behalf of himself and the unnamed prison officers and guards to dismiss Plaintiffs claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) [DE-100], which the court allowed as to all claims against Defendant Harrison and all claims against the unnamed prison guards in their official capacities. [DE-125]. The court denied Defendants' motion "as to the§ 1983 claim asserted against the three prison guards, in their individual capacity, who responded to the collapse of Plaintiff in her cell." !d. In this same order, the court cautioned Plaintiff that she "must identify these unnamed guards by the close of discovery. Failure to identify the unknown parties by the close of discovery will result in their dismissal from this action without prejudice." !d. at 20 n.8 (citing Schiffv. Kennedy, 691 F.2d 196, 198 (4th Cir. 1982)).

The court then entered a scheduling order on April 3, 2014, with the following critical deadlines: motions to join additional parties and to amend the pleadings to be filed by January 15, 2015; discovery to be completed by March 15, 2015; and potentially dispositive motions to be filed by April 15, 2015. Scheduling Order [DE-128]. On January 15, 2015, Plaintiff sought an extension of time to file motions for leave to join parties and amend the pleadings until March 15, 2015 [DE-132], which the court granted [DE-133].


Here, Plaintiff seeks an order from the court compelling Defendants to "respond fully and completely" to Plaintiffs First Set of Interrogatories and Restated First Set of Interrogatories. Pl.'s Mot. [DE-134] at 1. Plaintiff states that she served Defendants with Interrogatories to "discover the full identities' of (3) guards and their supervisors, among others." Pl.'s Mem. [DE-136] at 3. In the instruction portion of her Interrogatories, Plaintiff provided Defendants with a definition of "identify:"

[t]o "identify" when used in reference to a person means to state the individual's full name and any aliases in the last (5) years, person's current residential and work address and telephone numbers, and the person's place of employment during the "relevant time period", [sic] title of position held, duties, and name of the person's immediate supervisor.

Pl.'s Mot. [DE-134] at 1. In support of her motion to compel, Plaintiff argues that she "needs to be able to name the heretofore Unnamed' defendants as proper parties to this action, for particular acts complained of, and in the particular capacities in which they acted and authority they exercised." Id at 2. Plaintiff also argues that she "will do [the] best she can with what she has to seek leave to join parties and/or amend the pleadings, but still needs the full and complete responses as expeditiously as the court may so order." Pl.'s Mem. [DE-136] at 6.

In response, Defendants argue that they have responded to both Plaintiffs First Set of Interrogatories and Plaintiffs Restated First Set of Interrogatories. Defs.' Resp. [DE-143] at 1. Defendants argue that their discovery responses to Plaintiff

included an entire copy of all records related to plaintiffs incarceration including her entire medical chart, medical observation records showing the names of all officers or medical personnel who came in contact with plaintiff, legal process and booking documentation... [a]lso included were records relating to Detention Operations for the period of plaintiffs incarceration including the names of all officers on duty, by area including floor for the period November 2, 2009 to November 9, 2009.

Id. at 1-2. Further, Defendants describe meeting with Plaintiff on October 14, 2014, to allow Plaintiff "to view photos of all guards and maps of the layout of the First floor of the jail." Jd. at 2. At this meeting, Plaintiff asked for the names of four individuals whose photos she had viewed. ld.; see Oct. 15, 2014 Email [DE-143-3] (counsel for Defendants providing Plaintiff with the names of the four individuals). Plaintiff then served Defendants with the Restated First Set oflnterrogatories on November 28, 2014. Pl.'s Restated Interrogs. [DE-134-3]. Defendants responded, Defs.' Resp. to Restated Interrogs. [DE-143-4], and further mailed Plaintiff ...

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