United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. WHITNEY, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on pro se
Plaintiff's Motions to Extend Discovery Deadline, (Doc.
Nos. 24, 32), and Motion to Overrule Defendants'
Objections to Request to Produce and to Compel Discovery and
Sanctions, (Doc. No. 25).
Complaint passed initial review on claims that Defendants
deprived him of a religious diet and group prayer services,
which substantially burdened his religious practice without
the justification of any legitimate penological purpose in
violation of the First Amendment and Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”),
and that they violated the Equal Protection Clause by
treating him differently from similarly situated inmates of
other religions. See (Doc. No. 7). Defendants filed
Answers and the Court filed a Pretrial Order and Case
Management Plan setting a discovery cutoff date of June 6,
2018. (Doc. No. 13).
Motion to Extend Discovery Deadline docketed on March 27,
2018, Plaintiff sought a 90-day extension of the discovery
deadline, (Doc. No. 15), to which Defendants did not object,
(Doc. No. 16). The Court granted the Motion. (Doc. No. 17).
In his second Motion to Extend Discovery Deadline docketed on
July 3, 2018, Plaintiff sought a six-month extension of time.
(Doc. No. 18). Defendants did not object to an extension but
argued that six months was excessive. (Doc. No. 19). The
Court granted a 45-day extension of time. (Doc. No. 20). In
his third Motion to Extend Discovery Deadline docketed on
October 16, 2018, Plaintiff again sought a six-month
extension of time and argued that discovery had been withheld
by the prison for review. (Doc. No. 21). Defendants objected,
noting that almost four-and-a-half months of extensions had
already been granted and that Plaintiff failed to articulate
good cause for another extension. (Doc. No. 22). The Court
granted a final 30-day extension of time and cautioned the
parties that “[n]o further extensions of time will be
granted except on a showing of extraordinary
circumstances.” (Doc. No. 23 at 2).
before the Court for consideration is Plaintiff's fourth
Motion to Extend Discovery Deadline, docketed on December 3,
2018, (Doc. Nos. 24, ), asking the Court to either grant
another extension of the discovery deadline or stay the
proceedings pending consideration of his Motion to Overrule
Defendants' Objections to Request to Produce and to
Compel Discovery and Sanctions, (“Motion to
Compel”), (Doc. No. 25). Defendants filed a Response
objecting to the extension, arguing that the discovery
deadline had already been repeatedly extended, that
Defendants produced hundreds of pages of documents, and that
only three requests for production remained at issue.
Moreover, Defendants note that they would not be challenging
the timeliness of Plaintiff's Motion to Compel and
therefore that no extraordinary circumstances warranted
another extension of time. (Doc. No. 27).
Motion to Compel dated November 20, 2018, Plaintiff argues
that Defendants violated the discovery rules and that the
Court should compel production of documents and impose
sanctions. (Doc. No. 25). Plaintiff contends that he
requested production of documents for inspection and copying
served on March 20 and May 30, 2018 and that Defendants
objected to requests 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14 without
any reasonable justification. The Defendants filed a
Response, (Doc. No. 29), stating that the parties had
resolved their differences with regards to requests 1, 2, 3,
6 and 11 during a teleconference and that Defendants had
provided supplemental discovery. Defendants attached to their
Response a Certificate of Service on Second Supplemental
Responses to Plaintiff's Request for Production of
Documents addressed to Plaintiff with his Bureau of Prisons
register number and address in Coleman, Florida. (Doc. No.
argue that requests 7 and 13 are not relevant to
Plaintiff's claims, that Defendants have already produced
documents relevant to requests 8, 12, and 14, and that
Defendants have no additional documents that are responsive
to these requests. In Plaintiff's “Addendum,
” (Doc. No. 30), he acknowledges that Defendants agreed
to furnish documents in response to requests 1, 2, 3, and 11.
In his Reply, (Doc. No. 37), Plaintiff alleges that
Defendants failed to provide the documents they agreed to
produce in the teleconference, again asks the Court to grant
the Motion to Compel and to grant a 30-day extension of time,
and that sanctions should be imposed because Defendants
failed to act in good faith. Plaintiff filed a Notice of
Interlocutory Appeal that was transmitted to the Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeals, (Doc. No. 40), and the appeal was
dismissed for lack of prosecution and the mandate issued on
April 4, 2019. (Doc. Nos. 41, 43, 48).
on December 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed his fifth Motion to
Extend Discovery Deadline, (Doc. No. 32), which is identical
to the Motion docketed on December 3, 2018. See
(Doc. No. 24). Defendants filed a Response objecting to
another extension of the discovery deadline because it is not
justified by extraordinary circumstances. (Doc. No. 35).
Motion to Compel
rules of discovery are to be accorded broad and liberal
construction. See Herbert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153,
177 (1979); Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507
(1947). All civil discovery, whether sought from parties or
nonparties, is limited in scope by Rule 26(b)(1) in two
fundamental ways: (1) the matter sought must be
“relevant to any party's claim or defense, ”
and (2) discovery must also be “proportional to the
needs of the case.” Va. Dep't of Corr. v.
Jordan, __ F.3d __, 2019 WL 1562312 at*4 (4th
Cir. April 11, 2019) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1)).
Relevance on its own is not a high bar; the proportionality
requirement “relieves parties from the burden of taking
unreasonable steps to ferret out every relevant
document.” Id. Whether to grant or deny a
motion to compel is generally left within the district
court's broad discretion. Id.
the Court denies the Motion to Compel with regards to
requests 1, 2, 3, 6 and 11 because Defendants provided
supplemental discovery in accordance with the parties'
teleconference. Proper service in civil actions is governed
by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5, which provides that
“[a] paper is served … by … mailing it to
the person's last known address - in which event service
is complete upon mailing….” Fed.R.Civ.P.
5(b)(2)(C); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 5(d)(1) (papers that
are required to be served must also be filed with the court).
“Because service is complete upon mailing, non-receipt
of the [document] does not affect the validity of
service.” United States v. Wright, 238 F.3d
418 (4th Cir. 2000). The burden of showing that
service was made is on the serving party. See Id.;
Rivera v. M/T Fossarina, 840 F.2d 152, 155
(1st Cir. 1988). A presumption that a document was
actually mailed attaches to a valid certificate of service.
Wright, 238 F.3d 418; see Fed.R.Civ.P.
5(d), Advisory Committee Notes, 1991 amendment (stating that
certificates of service are required to be on file because
they “may be useful for many purposes, including proof
of service if an issue arises concerning the effectiveness of
the service”); In re Eagle Bus. Mfg., Inc., 62
F.3d 730, 735-36 (5th Cir. 1995) (“To
determine if a mailing was accomplished the courts may
consider whether the notice was correctly addressed, whether
proper postage was affixed, whether it was properly mailed,
and whether a proper certificate of service was
filed.”); 4B Charles Alan Wright, et al.,
Fed'l Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1150 (4th
Ed. 2018) (approving of allowing the certificate of service
to constitute sufficient proof of service because that
approach “avoid[s] delayed challenges to service and
frivolous appeals….”). Defendants represent that
they provided Plaintiff with supplemental discovery that
resolves requests 1, 2, 3, 6 and 11. Defendants have filed a
copy of the Second Supplemental Responses to Plaintiff's
Request for Production of Documents that includes a
Certificate of Service verifying that the supplemental
discovery response was mailed to Plaintiff at his BOP
register number and address in Coleman, Florida. (Doc. No.
29-3 at 5). Plaintiff has produced no evidence other than his
assertion of non-receipt of the Second Supplemental Responses
to Plaintiff's Request for Production of Documents. As
noted above, however, non-receipt does not affect the
validity of service under Rule 5(b). Plaintiff is thus
presumed to have received the supplemental discovery and his
Motion to Compel with regards to requests 1, 2, 3, 6 and 11
will be denied.
the Motion to Compel will be denied with regards to requests
7 and 13 because they are not relevant to Plaintiff's
claims. Request 7 seeks “all phone conversations the
plaintiff engaged in during his detention at Mecklenburg
County Jail….” (Doc. No. 25-1 at 3). Request 13
seeks “archives of communications between GlobalTel
link customer service and employees at the Mecklenburg County
Jail during the period of plaintiff's
detention….” (Doc. No. 25-1 at 4). Defendants
objected to requests 7 and 13 because the lawsuit concerns
alleged violations of Plaintiff's First Amendment rights
and his phone conversations are not relevant to any claim or
defense. (Doc. No. 25-2 at 3-4). To the extent that Plaintiff
suggests that either of these ...