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McCroy v. Illinois Dep't of Corrections

May 12, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harold A. Baker United States District Judge


Before the Court is the plaintiff's motion to compel (d/e 225) and other case management issues.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) states that "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party . . . . Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Limits on otherwise discoverable information may be had for various reasons, if the discovery sought is "unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive," or "the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, taking in to account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake . . ., and the importance of the proposed discovery in resolving the issues." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2).

The plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (d/e 183) sets forth the following counts: I) retaliation for exercising First Amendment rights; II) American with Disabilities Act/Rehabilitation Act retaliation; III) Eighth Amendment failure to protect; IV) Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious medical needs; V) ADA/Rehabilitation Act.

The requests and responses are set forth below, essentially verbatim.

Plaintiff's Request #1

Any all [sic] records relating to Plaintiff in any manner to include his complete inmate file, medical records, and all correspondence to third-parties about Plaintiff.

IDOC Response

Defendants object to production of Plaintiff's "complete inmate file" as inmates' master files are confidential by statute. See 730 ILCS 5/3-5-1 (West 2004). Plaintiff's master file contains information related to his entire incarceration. Because this complaint does not encompass his entire incarceration and because Plaintiff's medical records are maintained separately [sic] Plaintiff requests his medical records, it should be noted that the defendants have already produced to Plaintiff over 1000 pages of medical records. Plaintiff's medical records are more readily available to him upon his request to his current place of incarceration. Therefore, Defendants object to producing any more of these documents as they are more readily available from a more convenient source. Correspondence regarding Plaintiff's medical care are found in his medical records, and therefore, should either be in Plaintiff's possession or readily available to him. Any correspondence from the defendants to their attorney is barred by attorney-client privilege.

Court's Ruling

Master File

730 ILCS § 5/3-5-1(a) requires the IDOC to maintain a master record file on each inmate which contains:

(1) all information from the committing court;

(2) reception summary;

(3) evaluation and assignment reports and recommendations;

(4) reports as to program assignment and progress;

(5) reports of disciplinary infractions and disposition;

(6) any parole plan;

(7) any parole reports;

(8) the date and circumstances of final discharge; and any other pertinent data concerning the person's background, conduct, associations and family relationships as may be required . . ."

The same statute states that "[a]ll files shall be confidential and access shall be limited to authorized personnel of the Department." 730 ILCS 5/3-5-1(b).

That the master file is required to be kept confidential under this statute does not prohibit disclosure to a party pursuant to a court order, and documents in master files have been produced in civil and criminal cases, including by prison officials when needed for their defense. See, e.g., Lenea v. Lane, 882 F.2d 1171, 1175 (rejecting defendants' argument that documents in master file supported discipline); De La Paz v. Peters, III, 959 F.Supp. 909, 911 (N.D. Ill. 1997)(defendants relied on master file as exhibit in summary judgment motion); Zimmerman v. State of Illinois, 1994 WL 868068 *7, 46 Ill.Ct.Cl. 226 (1994)(not reported in N.E.2d)(recounting information of inmate's history of violence in master file); Dykes v. Morris, 85 F.R.D. 373 (N.D. Ill. 1980); People v. West, 697 N.E.2d 1216, 1220 (Ill. App. 1998)("master record file is a public record and thus may be admitted under an exception to the hearsay rule"). Master files are not per se protected from disclosure. That determination must be made on a document by document basis. For example, the plaintiff's master file may contain copies of disciplinary reports and dispositions, which are not confidential. Defendants do not attempt to show which documents in the file should be protected. If certain documents in the file present security concerns or there are other legitimate reasons for nondisclosure, the defendants may file a motion for a protective order, or file the specific documents in question under seal and ask for an in camera inspection.

The defendants point out that the master file covers the plaintiff's entire incarceration, while this case does not. However, the plaintiff maintains that his eye disease was adequately treated from the beginning of his incarceration in 1993 until his transfer to Western Correctional Center in 2001. The plaintiff's treatment at other prisons might be relevant to defendants' knowledge and mindset, and may be relevant to discredit the defendants proffered reasons for their actions.

"There is a presumption that 'the responding party must bear the expense of complying with discovery requests. . .'" Hagemeyer North America, Inc. V. Gateway Data Sciences Corp., 222 F.R.D. 594 (E.D. Wis. 2004), quoting Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. V. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340 (1978). The party opposing discovery bears the burden of overcoming this presumption. Id. Defendants have not provided any specific information about how many documents are in the plaintiff's master file, how many of those documents have already been produced, or the specific cost or burden to the defendants of producing the master file documents that have not already been produced. At this point, the defendants have therefore not met their burden of showing the request is unduly burdensome or expensive. Even if the defendants showed that the cost of producing copies of the documents was overly burdensome, there is no apparent reason why allowing the plaintiff's counsel to inspect those documents would be burdensome.

Medical Records

Defendants maintain that the plaintiff's medical records are readily available from a more convenient source--the plaintiff himself. However, given the plaintiff's incarceration and medical problems, the court does not believe the plaintiff is a more convenient source for obtaining information. Plaintiff's transfers, property restrictions, and property searches, not to mention his difficulty seeing, likely make document retention and organization difficult. The plaintiff's difficulty in obtaining discovery was one of the reasons counsel was appointed for the plaintiff. The medical records should be more readily accessible to the defendants than to the plaintiff--IDOC is the keeper of those records.

The court acknowledges that the defendants have already provided much of the medical records--over 1000 pages by their count, which the court does not dispute. The court cannot say, however, that the medical records not yet produced are irrelevant or unlikely to lead to relevant evidence. The plaintiff's medical treatment is at issue, and thus his medical records are relevant, or at least likely to lead to relevant information. As discussed above, what happened before the plaintiff's transfer to Western may be relevant to defendants' knowledge of the plaintiff's medical conditions and prescribed treatments, which is arguably relevant to showing deliberate indifference. Whether that evidence is ultimately admissible cannot be made under hypothetical conditions: the court needs to see the concrete evidence in the context of this case.

Correspondence to Third Parties about Plaintiff

The plaintiff says he does not seeks correspondence between the defendants and their attorneys, mooting the defendants' attorney-client privilege objection. Defendants give no reason why other correspondence, "specifically, but not limited to, . . . correspondence between Illinois Department of Correction employees and Wexford employees relating to Plaintiff," should not be produced. (d/e 225, p.2).

The court accordingly grants the plaintiff's motion to compel with regard to request #1. Within 30 days of the entry of this order, the defendants shall produce the requested information, to the extent not already produced, or file a properly supported motion for protective order ...

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