United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
COUNSEL PRO SE, MICHAEL HUNTER, LUTHER LUCKETT CORRECTIONAL
OPINION AND ORDER
King, United States District Court Magistrate Judge
Judge Thomas B. Russell referred this matter to Magistrate
Judge Lanny King for ruling on all discovery motions. (Docket
# 28). Plaintiff, Michael Hunter, filed a Response in
Reference to Objections and requests that the Court compel
Defendant Daniel Thomas to provide responses to written
discovery. (Docket # 47). Defendant Thomas filed a Response
to Plaintiff's Motion, which treats the document as a
motion to compel. (Docket # 52). For the reasons detailed
below, Plaintiff's Motion is granted in part and denied
in part. (Docket # 47).
is a convicted inmate currently housed at the Luther Luckett
Correctional Complex. His Amended Complaint concerns
incidents occurring while he was housed at the Fulton County
alleges that while he was an inmate in Fulton County Jail,
Defendant Thomas and Defendant Ricky Parnell provided him
with tobacco, a cellphone, and other various contraband.
(Docket # 26). In June 2016, Plaintiff obtained a body cam
and recorded the actions of Defendant Thomas and Defendant
Parnell. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that after
Defendant Thomas learned that he had been recorded on
Plaintiff's bodycam, he called Plaintiff into his office,
held a loaded gun to his head, and threatened to kill
Plaintiff if he told anyone about his activities.
Thomas denies and/or asserts that he is without knowledge or
information for most of the allegations. (Docket # 29).
However, Defendant Thomas admits that Plaintiff obtained a
body camera and asserts that he is without knowledge or
information to confirm that Plaintiff recorded the actions of
Defendant Parnell and himself. (Id.). Plaintiff
brought suit against the Defendants under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 alleging violations of the Eighth
Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 17 of
the Kentucky Constitution, Kentucky Revised Statute
(“KRS”) 71.020, KRS 71.040, KRS 71.060, and KRS
441.025. (Docket # 26). Plaintiff has served and
Defendant Thomas has responded to formal interrogatories.
(Docket # 52-1).
Rule of Civil Procedure 37 provides enforcement mechanisms
for Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 33 and 34. According to
Rule 37, if a party does not respond to an interrogatory or
to a request for production, the party requesting the
discovery may move the court to compel the opposing party to
respond. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(2)(B). An evasive or incomplete
disclosure, answer, or response is to be treated as a failure
to disclose, answer, or respond. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3). A
motion to compel may only be made if the non-moving party
failed to answer or respond to a proper discovery request.
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) is the touchstone for the
scope of civil discovery. Pogue v. NorthWestern Mut. Life
Ins. Co., No. 3:14-CV-598-CRS, 2017 WL 3044763, at *4
(W.D. Ky. July 18, 2017). Rule 26(b)(1) provides that
“[p]arties 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…Information within the scope of discovery need
not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Actions alleging violations of §
1983 require especially broad discovery. Lamarr v.
Jackson, 3:14-CV-32, 2015 WL 2401390, at *1 (N.D. W.Va.
May 20, 2015) (citations omitted); see also Inmates of
Unit 14 v. Rebideau, 102 F.R.D. 122, 128 (N.D.N.Y.1984)
(“Federal policy favors broad discovery in civil rights
actions.”). The Court has wide discretion when dealing
with discovery matters, including whether information might
be relevant. Pogue, No. 3:14-CV-598-CRS, 2017 WL 3044763, at
Nos. 2, 5, and 10
Nos. 2, 5, and 10 request personal financial information,
such as tax records W-2 for 2015 through 2016 (Interrogatory
No. 2), records showing property owned and any and all debts
(Interrogatory No. 5), and proof of filings for bankruptcy
(Interrogatory No. 10). (Docket # 52-1). Defendant Thomas
objected to these requests as not relevant or reasonably
calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
(Id.). Plaintiff argues that Defendant Thomas'
tax information is relevant to confirm that certain
conversations occurred between Plaintiff and Defendant Thomas
regarding Defendant Thomas' financial distress, and to
show that Defendant Thomas is earning income from another
job/employment. (Docket # 47). Furthermore, Plaintiff argues
that any proof of bankruptcy will support his claim that
Defendant Thomas told Plaintiff that without more income, he
could not pay his bills. Defendant Thomas emphasizes that he
was a guard when Plaintiff was an inmate, and that
Plaintiff's claims focus on Defendant Thomas and other
inmates threatening and assaulting him. (Docket # 52).
Defendant Thomas asserts that inmates constantly make these
sorts of allegations against jail guards and corrections
officers, and that if an inmate gains access to a guard's
financial information every time he claims abuse, it would
open every prison guard to harassment and potentially
blackmail from the inmate who gained the information.
(Id.). Defendant Thomas contends that the benefit,
if any, of allowing an inmate to have his tax returns is
outweighed by the risks of an inmate being given a window
into his own guard's sensitive financial information.
there is no federal common law privilege akin to the right of
privacy, federal courts generally treat financial information
as private. Del Campo v. Am. Corrective Counseling
Servs., Inc., 2008 WL 2038047, at *5 (N.D. Cal. May 9,
2008) (citations omitted); Soto v. City of Concord,
162 F.R.D. 603, 616 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (“Federal courts
ordinarily recognize a constitutionally-based right of
privacy that can be raised in response to discovery
“[i]t is well-settled in the Sixth Circuit that tax
returns are not privileged from disclosure.” Queen
v. City of Bowling Green, No. 1:16CV-00131-JHM, 2017 WL
4355689, at *7 (W.D. Ky. Sep. 28, 2017) (citations omitted).
However, a judicial consensus exists that, as a matter of
public policy, caution should be exercised in ordering the
disclosure of tax returns. Id. (citations omitted).
Therefore, the appropriate analysis is whether the tax
returns are relevant to the claim or defense of any party.