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Ostrowski v. Lake County Board of Commissioners

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

October 21, 2016

THOMAS OSTROWSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
LAKE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. MARTIN MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on a flurry of motions filed by pro se Plaintiff Thomas Ostrowski: a “Motion to Comp[el] Under Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Pr[o]cedure[] and N.D. Ind. L.R. 37-1” [DE 68], filed on September 20, 2016; a “Motion for Protective Order Under Rule 26” [DE 73], filed on September 27, 2016; three “Motion[s] to Compel Under Rule 33 and 37” [DE 75, 76, 77], filed on September 28, 2016; and a “Motion to Produce Documen[t]s Under Rule 34 FRCP” [DE 78], filed on September 28, 2016.

         I. The September 20 Motion to Compel

         In his September 20 motion to compel, Plaintiff asks the Court to order Defendants to respond to Plaintiff's interrogatories, requests for admission, and requests for document production.

         A. Plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for admission

         On July 8, 2016, Plaintiff served interrogatories on Defendants Jack Allendorf and Brian Hitchcock [DE 30, 31]. Allendorf and Hitchcock responded on September 27 [DE 72].

         On July 21, 2016, Plaintiff purported to serve interrogatories to non-parties Michael Repay and Gerry Scheub [DE 40, 41]. Scheub responded on September 27 [DE 72]. Repay responded on September 30 [DE 82].

         On July 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed requests for admission on Defendants [DE 42]. Defendant Lake County Council responded on August 30 [DE 63]. The other four defendants responded on September 23, 2016 [DE 70].

         Because Defendants have responded to Plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for admission, the Court will deny Plaintiff's September 20 motion to compel as moot with respect to the interrogatories and requests for admissions.

         Plaintiff complains that, even though Defendants responded, they did not respond by their September 19 deadline. And indeed, Defendants did not finish responding until September 30 even though Plaintiff denied Defendants' request on September 19 to have an extension to September 30 to respond. But the Court finds that delay was substantially justified and was not made in bad faith or for the purpose of delay: the delay was short, and Defendants' lawyer represents that he asked for the short extension “to allow sufficient time to provide a thorough and complete response.” This is not a situation where an intransigent party refused to provide discovery and acted only after being served with a motion to compel. Rather, Defendants asked Plaintiff for a short extension before the time to respond had expired, and Defendants met their requested deadline. So even though Defendants responded to Plaintiff's discovery requests only after Plaintiff filed the September 20 motion to compel, the Court will not award any fees to Plaintiff. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(5)(A)(ii).

         B. Plaintiff's requests for document production

         On August 17, 2016, Plaintiff served requests for document production on four of the five Defendants [DE 61]. Defendants have not filed their responses with the Court as required by Northern District of Indiana Local Rule 26-2(a)(2)(A) (“All discovery material in cases involving a pro se party must be filed.”). But this is likely due to the privacy concerns discussed in Section II, below. Indeed, the correspondence filed at ¶ 74-1 suggests that Defendants have already provided their document production to Plaintiff. So the Court will also deny the September 20 motion to compel as moot with respect to Plaintiff's document production requests. And although it appears the production came only after Plaintiff filed the September 20 motion to compel, the Court finds that Defendant's delay in responding was substantially justified for the reasons discussed in Section I.A above and in Section II below, so the Court will not award any fees. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(5)(A)(ii).

         II. The Motion for Protective Order

         In his motion for a protective order, Plaintiff asks the Court to order Defendants to seal and hand-deliver to the Court any discovery documents from Plaintiff's personnel file and then to conduct a hearing “so that all the parties may state to the Court which records they believe should be entered . . . into the record.” Plaintiff expresses concern that his HIPAA rights or other privacy rights may be violated if Defendants file documents from his personnel file electronically in response to Plaintiff's ...


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