United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
AHARON L. ATOMANCZYK, TDCJ #736187, Plaintiff,
TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Aharon L. Atomanczyk has filed a First Amended Complaint for
Injunctive and Declaratory Relief, Damages, and
Attorneys' Fees ("Amended Complaint") (Docket
Entry No. 21), challenging the conditions of his confinement
in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
("TDCJ"). Defendants TDCJ and Executive Director
Bryan Collier have filed a Motion for Protective Order from
discovery ("Defendants' Motion") (Docket Entry
No. 49). Plaintiff has filed a Response in Opposition
("Plaintiff's Response") (Docket Entry No. 50)
and Defendants have filed a Reply ("Defendants'
Reply") (Docket Entry No. 51) . After considering all of
the submissions and the applicable law, the court will grant
Defendants' Motion, in part, for the reasons explained
background and procedural history have been set forth
previously and will not be repeated at length. It is sufficient
to note that this case concerns Atomanczyk's
accommodations and access to religious services as an
"Ultra-Orthodox Jewish" inmate, who is
"permanently disabled" as the result of multiple
sclerosis.Because his disability requires the
availability of 24-hour medical care, Atomanczyk was
transferred from the Stringfellow Unit, where he had
participated in TDCJ's "Enhanced Jewish Services
Program."As a participant in that program,
Atomanczyk had access to meals prepared in a kosher kitchen
as well as other services that were a available at the
direction of an ordained Orthodox rabbi.
filed this lawsuit after he was transferred from the
Stringfellow Unit to another prison facility that did not
have a kosher kitchen or afford opportunities similar to
those offered by the Enhanced Jewish Services
Program. Atomanczyk alleged that TDCJ violated the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (the
"RLUIPA"), the Americans with Disabilities Act
("ADA"), and the Rehabilitation Act
("RA"), when it assigned him to a unit that
accommodated his disability, but effectively excluded him
from the Enhanced Jewish Services Program and, in particular,
the availability of kosher meals of the sort offered at the
Stringfellow Unit. Atomanczyk requested access to kosher food
and the Enhanced Jewish Services Program in all TDCJ
facilities. Atomanczyk subsequently obtained the
assistance of pro bono counsel, who filed an Amended
Complaint on his behalf, and added Executive Director Collier
as a defendant in his official capacity.
now seek a protective order from responding to
Plaintiff's Requests for Production Nos. 5 and
6. The disputed requests seek documents
from a previous lawsuit against TDCJ where lack of access to
kosher meals was an issue:
Request No. 5: All documents and
communications concerning any proposals for providing kosher
meals to inmates and all documents and communications
relating to such proposals arising as a result of the
Request: No. 6: All documents and
communications concerning any settlement or potential
settlement of the Moussazadeh Action.
seek protection from responding to these requests because
they seek "a significant amount of privileged
information" as well as "communications regarding a
different lawsuit with substantially different facts and
different relief sought."
also request a protective order that would extend the
deadline for responding to Plaintiff s Interrogatory Requests
Nos. 2 through 8 until 45 days from the close of discovery,
which is currently scheduled to occur on June 29, 2018,
or some other date deemed acceptable by the
court. The disputed interrogatories are as
Request No. 2: Identify all facts that
support your contention that Plaintiff is not a qualified
individual with a disability entitled to participate in the
Enhanced Jewish Services Program.
Request No. 3: Identify all facts that
support your contention that denying Plaintiff access to the
Basic Jewish Services Program at his current Hughes Unit
location does not substantially burden his free exercise of
Request No. 4: Identify all facts that
support your contention that denying Plaintiff access to the
Enhanced Jewish Services Program does not substantially
burden his free exercise of religion.
Request No. 5: Identify all facts that
support your contention that you are taking the least
restrictive means in imposing a burden on Plaintiff s free
exercise of religion.
Request No. 6: Identify all facts that
support your contention that relocating the Enhanced Jewish
Services Program is not reasonable.
Request No. 7: Identify all facts that
support your contention that housing all inmates who request
access to the Enhanced Jewish Services Program at either
Ramsey I, Ramsey II, or Ramsey III and providing qualified
inmates, including inmates with a medical disability, with
the benefits of the Enhanced Jewish Services Program, is not
Request No. 8: Identify all facts that
support your contention that you are not required to provide
Plaintiff with access to the Enhanced Jewish Program,
including, but not limited to, nutritionally sufficient
that they do not yet know "all facts" that support
their "legal contentions" in this case, Defendants
seek a delay in responding to these interrogatories
"until this evidence is further developed.
Standard of Review
limited by a court order, the scope of permissible discovery
in a civil action is outlined in Rule 26(b) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, is as follows:
Parties 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, considering the
importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount
in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant
information, the parties' resources, the importance of
the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden
or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely
benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not
be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b) (1) . "A discovery request is
relevant when the request seeks admissible evidence or is
reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible
evidence." Crosby v. Louisiana Health Serv.
Indem. Co., 647 F.3d 258, 262 (5th Cir. 2011) (citation
and internal quotation marks omitted). District courts have
broad discretion when deciding whether to limit discovery
that is not relevant or proportional to the needs of a case.
See id. at 261. In that respect, "Rule 26(b)
has never been a license to engage in an unwieldy,
burdensome, and speculative fishing expedition."
Crosby, 647 F.3d at 264 (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted).
26(c)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which
governs Defendants' Motion, authorizes a district court
to issue, "for good cause shown, " an order to
protect "a party or person from annoyance,
embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense"
where discovery is concerned. See Landry v. Air Line
Pilots Ass'n, 901 F.2d 404, 435 (5th Cir. 1990).
Under Rule 26(c)(1), a protective order may impose one or
more of the following conditions that limit discovery by - -
(A) forbidding the disclosure or discovery;
(B) specifying the terms, including time and place or the
allocation of expenses, for the disclosure or discovery;
(C) prescribing a discovery method other than the one
selected by the party seeking discovery; [and/or]
(D) forbidding inquiry into certain matters, or limiting the
scope of disclosure or discovery to certain matters . . .
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 (c) (1) (A) - (D) . The burden is on the
party resisting discovery to show cause that a protective
order is necessary by making "a particular and specific
demonstration of fact as distinguished from stereotyped and
conclusory statements." In re Terra Int'l,
134 F.3d 302, 306 (5th Cir. 1998). To meet that burden, the
party resisting discovery must "show specifically how .
. . each [request] is not relevant or how each question is
overly broad, burdensome, or oppressive." McLeod,
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