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Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative v. Hogan

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 15, 2019

MARYLAND RESTORATIVE JUSTICE INITIATIVE, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
HOGAN, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MARK COULSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case concerns a challenge to the constitutionality of Maryland's parole system as applied to individuals who received sentences of life imprisonment with parole for homicide offenses committed as juveniles. The Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative (“MRJI”) filed suit on behalf of Calvin McNeill, Nathaniel Foster, and Kenneth Tucker (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) against four Maryland officials in their official capacities: Governor Larry Hogan; David Blumberg, Chair of the Maryland Parole Commission; Stephen Moyer, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; and Dayena M. Corcoran, Commissioner of the Maryland Division of Correction, (collectively, the “State”).

         This case was referred to me for resolution of all discovery and related scheduling matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 301. (ECF No. 85). Now pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration of September 27, 2017 Order Regarding Production of Risk Assessments. (ECF No. 208-1). The issues are fully briefed, (ECF Nos. 208-15 and 208-21), and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons below, Plaintiffs' motion will be DENIED.

         I. Background

         On September 27, 2017, this Court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs' first motion to compel concerning a number of discovery requests. (ECF No. 88). In doing so, the Court declined to compel a full response to Request for Production 4: “[a]ll documents relating to all risk assessments conducted on any Lifer on or after January 1, 1995.” Despite the Plaintiffs' insistence that the “Risk Assessments” are necessary for them to fully understand the parole/commutation process in Maryland, the Court declined to order the request in full. Along with sharing the State's concerns over producing such highly sensitive personal information, the Court acknowledged that Plaintiffs' suit challenges the process as a whole, and not as it was applied to any one individual. That is, although the Court agreed that Plaintiffs should have an understanding of the kinds of information being collected on the Risk Assessment, the particular responses for any given inmate were less relevant, intrusive, and burdeonsome. Accordingly, the Court ordered that a sampling of the Risk Assessment would impart what was germane while minimizing exposure of highly sensitive information and the accompanying burdens of production. Specifically, the Court ordered the State to produce six sample Risk Assessments (three from juvenile lifers and three from adult lifers) with the personally-identifiable information redacted.

         The six assessments were produced in approximately May 2018. (ECF No. 208-3 at 4). In doing so the State provided the Risk Assessments of a juvenile and adult lifer who had been paroled following commutation by the Governor; the Risk Assessments of a juvenile and adult lifer who had been disapproved for commutation by the Governor; and the Risk Assessments of a juvenile and adult lifer whom the Commission had declined to recommend for parole or commutation. (ECF No. 208-15 at 4). Plaintiff now argues that circumstances necessitate reconsideration and, ultimately, the production of “at least 20% of the juvenile lifer assessments responsive to MRJI's discovery requests, to be selected by Plaintiffs.” (ECF No. 208-1 at 2) (emphasis retained). This Court disagrees.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), “any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties” may be revisited by the court at any time before an entry of final judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). While Rule 54 does not set forth the standard for reconsideration of interlocutory orders, such as the discovery ruling at issue here, the Fourth Circuit has held that a motion for reconsideration under Rule 54 is not subject to the same “strict standards” applicable to motions for reconsideration of a final judgment. Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy Farms, Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514 (4th Cir. 2003). Despite this relative leniency, “most courts have adhered to a fairly narrow set of grounds on which to reconsider their interlocutory orders and opinions, ” and will reconsider an interlocutory order only where: “(1) there has been an intervening change in controlling law; (2) there is additional evidence that was not previously available; or (3) the prior decision was based on clear error or would work manifest injustice.” Cezair v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., No. DKC-13-2928, 2014 WL 4955535, at *1 (D. Md. Sept. 30, 2014) (citations omitted).[1]

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiffs argue that circumstances have changed to a point that justifies reconsideration of this Court's September 27, 2017 decision as to the Risk Assessments. Specifically, Plaintiffs assert that additional production is warranted because circumstances now reveal just how central of a role the assessments play in the process, and the past concerns over confidentiality no longer exist because of the protective order. Plaintiffs request that this Court alter the ruling to instead order the production of “at least 20% of the juvenile lifer risk assessments responsive to MRJI's discovery requests, to be selected by Plaintiffs.” (ECF No. 208-1 at 2) (emphasis retained).

         The State argues that the changing landscape of this case does everything but justify more discovery. To the contrary, the State points to the burdens of making such a production and argues that it is patently disproportional when compared to the recent appellate decisions concerning the subject matter of this case, as well as that changing statuses of the Plaintiff's themselves.[2] Lastly, the State contends that the burdens of production are disproportional to what is sought; if this case is about the process as a whole, a massive sample size (such as “at least 20%”) to review particular data for specific inmates' situations is not justified.

         While arguments of proportionality have some weight in any discovery matter, the starting point for a motion for reconsideration of an interlocutory order is whether Plaintiffs have articulated any compelling reason for reconsideration in light of the standard.

         First, Plaintiffs do not point to any intervening changes in the controlling law. Second, Plaintiffs do not supply any new evidence that would cause this Court to reconsider its ruling. Simply put, Plaintiffs argue that the Risk Assessments are far more significant than initially believed such that many more should be produced. The Court does not see these assertions as necessarily connected. The fact that Risk Assessment as a tool in the parole process are more prominent does not address why the sample assessments already provided are insufficient.

         Lastly, this Court does not view Plaintiffs' expert's input, the passage of the protective order, or allegations of “gaming the system” as amounting to “clear error ...


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