Centralia defendants ask for stay on discovery process while dismissal sought
WILLIAMSPORT - According to defendants in a federal lawsuit over the condemnation of Centralia, gathering all the documentation requested by the suing parties will disrupt operations and businesses with a "potentially enormous expense of discovery."
Because of that, the Columbia County Redevelopment Authority (CCRA), Blaschak Coal Corporation and representatives from the state Department of Economic Development (DED) are asking federal court officials to put a stay on the discovery process while their motion to dismiss the suit is considered, according to paperwork filed Friday in U.S. Middle District Court.
"These requests will do little more than place a large and premature burden on the shoulders of the defendants while the court determines the bases, if any, upon which this case can move forward," the memorandum of law in support reads.
After a federal court of appeals denied an injunction to stop eminent domain proceedings against the residents, plaintiffs Bonnie Hynoski, Stephen Hynoski, Christine Hynoski, Tom Hynoski, Harold Mervine, John Koschoff, Helen Hynoski and Walter Hynoski filed a request for production of documents to help prepare their case in opposition to the defense's case dismissal motion.
The list of 10 subjects asked for by the plaintiffs includes every document from each defendant that mentions any involvement they had with the condemnation of Centralia, the ownership of any surface or subsurface rights in and around Centralia and Conyngham Township by Blaschak Coal, the monitoring of the Centralia mine fire, any communications between the defendants from 1993 to the present, and mining operations in or around the areas condemned by the commonwealth.
The residents maintain the defendants conspired to remove them from the properties so coal and associated revenues underneath the town can be exploited. They also say the underground fire, which has been burning under the borough for 50 years, was never a threat.
In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition by the same group, who had their properties condemned due to eminent domain proceedings.
The group says all the eminent domain proceedings should be stopped because CCRA and the state withdrew their petitions to take one property, the Netchel property, and in their request, asked for all documents related to that case as well.
In an Aug. 11, 2011, court order, a motion was granted to reinstate the residents' amended complaint and the defendants' motion to dismiss. According the stay's filing, those motions are still pending.
The defendants cited previous court cases that said "in certain circumstances, it may be appropriate to stay discovery while evaluating a motion to dismiss where, if motion is granted, discovery would be futile."
They also said the plaintiffs have not given any reasonable argument why their requested discovery is necessary at this time.
"The plaintiffs have already filed their responses to the pending motions to dismiss, and in fact did so over a year and a half ago," the document reads.