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Williams v. City of Hartford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 2, 2016

CHARLES C. WILLIAMS
v.
CITY OF HARTFORD, et al.

          RULING ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION [DOC. #160]

          HON. SARAH A. L. MERRIAM United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pending before the Court is a motion by plaintiff Charles C. Williams ("plaintiff") seeking partial reconsideration of the Court‘s May 2, 2016, Ruling on Motions to Compel. [Doc. #160]. Defendants have not responded to plaintiff‘s motion. For the reasons articulated below, the Court GRANTS plaintiff‘s Motion for Reconsideration, and adheres, in part, to its prior ruling.

         A. Background

         The Court presumes familiarity with the factual background of this matter, which is recited in the Court‘s Ruling on Motions to Compel. See Doc. #159. For purposes of this Ruling, however, the Court will briefly address the background leading to the pending Motion for Reconsideration.

         Pertinent to the below discussion, on January 4, 2016, plaintiff moved for an order compelling defendants to respond to numerous production requests. [Doc. #108]. As relevant here, plaintiff sought an order compelling defendants Emory Hightower ("Hightower") and Terry Waller ("Waller") to respond to certain requests for production[1] relating to their respective suspensions, reprimands, disciplinary histories, and any allegations of misconduct and corruption (hereinafter collectively referred to as the "Misconduct Requests"), for the past six (6) years. See Doc. #108 at 17, 19, 25; Doc. #143-1 at 1-3.[2] Defendants Hightower and Waller posed extensive objections to the Misconduct Requests.

         The Court granted, in part, plaintiff‘s Motion to Compel with respect to the Misconduct Requests. See Doc. #159 at 31-36, 40-42. Specifically, with respect to defendant Hightower, the Court ordered that he "produce to plaintiff any records of disciplinary charges, internal investigations, and complaints directly related to allegations, if any, of abuse of power by defendant Hightower in his position as police chief, for the time period of January 1, 2011, through April 30, 2013." [Doc. #159 at 35]. As to defendant Waller, the Court similarly ordered that he "produce to plaintiff any records of disciplinary charges, internal investigations, and complaints directly related to allegations, if any, of abuse of power by defendant Waller in his position as Fire Chief, for the time period of January 1, 2011, through April 30, 2013." Id. at 41-42.

         Plaintiff now seeks reconsideration of that portion of the Ruling on Motions to Compel pertaining to the Misconduct Requests. [Doc. #160]. Specifically, plaintiff objects to the limited timeframe placed on the documents to be produced by defendants Waller and Hightower. Id.

         B. Legal Standard

         "The standard for granting [a motion for reconsideration] is strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked - matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). Three grounds can justify reconsideration: "an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice." Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd. v. Nat‘l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992) (quoting 18 C. Wright, A. Miller & E. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure §4478 at 90). "A motion for reconsideration may not be used to plug gaps in an original argument or to argue in the alternative once a decision has been made. Furthermore, a motion to reconsider should not be granted where the moving party seeks solely to relitigate an issue already decided." Lopez v. Smiley, 375 F.Supp.2d 19, 21-22 (D. Conn. 2005) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

         C. Discussion

         Plaintiff‘s Motion for Reconsideration seeks a broader time frame of documents than that ordered by the Court with respect to the Misconduct Requests.

         "A district court has broad latitude to determine the scope of discovery and to manage the discovery process." EM Ltd. v. Republic of Argentina, 695 F.3d 201, 207 (2d Cir. 2012) (citation omitted), aff‘d sub nom. Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd., 134 S.Ct. 2250, 189 L.Ed.2d 234 (2014). "Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) does not allow a party to roam in shadow zones of relevancy and to explore matter which does not presently appear germane on the theory that it might conceivably become so." Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Konover, No. 3:05CV1924 (CFD)(WIG), 2009 WL 585430, at *5 (D. Conn. Mar. 4, 2009) (quoting Evans v. Calise, No. 92CV8430(PKL), 1994 WL 185696, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 12, 1994)). Therefore, "[t]he party seeking discovery must make a prima facie showing that the discovery sought is more than merely a fishing expedition." Id. (quoting Evans, 1994 WL 185696, at *1).

         As noted in the Court‘s Rulings on Motions to Compel, as a general matter, in a section 1983 case such as this, "[d]isciplinary records involving complaints of a similar nature, whether substantiated or unsubstantiated, could lead to evidence that would be admissible at trial and thus, are discoverable." Frails v. City of New York, 236 F.R.D. 116, 117-18 (E.D.N.Y. 2006) (compiling cases). Indeed, "plaintiffs in federal civil rights actions are presumptively entitled to recollections as well as documents on prior complaints and police history." King v. Conde, 121 F.R.D. 180, 198 (E.D.N.Y. 1988); accord Malsh v. New York City Police Dep‘t, No. 92CV2973(KTD)(AJP), 1995 WL 217507, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 11, 1995) ("[C]ourts in this circuit frequently have ordered the police to produce pre-complaint documentation of alleged police misconduct[.]"); Gibbs v. City of New York, 243 F.R.D. 95, 96 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) ("Plaintiffs are presumptively entitled to discovery of documents on prior complaints and police histories of individual defendants because it could yield relevant information." (citing King, 121 F.R.D. at 198)); Nicaj v. City of New York, No. 07CV2382(LBS), 2008 WL 542606, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 25, 2008) (same). It was on this basis that the Court granted plaintiff‘s motion, in part, as to the Misconduct Requests and permitted discovery as to any complaints pre-dating the misconduct alleged to have occurred on the part of defendants Waller and Hightower, as set forth in the Amended Complaint. See Doc. #159 at 33-35.

         Plaintiff now renews his request for documents responsive to the Misconduct Requests subsequent to the time ordered by the Court. In support of this position, plaintiff argues that Hightower "was accused for corruption also in 2014 which resulted in his retirement in 2014. Further, defendant 'Terry Waller‘ retirement was forced in 2015 because of complaints filed against him in 2014 and 2015." [Doc. #160 at 1-2 (sic)]. Plaintiff also contends, in conclusory fashion, that defendants Waller and Hightower were forced to retire early due to their "ill behavior and actions dated from 2012 to 2014 concerning 'Emory Hightower, ‘ 2012 to 2015 concerning 'Terry Waller.‘" Id. at 2. This ...


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