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Kelley v. City of Hamden

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 23, 2016

TYRONE KELLEY
v.
CITY OF HAMDEN, et al.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, TO COMPEL ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS AT DEPOSITION [DOC. #69]

          HON. SARAH A. L. MERRIAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is defendants'[1] Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Compel Answers to Questions at Deposition. [Doc. #69]. On September 1, 2016, pro se plaintiff Tyrone Kelly (“plaintiff”) filed a document captioned: “Motion to Dismiss: Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative in such Motion to Notice I agree to a Pre-Examined, Non-Incriminating, List of Questions.” [Doc. #71 (sic) (capitalization altered)]. The Court construes this motion as plaintiff's response to defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alterative, to Compel Answers to Questions at Deposition.[2] For the reasons articulated below, defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Compel Answers to Questions at Deposition [Doc. #69] is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 claiming that he was falsely arrested “for offenses which [the Hamden Police Department] knew, or reasonably should have known, lacked the required indicia of probable cause.” Doc. #1-3 at 1. As clarified during a September 14, 2015, case management conference [Doc. ##24, 25], plaintiff specifically takes issue with his arrest on June 30, 2013. Plaintiff claims that following a jury trial, he was “vindicated of such baseless charges[, ]” which were brought against him in connection with the June 30, 2013, arrest. Doc. #1-3 at 1. Plaintiff alleges violations of his Constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. See Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff also alleges state law claims for the “common law tort[s]” of false arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, libel and slander. Id. at 3-4. He also asserts a claim for negligence. See Id. at 4.

         On April 7, 2016, the Court held a status conference at which plaintiff appeared personally, and counsel for defendants by telephone. See Doc. ##55, 60, 62. During this conference, counsel for defendants orally moved to take the deposition of plaintiff, who was then, and now remains in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. [Doc. #61]. The Court granted this motion on the record. [Doc. ##60, 62]. On June 29, 2016, counsel for defendants traveled to Carl Robinson Correctional Institution in Enfield, Connecticut, to depose plaintiff. See Doc. #69-1 at 1.

         Plaintiff's deposition began in the usual course, with defense counsel explaining the general purpose of the deposition and the typical procedure governing depositions. See Doc. #69-2, June 29, 2016, Deposition of Tyrone Kelley (hereinafter “Plaintiff's Deposition”), at 6:12-7:24. Defense counsel then proceeded to ask plaintiff basic background information, including his name, aliases, and prior residences. See Id. at 7:25-11:18. Plaintiff then testified that he is unable to read or write a sentence in English, and is only sometimes able to understand spoken words. See Id. at 12:1-8. Plaintiff has a tenth grade education, and has not received a General Education Diploma. See Id. at 12:14-23.

         Plaintiff initially refused to answer questions about the persons who had helped him prepare his pleadings and other papers filed in this lawsuit. See generally Id. at 17:25-19:25. Following this refusal, defense counsel cautioned plaintiff: “It does matter [that plaintiff refuses to answer defense counsel's questions]. Because those people are potentially witnesses in this case. And if you refuse to identify them, I will caution you that that is also a reason for the court to dismiss your case. I want to be fair with you about that.” Doc. #69-2, Plaintiff's Deposition, at 20:1-5. Plaintiff then proceeded to identify some of his fellow inmates who assisted with the preparation of plaintiff's court filings. See Id. at 20:16-22:3.

         Soon after this line of inquiry, defense counsel encountered another roadblock when he began asking about plaintiff's prior felony convictions. See, e.g., Id. at 24:4-10. For the remainder of the deposition, plaintiff generally refused to answer defense counsel's questions stating that he was “incompetent to answer any questions at this time;” that he did not “want to answer no more questions until [he had] a lawyer present;” or that he did not understand defense counsel's questions. Id. at 25:25-26:1; 27:12-14; 31:2-13. The deposition was then adjourned after plaintiff stated that he was not going to answer any further questions. See Id. at 32:19-21.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         Rule 30 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs Depositions by Oral Examination and provides that “[t]he examination and cross-examination of a deponent proceed as they would at trial under the Federal Rules of Evidence[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(c)(1). Although objections to questions posed during a deposition are permitted, “the examination still proceeds; the testimony is taken subject to any objection.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(c)(2). A deponent may only refuse to testify under three circumstances: to preserve a privilege; to enforce a Court ordered limitation; or to present a motion under Rule 30(d)(3). See id.

         When “a deponent fails to answer a question asked under Rule 30[, ]” the “party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling an answer[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B)(i). Additionally, when any person “impedes, delays, or frustrates the fair examination of the deponent[, ]” Rule 30(d)(2) permits the imposition of an “appropriate sanction[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(d)(2).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants request that the Court dismiss plaintiff's complaint in light of plaintiff's refusal to answer questions at his deposition. Plaintiff responds that he is “more than compelled and willing to answer questions that the Court will screen and assure it is relevant to defense and claims in the ‘very essence of the case.'” Doc. #71 at 1 (sic). Although plaintiff represents a willingness to answer certain “relevant” questions, he states that he is “very illiterate to the Law governing this case.” Id. (sic). Plaintiff also states that he was “unsure if [his] answers could incriminate [him] toward Misconstrued interpretations in other matters and [he] only knew to exercise [his] constitutional right.” Id. (sic). The Court construes this as an assertion of plaintiff's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

         “It is well settled that in response to a properly served notice for an oral deposition issued pursuant to Rule 30(a)(1), a party is required to provide relevant testimony in response to questions by the party conducting the deposition.” Gordon v. Parole Officer Semrug, No. 14CV324(LGF), 2016 WL 259578, at *1-2 (W.D.N.Y. Jan. 21, 2016) (collecting cases). Here, plaintiff refused to provide answers to relevant deposition questions, instead responding that he wanted an attorney or that he did not ...


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