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Ramos v. Town of East Hartford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 19, 2016

WILSON RAMOS, Individually and as administrator of the estate of Jose A. Maldonado, and Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF EAST HARTFORD, OFFICER JASON KAPLAN, SERGEANT JAMES LIS, OFFICER JASON COHEN, and CHIEF SCOTT SANSOM OF THE EAST HARTFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING-IN-PART AND DENYING-IN-PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR AN ORDER TO COMPEL DISCOVERY [DKT. 20]

          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Wilson Ramos, individually and as administrator of the estate of Jose A. Maldonado, brings this Motion for an Order to Compel Discovery from Defendants Town of East Hartford, Jason Kaplan, James Lis, Jason Cohen, and Scott Sansom. Plaintiff asks the Court to compel the Defendants to respond to certain of the April 12, 2016 interrogatories and requests for production (“RFPs”) to which Defendants objected. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff brought this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, alleging that the Defendants engaged in the excessive and racially discriminatory use of force, leading to Mr. Maldonado's April 13, 2014 death while in police custody. [See Dkt. 36 (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 19-32, 34, 39-49, 52-60].

         Plaintiff served its first set of discovery requests on April 12, 2016. [Dkt. 20-2, ¶ 4]. Defendants served their responses and objections on June 13, 2016. [Dkt. 20-2, ¶ 4; 20-3 at 20]. The parties met and conferred as required by Federal Rule of Procedure 37(a)(1), and Plaintiff filed its motion seeking an order to compel on July 25, 2016. [See Dkt. 20; Dkt. 20-3, ¶¶ 6-9]. Plaintiff seeks responses to Interrogatories 1, 2, 8-10, 12-21, 25-26, and 30 and RFPs 1-2, 4, 6-8, 10, 13, 17-18, and 22. These requests fall within the following subject areas:

(a) The events surrounding Mr. Maldonado's arrest, detention, and death (Interrogatories 1, 2, 8, and 9, and RFP 13);
(b) Disciplinary actions taken against the defendant officers prior to April 12, 2014 (Interrogatory 10);
(c) The racial and ethnic makeup of the East Hartford police force (Interrogatories 12 and 13);
(d) U.S. Census data for East Hartford (Interrogatories 14 and 15);
(e) East Hartford arrest statistics (Interrogatories 16 and 17);
(f) Arrest statistics for each of the defendant officers (Interrogatories 18, 19, and 20);
(g) Third-party complaints against the East Hartford police department for civil rights violations (Interrogatory 21);
(h) Training policies and procedures (Interrogatory 25 and RFPs 2 and 22);
(i) The department's history of Taser use (Interrogatory 26);
(j) Non-attorney individuals who participated in the preparation of responses to discovery requests (Interrogatory 30);
(k) Documents concerning communications between the parties (RFP 1);
(1) The identities of police officers working the overnight shift on April 12-13, 2014 (RFP 4);
(m) Personnel information for each of the defendant officers (RFPs 6-8 and 10);
(n) The investigation of Mr. Maldonado's death by Connecticut authorities (RFP 17); and
(o) Information regarding the Defendants' insurance coverage (RFP 18).

         Plaintiff requested the opportunity to make oral argument in support of their motion, but he did not specify any particular reason why the Court could not decide the matters at issue on the parties' briefs. The Court has sufficient information to rule on the papers, and does not believe that oral argument would be a productive use of the Court's or the parties' resources.

         III. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a), a party seeking discovery may move for an order to compel if opposing parties fail to answer interrogatories propounded under Rule 33, or fail to produce or permit inspection of documents requested under Rule 34. However, the Court “must limit the frequency or extent of discovery . . . if it determines that . . . the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C). “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         The Court notes that the 2015 revision of the Federal Rules precludes the use of the type of boilerplate objections on which Defendants rely. See generally 2015 Committee Notes to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b), 33, and 34. Objections must be stated “with specificity, ” Rules 33(b)(4) and 34(b)(2)(B), and with respect to document requests, must state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of any objection, Rule 34(b)(2)(C). Further, “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence” no longer governs the scope of discovery. See 2015 Committee Notes to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1) (“The phrase has been used by some, incorrectly, to define the scope of discovery . . . .

         The ‘reasonably calculated' phrase has continued to create problems . . . and is removed by these amendments.”] In this opinion, the Court therefore applies the proportionality standard set forth in the amended Rule 26.

         IV. Discussion

         A. The Events Surrounding Mr. Maldonado's Arrest, Detention, and Death ...


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