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Boudreau v. Smith

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 22, 2019

SMITH, ET AL., Defendants.



         On April 10, 2017, Jason Boudreau, a federal inmate currently confined at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island, filed a civil rights complaint pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the town of Branford, Connecticut, the Branford Police Department (“BPD”), five members of the BPD, and four members of the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) for using excessive force during his arrest, in violation of his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable seizures. He also raised several state-law tort claims against the defendants, including assault, battery, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. All claims against the town of Branford and the BPD and all state-law tort claims were dismissed. Initial Review Order, Doc. No. 19 at 13; Stipulation of Dismissal, Doc. No. 39; Ruling on Mot. to Dismiss, Doc. No. 50. The only remaining claim in this case is a Fourth Amendment claim of excessive force against the four DHS officers, Doug Smith, James Bentz, David Riccio, and Brendan Cullen, based on their decision to permit a police canine named “Joker” to approach Boudreau while he was handcuffed and detained, after which Joker bit Boudreau on the leg. See Ruling on Mot. to Dismiss at 15.

         Boudreau has filed the following motions, among others, which are currently pending:

Motions to Determine the Sufficiency of Defendant Smith's Answers or Objections (“Mot. to Determine Sufficiency”), Doc. Nos. 62, 71
Motion to Compel the Production of Documents from Defendant Cullen, (“Mot. to Compel”) Doc. No. 66
Motion for Service of Subpoena, Doc. No. 69
Motion for Appointment of Counsel, Doc. No. 63
Motion to Extend Discovery Deadlines, Doc. No. 64
Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. No. 78

         I will address each motion in turn.

         I. Motion to Determine the Sufficiency (Doc. Nos. 62, 71)

         Boudreau's first motion (doc. no. 62) challenges Smith's responses to his written requests for admissions that he sent in early December 2018. Boudreau contends that Smith's responses and objections to his requests are insufficient and/or unjustified and seeks an order compelling Smith to respond to the merits of the written requests and/or award monetary relief for incurred expenses. Smith has not responded to Boudreau's motions. For the following reasons, Boudreau's motions (doc. no. 62, 71) are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         Requests for Admissions are not discovery tools in the traditional sense. Brodeur v. McNamee, 2005 WL 1774033, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. July 27, 2005). “While discovery mechanisms such as requests for document production, interrogatories, and depositions typically seek to uncover information for use in pursuing or defending against a litigated claim, requests for admissions serve the distinctly different purpose of assisting the parties and the court to narrow the factual issues to be presented for determination in connection with such a claim, either on motion or at trial.” Id. The party requesting the admission “bears the burden of setting forth its requests simply, directly, not vaguely or ambiguously, and in such a manner that they can be answered with a simple admit or deny without explanation, and in certain instances, permit a qualification or explanation for purposes for clarification.” Henry v. Champlain Enters., Inc., 212 F.R.D. 73, 77 (N.D.N.Y. 2003).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36(a)(6) permits the requesting party, in this case Boudreau, to move for a determination of the sufficiency of an answer or objection to a request for an admission. “Unless the court finds an objection justified, it must order that an answer be served. On finding that an answer does not comply with this rule, the court may order either that the matter is admitted or that an amended answer be served.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(6). “When assessing the sufficiency of a party's responses, a court considers whether the response meets the substance of the request and whether any qualifications are demanded by, and made in, good faith.” Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 2009 WL 1457142, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. May 26, 2009); see also, e.g., Thalheim v. Eberheim, 124 F.R.D. 34, 35 (D. Conn. 1988). “On a Rule 36(a)(6) motion, ‘[t]he burden is on the objecting party to persuade the court that there is a justification for the objection.'” Freydl v. Meringolo, 2011 WL 2566079, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. June 16, 2011) (quoting 8B Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Richard L. Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2263 (3d ed. 2010)).

         Smith objects to several of Boudreau's written requests for admissions because they seek information that is either irrelevant to the sole remaining constitutional claim and/or beyond the scope of Smith's personal involvement in the case. See Def. Douglas Smith's Resp. to Pl.'s First Request for Admis., Doc. No. 62, 16-31. Boudreau contends that Smith's objections are unjustified.

         Boudreau first challenges Smith's responses to the following requests regarding the tracking of his cell phone on December 29, 2015:

Request No. 1: Admit that anyone, who is employed by the [DHS], pinged [Boudreau's] cell phone GPS location at any time on December 29, 2015.
Request No. 2: Admit that on December 29, 2015, between the hours of 6:00pm and 11:00pm, that you received [Boudreau's] cell phone GPS location from the Rhode Island State Police via your cell phone.
Request No. 3: Admit that on December 29, 2015, between the hours of 4:00pm and 11:00pm, that you received [Boudreau's] cell phone GPS location from James Bentz.
Request No. 5: Admit that you have ever pinged the GPS location of an individual for a violation of Title 18 U.S.C.S. [§] 2252 OR [§] 2252A, other than [Boudreau].
Request No. 7: Admit that the [DHS] has policies and/or procedures for tracking [an] individual's cell phone GPS location.

Mots. to Determine Sufficiency, Doc. No. 62 at 3-5, Doc. No. 71 at 3-5. Smith gave the following response to each of these requests: “See Objections above. This request is not relevant to the sole remaining issue in this litigation.” Id. Additionally, with respect to Request Number 7, Smith contends that Boudreau is making “a general discovery request to the [DHS], which is not a party to this litigation . . . .” Id. Boudreau contends that those are “straightforward factual questions that [Smith] does not answer, ” and the information is relevant to the issue of why the defendants continued to use a canine to track Boudreau when his GPS location had already been known. Id.

         Based on my review, I find that those requests for admissions at issue seek irrelevant information. The sole remaining claim in this case is that the DHS defendants failed to intervene when BPD officers permitted their canine to approach Boudreau after he was handcuffed and detained. See Ruling on Mot. to Amend at 15-16. Smith's knowledge of, and/or involvement in, the tracking of Boudreau through the use of his cell phone before Boudreau was detained at the pool hall is not relevant to the ultimate issue whether excessive force was applied. Therefore, Boudreau's request for more direct responses to those statements (requests 1, 2, 3, 5, 7) is DENIED.

         Boudreau next challenges Smith's response to requests for admissions regarding the apprehension of “suicidal individuals.” These include the following:

Request No. 6: Admit that you have received training, at any time, in apprehending suicidal individuals.
Request No. 9: Admit that the [DHS] has policies and/or procedures for apprehending suicidal individuals.

         Mots. to Determine Sufficiency, Doc. No. 62 at 4-5, Doc. No. 71 at 4-5. Again, Smith objected to those requests, contending that they seek irrelevant information. Id. I agree. Whether Boudreau was suicidal at the time of the dog bite has no bearing on whether the defendants subjected him to excessive force or failed to intervene to prevent the use of such force. Therefore, Boudreau's motion for more direct responses to those requests (nos. 6, 9) is DENIED.

         Boudreau also challenges Smith's responses to requests regarding the use of canines to “track” suspects. He issued the following requests for admissions to Smith:

Request No. 8: Admit that the [DHS] has policies and/or procedures for tracking individuals with a canine.
Request No. 10: Admit that you have ever tracked the location of an individual wanted for violations of Title 18 USCS [§] 2252 OR [§] 2252A with a canine, other than [Boudreau].
Request No. 11: Admit that you have ever been involved with tracking an individual with a law enforcement canine, other than [Boudreau].
Request No. 12: Admit that [Joker] bit any of the individuals tracked, other than [Boudreau].
Request No. 15: Admit that you have ever requested the use of a police canine in tracking an individual while you have been employed by [DHS], other than the tracking of [Boudreau].
Request No. 24: Admit that you have ever witnessed a police canine bite an individual, other ...

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