The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs, Dante Zorzi, Kevin Glaser, and Bernard Begeske,
filed suit against Defendants, the City of Calumet City,
Illinois; Jerome Genova; George Vallis; Dominick Gigliotti; Ida
Galloway; Juan Lopez Acosta; William Borah; and Daniel Balog.
Plaintiffs allege that they were discriminated against with
respect to certain job practices conducted by Defendants.
Thereafter, Plaintiffs sought discovery from Defendants, but the
parties have been unable to resolve many disputes about this
discovery. Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for
Sanctions. LEGAL STANDARD
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide authority to
sanction litigants that fail to comply with their discovery
obligations. Rule 37(d) provides that if a party fails:
to serve answers or objections to interrogatories
submitted under Rule 33, after proper service of
those interrogatories, or . . . to serve a written
response to a request for inspection submitted under
Rule 34, after proper service of the request, the
court in which the action is pending on motion may
make such orders in regard to the failure as are
just, and among others it may take any action
authorized under subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) of
subdivision (b)(2) of this rule. . . . In lieu of any
order or in addition thereto, the court shall require
the party failing to act or the attorney advising
that party or both to pay the reasonable expenses,
including attorney's fees, caused by the failure
unless the court finds that the failure was
substantially justified or that other circumstances
make an award of expense unjust.
Rule 37(b)(2)(A) states that if a party fails to comply with a
court order regarding discovery, "an order that the matters
regarding which the order was made or any other designated facts
shall be taken to be established for the purposes of the action
in accordance with the claim of the party obtaining the order"
may be entered.
District courts have "wide latitude in fashioning appropriate"
discovery sanctions. Johnson v. Kakvand, 192 F.3d 656, 661 (7th
Cir. 1999). However, a sanction must be proportionate to the
circumstances resulting in a litigant's failure to comply with
its discovery obligations. "The sanction must be one that a
reasonable jurist, apprized of all of the circumstances, would
have chosen as proportionate to the infraction." Salgado v. Gen.
Motors Corp., 150 F.3d 735, 740 (7th Cir. 1998).
If a litigant knows or should have known that it failed to
comply with a discovery order, it may be found at fault for
failure to comply with the order. See Melendez v. Illinois Bell
Tel. Co., 79 F.3d 661, 671 (7th Cir. 1996). A knowing and
willing violation of a discovery order merits a finding of bad faith against the violating litigant. While bad
faith is not necessary to impose sanctions, discovery sanctions
are proper if the litigant acts in bad faith, willfully violates
a discovery order, or is found at fault for failure to comply
with a discovery order. In re Golant, 239 F.3d 931, 936, n. 1
(7th Cir. 2001).
The facts, for the purposes of this motion, are as follows.
After Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit, they served interrogatory
requests upon all Defendants. While Defendants responded, they
objected to many of the interrogatory requests or provided
answers insufficient to Plaintiffs. Thereafter, Defendants were
ordered to comply with the unanswered interrogatories. In
addition, Defendants, in a minute order dated June 15, 2004, were
ordered to answer the interrogatories, as directed in that minute
order, within one week.
Plaintiffs also sought documents relating to the personnel
files and Board of Fire and Police Commission files regarding
certain individuals employed by the City of Calumet City.
Irregularities existed in producing some of these documents.
Previously, Defendants claimed that personnel records older than
eighteen months were destroyed. However, it was later revealed
that some of these files were kept in the office of Calumet City
Chief of Police George Vallis ("Police Chief Vallis") and were
not produced until many depositions were taken. Some of these
materials were also produced during depositions of witnesses.
Plaintiffs were not provided with all of the personnel files
until after many people were deposed.
One day before the end of discovery, the City of Calumet City
provided Plaintiffs with complete access to City records and the
records of the Board of Fire and Police Commission. As a result
of this inspection, Plaintiffs requested an additional box of
materials. Near the end of discovery, Defendants also provided notice that they intended to
call witnesses that they had not previously so identified.
A pre-trial conference in this matter was set for June 15,
2004, with a trial date of June 28, 2004. However, those dates
were stricken; and the pre-trial conference was reset to October
21, 2004, with a trial date of October 25, 2004.
Plaintiffs move for the imposition of discovery sanctions
against Defendants. Specifically, Plaintiffs seek sanctions for
Defendants' alleged failure to: (1) properly answer
interrogatories; (2) produce personnel documents before
depositions of witnesses occurred; (3) produce a box of materials
sought by Plaintiffs; and (4) properly identify certain persons
as trial witnesses.
As to Plaintiffs' request for sanctions regarding their
interrogatories, Defendants have been ordered, on two separate
occasions, to fully answer the interrogatories. Defendants, in
the June 15, 2004 minute order, were given one week, until June
22, 2004, to fully answer the interrogatories. The reply to the
instant motion was filed on June 17, 2004. Thus, it cannot be
determined whether Defendants complied with the order.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs' request for sanctions regarding their
interrogatories is denied.
Plaintiffs also seek sanctions for Defendants' alleged failure
to produce personnel documents before depositions of witnesses
occurred. Defendants contend that these materials are not central
to Plaintiffs' claims and that most of these materials were
available when the depositions occurred. Defendants further
contend that Plaintiffs' decisions of when to take depositions
were tactical choices that Plaintiffs made in pursuing this case. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) states that "[p]arties
may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that
is relevant to the claim or defense of any party . . . relevant
information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery
appears to be reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of
relevant material." Here, the personnel records Plaintiffs sought
meet this standard. Moreover, it is irrelevant whether most of
these materials were available when the depositions occurred;
Plaintiffs were entitled to have all the materials it requested
before the depositions so that the materials may be used at the
depositions. Lastly, it cannot be said that ...