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Doe v. White

September 22, 2009

JANE DOE, 10, A MINOR, THROUGH HER MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND, JULIE DOE, 10 JULIE DOE, 10, JANE DOE, 11, A MINOR, THROUGH HER PARENTS AND NEXT FRIENDS, JANE AND JOHN DOE 11, JANE DOE, 11 AND JOHN DOE, 11 PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JON WHITE, MCLEAN COUNTY UNIT DISTRICT NO. 5 BOARD OF DIRECTORS, JIM BRAKSICK, ALAN CHAPMAN, DALE HEIDBREDER, AND JOHN PYE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Byron G. Cudmore United State Magistrate Judge

OPINION

BYRON G. CUDMORE, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Defendants have moved to compel responses to their discovery requests (d/e 109). For the reasons below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides that the "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . ." A party may seek an order compelling disclosure when an opposing party has failed to respond or has provided evasive or incomplete responses. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a). District courts have broad discretion in matters relating to discovery and "should independently determine the proper course of discovery based upon the arguments of the parties." Gile v. United Airlines Inc., 95 F.3d 492, 496 (7th Cir.1996).

Analysis

I. "En Masse" Reference to Prior Discovery Production

Plaintiff responded to most of Defendants' interrogatory requests*fn1 and requests for production with the following paragraph:

Plaintiff incorporates by reference all of the information in her Initial Disclosures. Plaintiff also incorporates by reference all prior disclosures by any party in this case or related cases, Jane Doe-2 v. White, et al., United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Urbana Division, Case no. 08-2169, and Jane Doe-3 v. White et al., Champaign County Case No. 08-L-209. Plaintiff also incorporates by reference all of her disclosures in Answers to Interrogatories or in Responses to Requests to Admit or in Responses to Requests to Produce propounded by other Defendants in this same matter.

Investigation continues.

Plaintiff is aware of her duty to supplement.*fn2 Defendants submit that this "en masse" reference to discovery already produced in this and other cases does not comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. They contend that "[s]uch response is no response at all and makes it impossible for Defendants to know what facts Plaintiff relied on to form the basis of the allegations in their complaint." (d/e 110, p.2).

Plaintiffs disagree, countering that they have already produced documents to the same attorneys in those other cases involving victims of White.*fn3 Specifically, Plaintiffs have already produced a disc that they received from the Champaign County State's Attorney's Office which contains thousands of pages (Bates 80-3799) regarding White's criminal investigation and prosecution. Documents relevant to the McClean County State's Attorney's investigation of White have also been produced and shared among all the same attorneys. According to Plaintiffs, the information on the disc is "not organized in a particular fashion nor are they necessarily separated in McLean v. Champaign categories. Nor are they separated by victim." (d/e 123 p. 3). Plaintiffs assert that some documents on the disc could be relevant to one or more cases, or perhaps no cases at all, and that, "[i]n good faith, attorney Bullock cannot parse the disc documents and apply them narrowly to specific cases at this time." (d/e 123 p.3). Plaintiffs have also received discovery from Defendant White which includes videotaped police interviews for which "[t]here is no way to parse . . . and apply their relevance to a narrowly defined discovery request." (d/e 123 p.5).

The Court has reviewed the discovery requests and agrees with Defendants that Plaintiff's stock paragraph is not responsive. It gives no useful information. As Defendants say, the response leaves them "guessing" about which evidence produced previously, if any, Plaintiffs believe support their claims. The response does not answer each interrogatory "separately and fully," Fed. R. Civ. P. 33, nor does it identify documents with the specificity required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 34, see Davis v. City of Springfield, 2009 WL 268893 * 7 (C.D.Ill. 2009, Magistrate Judge Cudmore)(general reference to disclosures and other documents insufficient)(not reported in F.Supp.2d).

Plaintiffs may not be able to presently identify every piece of relevant evidence they have in their possession, but they ought to be able to provide a more focused response than their blanket, vague reference to all discovery produced thus far. For example, if documents on the disc are responsive, those documents can be described by Bates stamp or by other sufficient description. Similarly, prior discovery production can be identified by a specific description of the disclosure or document at issue.

The Court agrees with Defendants that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33(d) does not permit Plaintiffs' stock response. Rule 33(d) provides:

(d) Option to Produce Business Records. If the answer to an interrogatory may be determined by examining, auditing, compiling, abstracting, or summarizing a party's business records (including electronically stored information), and if the burden of deriving or ascertaining the answer will be substantially the same for either party, the responding party may answer by:

(1) specifying the records that must be reviewed, in sufficient detail to enable the interrogating party to locate and identify them as ...


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