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Gardner v. Johnson

December 30, 2009

PARIS GARDNER PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICER BEN JOHNSON, OFFICER STEVE JOHNSON, AND THE CITY OF ROCKFORD, ILLINOIS DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Before the court are four motions: (1) Plaintiff's motion to compel production of files corresponding to complaints ("Plaintiff's First Motion to Compel"), (2) Plaintiff's motion to enforce the court's May 19, 2009 Order ("Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce"), (3) Plaintiff's motion for sanctions and to compel additional production ("Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions"), and (4) Plaintiff's motion to compel production of the documents requested in Plaintiff's requests to produce dated August 28 and 31, 2009 ("Plaintiff's Second Motion to Compel").

II. Background

On January 9, 2006, Officer Benjamin Johnson arrested Plaintiff for a noise ordinance violation and for resisting or obstructing a peace officer. According to the pleadings, during the arrest, there was a physical altercation between Officer Benjamin Johnson and Plaintiff. As a result of the arrest and the altercation, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Rockford Police Department Internal Affairs Division (now the Office of Professional Standards, or OPS) alleging that Officer Johnson used excessive force, falsely arrested Plaintiff, and failed to properly investigate the noise complaint.*fn1 OPS conducted an investigation regarding the complaint, made findings, and issued a report.

On January 4, 2008, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit alleging a number of claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including excessive force, false arrest, and conspiracy. Plaintiff also asserts claims pursuant to Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).Under Monell, Plaintiff asserts that the City of Rockford engages in a custom, policy, or practice whereby supervisory individuals fail to properly discipline officers from the police department that commit acts of excessive force, false arrest, or malicious prosecution. (Compl. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff also asserts under Monell that the City of Rockford engages in a custom, policy, or practice whereby supervisory individuals fail to properly investigate complaints that Rockford police officers engaged in excessive force, false arrest, and malicious prosecution. (Id.) Lastly under Monell, Plaintiff asserts that the City of Rockford engages in a custom, policy, or practice whereby supervisory individuals fail to take proper remedial action against police officers by whom they determine that an act of excessive force, false arrest, or malicious prosecution was committed.*fn2 (Id.)

III. Plaintiff's First Motion to Compel and Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce

On May 19, 2009, this court ordered Defendants to produce documents responsive to Document Requests 12 and 13 of Plaintiff's second request to produce. Gardner v. Johnson et al., No. 08-C50006, at 6 (N.D. Ill. May 19, 2009) (Crt. Doc. 63). Document Request 12 sought production of "any and all complaints, made against the Rockford Police Department or against any of its employees, for use of excessive force by one of its agents or employees." Id. Document Request 13 sought "[a]ny and all documents sufficient to identify the results of any internal investigations conducted of the complaints as described in Document Request # 12." Id. The court limited the documents that Defendants had to produce to those dated from January 10, 2003 to January 10, 2006, finding that producing documents older than January 10, 2003 would be unnecessarily burdensome and that documents of that age would "add little probative value to Plaintiff's case." Id. at 5.

Defendants represent that they have produced the handwritten complaints and any affidavits that might accompany them, index cards cataloging the complaints, and typed complaint summary sheets. (Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. to Enforce ¶ 4.) The typed complaint summary sheets contain information about the complainant, the allegations in the complaint, the recommendation from OPS regarding the allegations, and any action taken. (See Pl.'s Mot. to Enforce Ex. F.) Defendants redacted portions of the recommendations from the typed complaint summary sheets dated from 2003 and 2004. (Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. to Enforce ¶ 6.) Defendants also redacted the recommendations from the 2005 typed complaint summary sheets produced according to the May 19 order. However, Defendants had already produced the 2005 typed complaint summary sheets unredacted. Defendants have not asserted that producing the unredacted documents was an inadvertent disclosure of privileged information. Therefore, any privilege that Defendants could have asserted regarding the 2005 complaint summary sheets is waived.

It does not appear that Defendants produced a privilege log with respect to the redactions to the 2003 and 2004 typed complaint summary sheets. (Pl.'s Mot. to Enforce ¶ 2.) Defendants also did not produce the full investigative reports corresponding to each complaint filed.

Plaintiff's First Motion to Compel seeks to compel the production of the full investigative reports that correspond to complaints of excessive force. Plaintiff purports to need the full investigative reports to determine the outcomes of any investigations conducted as a result of the complaints. Determining the outcomes may be necessary to establish Plaintiff's claims under Monell.

Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce seeks to compel production of all the typed complaint summary sheets with the recommendations unredacted. (Pl.'s Mot. to Enforce ¶ 13.) Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce also seeks to compel production of all affidavits signed by complainants who filed a complaint with OPS alleging excessive force (Pl.'s Mot. to Enforce ¶ 14), and the annual reports containing statistics regarding complaints of excessive force and their outcomes dating from 2001 to present (Id. ¶ 15).

Defendants argue that granting Plaintiff's Motion to Enforce might moot Plaintiff's First Motion to Compel. (Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s First Mot. to Compel ¶ 6.) Defendants suggest that production of the typed complaint summary sheets with the recommendations unredacted may be sufficient for Plaintiff to "inquire about and fully analyze or categorize the complaints of excessive force and their outcomes." (Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s First Mot. to Compel ¶ 6.) This would negate Plaintiff's need for the full investigative reports. Defendants argue that if the court orders production of the unredacted typed complaint summary sheets, then the court should deny Plaintiff's First Motion to Compel.

Notwithstanding Defendants' argument that producing the unredacted typed complaint summary sheets would moot Plaintiff's First Motion to Compel, Defendants still assert that the redactions to the typed complaint summary sheets are appropriate because the redacted portions "do[] not contain allegations by the complainant[s]." (Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. to Enforce ΒΆ 5.) At a hearing before the court on October 7, 2009, Defendants' counsel stated that ...


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