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Santiago v. City of Chicago

March 26, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Nan R. Nolan


Plaintiff Esteban Santiago brings this civil rights action against four Chicago Police Officers and the City of Chicago (the "City"), alleging claims of unreasonable seizure (Count I), excessive force (Count II), failure to intervene (Count III), and a state law indemnification claim against the City (Count IV). This case has been referred to this Court for resolution of Plaintiff's Motion to Compel, which seeks production of three active, open CR files relating to complaints of misconduct made against the police officers who were involved in the incident alleged in Santiago's complaint (Doc. 40). For the reasons stated, the motion is granted in part to the extent described below.

I. Background

Santiago's First Amended Complaint is based on an incident he alleges occurred on or about May 26, 2007. Santiago's complaint contains the following allegations. On or about Saturday, May 26, 2007, at approximately 10:00 p.m., Santiago was sitting with his friends Omar and Adrian in Santiago's truck, which was parked in an alley at or near 2340 South Sacramento Avenue in Chicago. The men had been visiting their friend Ernie and were getting ready to leave when Santiago saw a group of men emerge from between the houses and run toward his vehicle. Santiago became frightened and started to leave the area on foot. Santiago alleges that Defendant Officers Brian Leahy and James McNichols tackled him and threw him to the ground. Santiago further alleges that Officers Leahy and McNichols hit Santiago and asked him where the gun was.

Officers Leahy and McNichols then kneeled on Santiago's back and handcuffed him. Either Officer Leahy or Officer McNichols stepped on Santiago's right leg. The other Defendant Officer had his knee in Santiago's back, pressed down on Santiago's neck, and again asked Santiago where the gun was. Santiago told Officers Leahy and McNichols that he did not know where any gun was. Santiago was then searched. A utility knife, but no contraband or evidence of criminal activity, was found.

After the search of Santiago, either Officer Leahy or Officer McNichols swore at and hit Santiago. Santiago asked Officers Leahy and McNichols to get off of him and to leave him alone. Santiago told Officers Leahy and McNichols that they were only beating him up because they probably had been beaten up in high school. Santiago's comment angered Defendant Officers Leahy and McNichols, and one of the Defendant Officers threatened to cut off Santiago's testicles. This Defendant Officer then grabbed Santiago's leg and used Santiago's box-cutter knife to stab Santiago between his legs. The same Defendant Officer also told Santiago that he was going to cut out the tattoos on Santiago's finger. The Defendant Officer then allegedly cut Santiago's hand between his fingers, while Santiago was handcuffed. The other Defendant Officer continued to stomp on Santiago's leg.

Defendant Officers Andrew Camarillo and Gerardo Perez were present and did not intervene to stop the alleged mistreatment by Officers Leahy and McNichols. Officers Camarillo and Perez picked Santiago up, place him in their squad car, and transported him to the 10th District police station. Santiago received medical treatment for his injuries at the Cook County Jail. Defendants deny many of Santiago's factual allegations and deny that they engaged in any illegal or wrongful conduct.

II. Discussion

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 governs the scope of civil discovery. Pursuant to Rule 26, Plaintiff is entitled to "obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). A court can limit discovery if the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(iii). Finally, magistrate judges are granted broad discretion in addressing and resolving discovery disputes. Weeks v. Samsung Heavey Indus., Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997).

During discovery, Santiago sent written requests for Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) Complaint Register (CR) files concerning complaints of misconduct made against each Defendant Officer. Defendants agreed to make all CR files which are closed available to Santiago's counsel. After meet and confer efforts, the parties were unable to reach an agreement on the production of three (3) CR files that remain active and open (Nos. 1003683, 1024258, and 1000927). The City contends that the three withheld CR files are protected from disclosure by the law enforcement investigative privilege because their "discovery would undermine the integrity and effectiveness of IPRA's ongoing investigation." (Doc. 65 at 2).

The purpose of the law enforcement privilege is to "prevent disclosure of law enforcement techniques and procedures, to preserve the confidentiality of sources, to protect witness and law enforcement personnel, to safeguard the privacy of individuals involved in an investigation, and otherwise to prevent interference with an investigation." Ostrowski v. Holem, 2002 WL 31956039, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 21, 2002) (quoting Hernandez v. Longini, 1997 WL 754041, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 13, 1997)). The law enforcement privilege is not absolute; rather it is a qualified privilege under which the need for secrecy must be balanced against the plaintiff's need for access to the information. Lepinka v. The Village of Franklin Park, 2004 WL 626830, at *2 (N.D. Ill. March 26, 2004).

In determining whether the law enforcement privilege applies, courts have considered and weighed ten factors: (1) the extent to which disclosure will thwart governmental processes by discouraging citizens from giving the government information; (2) the impact upon persons who have given information of having their identities disclosed; (3) the degree to which government self-evaluation and consequent program improvement will be chilled by disclosure; (4) whether the information sought is factual data or evaluative summary; (5) whether the party seeking the discovery is an actual or potential defendant to any criminal proceeding either pending or reasonably likely to follow from the incident in question; (6) whether the police investigation has been completed; (7) whether any intradepartmental disciplinary proceedings have arisen or may arise from the investigation; (8) whether plaintiff's suit is non-frivolous and brought in good faith; (9) whether the information sought is available through other discovery or from other sources; and (10) the importance of the information sought to plaintiff's case. Kampien v. Individuals of Chicago Police Department, 2002 WL 238443, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 19, 2002). The claim for application of the privilege is "somewhat stronger" when law enforcement is seeking to protect ongoing investigations as contrasted with closed files, decisions to prosecute as contrasted with decisions not to prosecute, confidential informant identities as contrasted with names of incidental witnesses, confidential law enforcement methods and tactics as contrasted with simple interview materials, and evaluative opinions as contrasted with facts. G-69 v. Degnan, 130 F.R.D. 326, 332 (D. N.J. 1990).

The City has submitted a Declaration of Michael Duffy, the Coordinator of Investigations for the IPRA, asserting a formal claim of privilege over the CR files at issue. IPRA was created in September 2007 as an independent city department, separate from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to replace the former Office of Professional Standards. Duffy Dec. at ¶ 2. IPRA is responsible for investigating allegations against CPD members of excessive force, domestic violence, coercion through a threat of violence, and verbal bias-based abuse. IPRA also investigates discharges of firearms and Tasers, and "extraordinary occurrences" in CPD custody, even where there is no allegation of police misconduct. Id.

Mr. Duffy states that he oversees IPRA investigations and has personal knowledge of the investigations in CR File Nos. 1003683, 1024258, and 1000927. Duffy Dec. at ¶ 3. With regard to File No. 1003683, Mr. Duffy explains that it is an open investigation file that is pending internal administrative review to determine whether the investigation is thorough and complete. Id. at ¶ 3. Mr. Duffy says that if further investigation is required, "the integrity of the investigation would be compromised by the disclosure of witness statements, confidential information, and information related to the decision-making deliberative process." Id. Specifically, Mr. Duffy claims that the following categories of documents are privileged: (1) documents and photographs pertaining to medical records, diagnoses, ...

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