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Sherry Janssen v. David Howse

June 27, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Byron G. Cudmore, U.S. Magistrate Judge:


Monday, 27 June, 2011 09:55:56 AM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Sherry Janssen's Motion to Compel Answers to Interrogatories and Production of Certain Documents (d/e 23) (Motion). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is ALLOWED in part and DENIED in part.


Janssen alleges § 1983 claims and supplemental state law claims against Defendant Sangamon County, Illinois, Sheriff Neil Williamson and Deputy Sheriff David Howse based on Howse's alleged sexual assault of Janssen. Janssen's claims include a § 1983 municipal liability claim against Sangamon County and Defendant Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson in his official capacity, pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978).. Janssen alleges, in part,

During Sheriff Williamson's tenure as the Sheriff of Sangamon County, the Sheriff's Department has, with the knowledge and tacit approval of Sheriff Williamson, developed a pattern and practice of physically abusing citizens, having sex on the job, and covering up or doing little or nothing to correct those abuses when citizens have complained, event [sic] to the extent of firing an officer who complained to Williamson about the brutal conduct of a fellow officer. The pattern and practice briefly came to light with the release, pursuant to Freedom of Information requests, of certain internal affairs file relating to the Sheriff's Department in the wake of Gekas v. Williamson, 393 Ill. App. 3d 573 (4th Dist. 2009). However, in the wake of the Gekas disclosures, Sheriff Williamson has again begun routinely to deny such FOIA requests in violation of the plain requirements of the Gekas case. The pattern and practice was also admitted by Sgt. Pennington, the internal affairs investigator who investigated Janssen's complaint against Deputy Howse. Sgt. Pennington not only cleared Deputy Howse of wrongdoing with respect to the matters alleged in this Complaint, but he told Janssen that it is not uncommon for police officers to have sexual escapades during their shifts and if the Sheriff's Department fired every deputy who had sex on the job, the Sheriff's Department would have virtually no deputies left. Defendants Sheriff Williamson and Sangamon County thus had a widespread practice of allowing deputies to have sex on the job and violating the rights of citizens that was so permanent and well-settled as to constitute a custom or usage with the force of law, even though there was no express departmental policy or law authorizing the practice.

Complaint (d/e 1), Count II ¶ 14.

In July 2010, Janssen served interrogatories and requests to produce on Defendants. Motion, Exhibits A and B, Plaintiff's First Request for Production of Documents, and Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories.

Defendants objected to some of the interrogatories and document requests. Motion, Exhibits C, and D, Objections to Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories, Defendants' Answers to Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories, and Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's First Request for Production of Documents. Janssen's counsel has certified that he has conferred with defense counsel to resolve these objections, but some still remain. Motion, ¶ 1. Janssen now moves to compel production of documents responsive to certain disputed requests and answers to certain interrogatories.

LEGAL PRINCIPLES OF DISCOVERY Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) allows parties to obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which 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 admissible evidence. The rule gives the district courts broad discretion in matters relating to discovery. See Brown-Bey v. United States, 720 F.2d 467, 470-471 (7th Cir.1983); Eggleston v. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union No. 130, U. A., 657 F.2d 890, 902 (7th Cir.1981); see also, Indianapolis Colts v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 775 F.2d 177, 183 (7th Cir.1985) (on review, courts of appeal will only reverse a decision of a district court relating to discovery upon a clear showing of an abuse of discretion). "[I]f there is an objection the discovery goes beyond material relevant to the parties' claims or defenses, the Court would become involved to determine whether the discovery is relevant to the claims or defenses and, if not, whether good cause exists for authorizing it so long as it is relevant to the subject matter of the action. The good-cause standard warranting broader discovery is meant to be flexible." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) Advisory Committee Notes, 2000 Amendment.

The federal discovery rules are to be construed broadly and liberally. Herbert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 177 (1979); Jeffries v. LRP Publications, Inc., 184 F.R.D. 262, 263 (E.D .Pa. 1999). Rule 26(b)(1) provides that the "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party . . .," but "[f]or good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The party opposing discovery has the burden of proving that the requested discovery should be disallowed. Etienne v. Wolverine Tube, Inc., 185 F.R.D. 653, 656 (D. Kan. 1999); Golden Valley Microwave Foods, Inc. v. Weaver Popcorn Co., Inc., 132 F.R.D. 204, 207 (N.D. Ind. 1990); Flag Fables, Inc. v. Jean Ann's Country Flags and Crafts, Inc., 730 F. Supp. 1165, 1186 (D. Mass. 1989).

District Courts have broad discretion in discovery matters. Packman v. Chicago Tribune Co., 267 F.3d 628, 646 (7th Cir., 2001). A party must be diligent in pursuing the perceived inadequacies in discovery and the trial court does not abuse its discretion if a party untimely seeks to compel inadequate discovery responses. Packman at 647. However, even an untimely filed motion to compel may still be allowed if the party demonstrates actual and substantial prejudice resulting from the denial of discovery. Id. ...

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