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Sylvester Bonner, Jr v. Daniel O'toole

December 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys

Judge John J. Tharp, Jr.


On February 12, 2010, City of Chicago Police Officers entered the home of Sylvester Bonner, Jr., who lived at the time at 4929 W. Adams, in the basement apartment designated unit BA. The officers had a warrant, but -- as it turned out -- not for Mr. Bonner's unit; the warrant covered the "entire 1st floor of the three flat building located at 4929 W. Adams." According to Mr. Bonner, the building at that address is not a three flat, but is a larger residential apartment building with four floors and at least 30 units.

On February 12, 2012, Mr. Bonner sued the City and the officers who entered his apartment, including Officer Daniel O'Toole, alleging violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He also raises a Monell claim, see Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), alleging that the City failed to train its officers in the use of informants and maintains a code of silence that allows officers to obtain warrants by using fraudulent information. He alleges that, as a result of the defendants' misconduct, he "sustained injuries, humiliation, and indignities, and suffered great mental and emotional pain and suffering all to his damage." Complaint, ¶25.

According to Mr. Bonner, the warrant at issue in this case had a number of irregularities: first, the address 4929 was written in and initialed over the typed address, which was 4927; second, the target of the warrant was a woman identified as "ShuShu" who, according to Mr. Bonner, lived at 4929 W. Adams but in the 1st floor unit (designated 1B), not the basement unit. Mr. Bonner alleges that the officers involved knew their information was unreliable, but nonetheless sought and obtained a search warrant, intentionally presenting false information to the judge to obtain that warrant. Complaint, ¶¶18-20. He alleges that, because of this, the entry and subsequent search of his home were illegal, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He alleges that the defendant officers intentionally procured the search warrant with false information and that they intentionally executed the search warrant on the wrong apartment; he also alleges that, during the course of their illegal search of his home, the defendants illegally seized property belonging to him, including a computer, a cellphone, a surround sound system and other items. He has also sued the City of Chicago for indemnification.

The case was initially assigned to Judge Holderman, who referred the case to this Court for discovery supervision; thereafter, the case was reassigned to Judge Tharp, who left the referral intact. Discovery proceeded, with both sides serving written discovery and pursuing depositions of various witnesses. Most relevant to today's decision, Mr. Bonner served requests seeking information and documents relating to warrants issued in the five years prior to the incident outlined in the complaint. And the City served contention interrogatories, documents requests and requests to admit. Per the Court's order, fact discovery was set to close on October 31, 2012.*fn1

Two weeks before discovery closed, on October 17, 2012, Mr. Bonner filed a motion to compel the defendants to respond to certain outstanding discovery requests. Specifically, he asks the Court to order the City to turn over all documents relating to searches executed in the five years prior to the incident covered in the complaint in which defendant Daniel O'Toole was, in any way, involved. In that same motion, he also asks the Court to strike the defendants' requests to admit.

Two days before the fact discovery cutoff, the defendants followed suit with their own motions to compel. The City filed a motion seeking an order compelling Mr. Bonner to respond to a set of contention interrogatories and an accompanying document request it served on Mr. Bonner on July 18, 2012. And Officer O'Toole filed a motion seeking an order compelling Mr. Bonner to respond to deposition questions relating to his mental health, or, in the alternative, to bar Mr. Bonner from claiming any damages related to his mental health status. The Court considers each of these motions below.


The federal discovery rules are liberal to further the parties' interest in preparing a case for trial or in settling their disputes in advance of trial. See Bond v. Utreras, 585 F.3d 1061, 1075 (7th Cir. 2009); see also Kodish v. Oakbrook Terrace Fire Prot. Dist., 235 F.R.D. 447, 450 (N.D. Ill. 2006) ("the scope of discovery should be broad in order to aid in the search for truth"). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . . Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). "The burden rests upon the objecting party to show why a particular discovery request is improper." Kodish, 235 F.R.D. at 450.

Mr. Bonner's Motion to Compel

Mr. Bonner requested that the defendants produce documents relating to search warrants executed by Officer O'Toole from January 1, 2005 through February 12, 2010. For each such warrant, he requested the warrants themselves, plus complaints for search warrants, search warrant data sheets, supplementary reports, raid activity summary reports, vice case reports and evidence recovery logs; in a subsequent request, Mr. Bonner added to the list of requested categories of documents arrest reports, photographs and all other reports.

In response to Mr. Bonner's discovery requests, the City and Officer O'Toole identified 349 searches during the relevant time period in which Officer O'Toole was somehow involved. Of those 349, Officer O'Toole was the affiant on just 45. The City has offered to produce documents during this period for searches in which Officer O'Toole was the affiant -- 45 of the 349 searches. In fact, the City has produced more than 500 pages of documents relating to just those 45 searches, and it claims that the time and effort that have gone into producing documents for those 45 searches show just how burdensome responding to the full request would be. Officer O'Toole has produced over 300 pages of documents from his personal files, which are copies of documents relating to the warrants in which he was involved.

Mr. Bonner seeks to compel the City to produce documents and information relating to all 349 searches identified -- even those on which Officer O'Toole served as security or backup; he argues that he is entitled to documents and information even where Officer O'Toole clearly had no role in obtaining the actual warrant. The City and Officer O'Toole both argue that producing discovery ...

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