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Snyder v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 5, 2016

ANTHONY SNYDER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARY M. ROWLAND United States Magistrate Judge

         Anthony Snyder initiated this action alleging that the City of Chicago violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 623, when the City refused to allow Snyder to become a cross-trained dual certified firefighter/paramedic (Dkt. 1 (Compl.) ¶¶ 12-13). The current discovery dispute involves two 30(b)(6) depositions which both occurred on October 20, 2016. On October 28, 2016, Plaintiff Anthony Snyder (“Snyder”) filed a Renewed Motion For Discovery Sanctions and Additional Time to Resume a 30(b)(6) Deposition of a Knowledgeable City Designated Deponent. (Dkt. 40). The same day, Defendant City of Chicago (the “City”) filed a Motion for Rule to Show Cause and Extend Time. (Dkt. 42).[1] Both of the Motions were referred by the District Court to the United States Magistrate Judge for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, both Motions are denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In his Complaint, Snyder alleges that the City's use of § 2-152-410(e) of the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago (hereafter, the “Ordinance”) denies cross-over training to incumbent CFD paramedics like Snyder who are over 40 years of age. (Compl. ¶ 14). The City's “misappli[cation]” of the Ordinance, Synder claims, constitutes a subterfuge for age discrimination. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 17). The City denies liability and asserts two affirmative defenses-first, that the City is exempt from liability under the ADEA exemption in 29 U.S.C. § 623(j) and second, that Snyder's claims are time-barred based on the timing of his EEOC charge filing. (Dkt. 13).

         The present Motions involve two 30(b)(6) witness depositions. Synder's Motion concerns Charles Stewart (“Stewart”), former First Deputy Fire Commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department, who was designated to testify on topic nos. 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8 of Synder's 30(b)(6) Deposition Rider. (Dkt. 55 at 2; Dkt. 55-1).[2] Synder contends that Stewart was not able to sufficiently answer questions regarding topic nos. 1 and 2. (Dkt. 40 at 3). Topic no. 1 seeks testimony on “the origin and reasons for the wording of § 2-152-410(e) of the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago at the time of its original enactment”, which was enacted in 2000 and set an age limit of 35 for a firefighter or EMT. (Dkt. 55-1). Topic no. 2 seeks testimony on “the origin and reasons for the wording (including changes in the wording) of § 2-152-410(e) of the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago, as amended”, which was amended in 2006 and increased the age limit to 38 for a firefighter or EMT. (Dkt. 55-1; Dkt. 40 at 3).

         The City's Motion argues that firefighter/paramedic Patrick Quane (“Quane”), the 30(b)(6) witness designated by Synder's union, Local 2 (the “Union”), was “not properly educated regarding the subjects in the City's subpoena.” (Dkts. 42, 42-1). The City complains that Quane did not know: (1) whether the Union was aware of or had discussions with the City about the City's intention to create an age requirement for hiring firefighters in 2000; (2) whether the Union was aware of or had discussions with the City about the City altering that age requirement in 2006; (3) whether there were attempts to amend Section 16.4C of the City-Union Collective Bargaining Agreement; (4) about the Union's objection to Howard Wahl's cross-over; (5) about the Union's involvement in the DiGiovanni Arbitration; or (6) whether the Union monitored the litigation in Brown v. King. (Dkt. 42-1). These subjects relate to topic nos. 5-6 and 12-14 of the City's Deposition Rider. (Dkt. 50 at 4-5).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Applicable Law

         District courts have broad discretion in supervising discovery. Hunt v. DaVita, Inc., 680 F.3d 775, 780 (7th Cir. 2012); Cent. States, Se. & Sw. Areas Pension Fund v. Waste Mgmt. of Mich., Inc., 674 F.3d 630, 636 (7th Cir. 2012). A court “may fashion a ruling appropriate for the circumstances of the case [and] is not limited to either compelling or not compelling a discovery request; in making its ruling, a district court should independently determine the proper course of discovery based upon the arguments of the parties.” Gile v. United Airlines, 95 F.3d 492, 496 (7th Cir. 1996).

         The court's discretion over discovery includes deciding whether and how to sanction misconduct. Hunt, 680 F.3d at 780. The severity of any sanction should be proportional to the offense. Allen v. Chi. Transit Auth., 317 F.3d 696, 703 (7th Cir. 2003). The court should take into account all of the circumstances and the procedural history of the case. Long v. Steepro, 213 F.3d 983, 986 (7th Cir. 2000). The court should also consider the prejudice caused by the discovery violation. Marrocco v. Gen. Motors Corp., 966 F.2d 220, 225 (7th Cir. 1992); Jones v. Bremen High Sch. Dist. 228, No. 08 C 3548, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51312, at *30 (N.D. Ill. May 25, 2010). Civil contempt is “a severe remedy.” Panther Pumps & Equip. Co. v. Hydrocraft, Inc., 566 F.2d 8, 21 (7th Cir. 1977) (citations and quotations omitted). A litigant should not be held in contempt “unless it has violated an unambiguous command.” Widmar v. Sun Chem. Corp., No. 11 C 1818, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68087, at *15 (N.D. Ill. May 16, 2012) (citing Abbott Labs. v. Baxter Int'l, 218 F.App'x 523, 525 (7th Cir. 2007)).

         B. The Parties' Motions

         Each party complains of the other's discovery conduct. The Court finds both parties guilty of not complying with the discovery rules.[3] Further, issues regarding the scope or specificity of the topics should have been addressed before the depositions. The parties should have resolved the issues and if they could not, they should have sought a protective order from the Court. Nieman v. Grange Mut. Ins. Co., No. 11-cv-3404, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160753, at *4 (C.D. Ill. Nov. 9, 2012) (“The correct remedy if the corporation objects to [a Rule 30(b)(6)] notice is to seek a protective order.”); Clauss Constr. v. UChicago Argonne LLC, No. 13-cv-05479, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4131, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 13, 2015) (granting in part and denying in part motion for protective order concerning Rule 30(b)(6) deposition topics); F.R.C.P. 26(c). The relief requested in the parties' motions, however, is not proportional or appropriate for the circumstances of this case.

         1. Snyder's Motion For Sanctions and Additional Time to Resume a 30(b)(6) Deposition

         Snyder complains that Stewart was not prepared and able to sufficiently testify about the origins and reasons for the 2000 and the 2006 City ordinances setting age maximums for firefighters and EMTs. The City responds that while the witness was ...


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