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Mann v. City of Chicago

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

September 8, 2017

ATHERIS MANN, ET AL., Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., Defendants. ANGEL PEREZ, ET AL, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARY M. ROWLAND UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Defendant City of Chicago to Include Certain Custodians from the Mayor's Office (“Motion”) which seeks to compel the City to include Mayor Rahm Emanuel and ten members of his staff as custodians in the City's email search. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' Motion (Dkt. 68) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In Mann v. City of Chicago et al, 15 C 9197 (“Mann”), Plaintiffs sued Chicago police officers and the City of Chicago (“the City”) alleging that Defendants wrongfully arrested, detained, and prosecuted them and that they were abused at the Chicago Police Department's (“CPD”) “off the books” detention center located at the intersection of South Homan Street and West Filmore Avenue in Chicago (“Homan Square”). In Perez v. City of Chicago et al, 13 C 4531 (“Perez”), plaintiffs bring a class action lawsuit against Chicago police officers and the City alleging that they and the members of the proposed class were subject to unconstitutional police practices at “off the grid” facilities such as Homan Square, where they were arrested, abused and detained without a record of their arrest or access to counsel.

         The Mann and Perez cases were consolidated for pretrial proceedings. (see Perez, Dkt. 178; Mann, Dkt. 48). This Court denied the City's motion to bifurcate Monell discovery, stating:

this is not a run-of-the-mill Monell claim based on excessive force or wrongful arrest. The allegation here is that the City sanctioned the use of a facility, not a police station, to detain suspects without charges and without access to counsel or families, used coercive tactics during interrogations, and sanctioned a code of silence…The fact that the facility was not a police station, and was unknown to the public, potential counsel and families of those detained, raises a number of discovery questions as to the policies that governed that facility, what level of command authorized and knew about the facility, and the command structure of the facility. While these are currently contained in the Monell count, questions about the authority of the individual officers to detain the individual plaintiffs at Homan Square would be fair discovery even absent the Monell claim. (Mann, Dkt. 60).[1]

         To streamline discovery, the parties in both cases are working jointly to conduct Monell discovery and have agreed on search terms and the majority of custodians. The Court appreciates these efforts. The parties also agree that electronic discovery will include the Mayor's Office, but reached an impasse on which custodians in the Mayor's Office should be searched. (Dkt. 68 at 3). Plaintiffs argue Mayor Emanuel and ten members of his senior staff, including current and former chiefs of staff and communications directors are relevant to Plaintiffs' Monell claim. (Id. at 5).[2] The City responds that Plaintiffs' request is burdensome, and that Plaintiffs have failed to provide any grounds to believe that the proposed custodians were involved with CPD's policies and practices at Homan Square. (Dkt. 74 at 1, 6). The City proposes instead that it search the two members of the Mayor's staff responsible for liasoning with the CPD and leave “the door open for additional custodians” depending on the results of that search. (Id. at 2, 4).[3]

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Applicable Law

         District courts have broad discretion in supervising discovery and ruling on discovery motions. Cent. States, Se. & Sw. Areas Pension Fund v. Waste Mgmt. of Mich., Inc., 674 F.3d 630, 636 (7th Cir. 2012). The court “may grant or deny the motion [to compel] in whole or in part, and…may fashion a ruling appropriate for the circumstances of the case.” Gile v. United Airlines, 95 F.3d 492, 496 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(4)(B), (C)). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, a court should consider the importance of the issues at stake, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information and their resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit in determining whether to compel production. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 26(b)(1). With regard to electronically stored information, if a party claims that such discovery from certain sources would be unduly burdensome or costly, that party must show that the information is not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 26(b)(2)(B).

         Although “the burden is upon the objecting party to show why a discovery request is improper” (Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 349 F.Supp.2d 1108, 1111 (N.D. Ill. 2004)), relevance remains a “precondition” to discovery. Miller UK Ltd. v. Caterpillar, Inc., 17 F.Supp.3d 711, 721 (N.D. Ill. 2014); see also Kleen Prods. LLC v. Packaging Corp. of Am., No. 10 C 5711, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139632, at *46 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 28, 2012) (“The selection of custodians must be designed to respond fully to document requests and to produce responsive, nonduplicative documents during the relevant period.”).

         B. Relevance of the Discovery

         Plaintiffs in both cases seek to hold the City liable under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978) (“Monell”). It is well-settled that Monell liability arises “if, among other things: (1) [the municipality] has a permanent and well-settled municipal custom or practice that, although not authorized by official law or policy, was the moving force behind the plaintiff's constitutional injury; or (2) an individual with final policy-making authority for the municipality (on the subject in question) caused the constitutional deprivation.” Valentino v. Vill. of S. Chi. Heights, 575 F.3d 664, 674 (7th Cir. 2009). Plaintiffs argue that communications within, from, and to the Mayor's Office regarding Homan Square are relevant to notice, ratification, cover-up and deliberate indifference under Monell. (Mann, Dkt. 68 at 5, Dkt. 75 at 4). In light of the allegations in the complaints, the Court agrees that these communications are relevant for purposes of discovery.

         The Mann complaint alleges that in 2013, the Plaintiffs were falsely arrested and detained at Homan Square and in 2015, after spending approximately 15 months in Cook County Jail, a judge found them not guilty. (Am. Compl. Dkt. 50, ¶¶ 13-16, 20-24, 66-67, 96). As to the City, the complaint claims that it “is responsible for the policies, practices and customs of the Chicago Police Department that are alleged herein” and that the unconstitutional actions of defendant police officers “were done pursuant to one or more interrelated de facto policies, practices and/or customs of [the City], acting through and by its Police Department, Police Superintendents, Police Board, Mayors, and City Council.” (Id., ¶¶ 10, 88). These alleged policies include maintaining an “off the books” police detention center at Homan Square, using ...


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