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Carl A. Barnes, et al v. District of Columbia

April 3, 2012

CARL A. BARNES, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before the Court are defendant's Motion [331] to Compel Discovery Responses, defendant's Second Motion [333] to Compel Discovery Responses, and plaintiffs' Motion [335] for a Protective Order from Defendant's Deposition Notice. Upon consideration of the motions, oppositions, replies, the entire record in this case, and the applicable law, the Court will grant in part and deny in part defendant's Motion [331] to Compel Discovery Responses, deny defendant's Second Motion [333] to Compel Discovery Responses, and grant in part and deny in part plaintiffs' Motion [335] for a Protective Order.

I.BACKGROUND

The Court assumes familiarity with its prior opinions, which set forth the background of this class-action litigation in greater detail. See, e.g., Barnes v. District of Columbia, 793 F. Supp. 2d 260, 265 (D.D.C. 2011).

In a June 2011 Memorandum Opinion, the Court granted plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment as to the District of Columbia's liability for any overdetentions at its jails, throughout the class period, caused by the Department of Corrections' application of the so-called "10 p.m. cut-off" rule, and granted plaintiffs' Motion as to all overdetentions that occurred from September 1, 2005 to December 31, 2006. Id. at 286. The Court granted the District's Motion for Summary Judgment as to overdetentions occurring from February 26, 2008 forward that were not caused by the DOC's enforcement of the 10 p.m. cut-off rule. Id. The Court denied both parties' motions as to the District's liability for overdetentions that occurred from January 1, 2007 to February 25, 2008 (the "Disputed" or "Trial Period") that were not caused by the DOC's enforcement of the 10 p.m. cut-off rule. Id. at 286 & n. 18. The District's liability for that subset of overdetentions remains undetermined pending trial.

Following these rulings, and at the request of the parties, the Court ordered limited, additional discovery in December 2011. See Barnes v. District of Columbia, 278 F.R.D. 14, 18 (D.D.C. 2011). The parties' competing trial proposals each assumed the need for additional fact and expert discovery prior to the trial of the remaining liability issues, and the Court- responding to and agreeing with the District's concerns-restricted that discovery "to such discovery as will assist the parties in determining how many overdetentions occurred during the disputed period." Id. The Court made clear that further discovery on "process" and related issues would not be permitted. Id. at 23. The Court ordered the parties to update their expert reports no later than February 10, 2012, and ordered that this additional discovery period would close on April 6, 2012-three days from now. Id.

Between January 13, 2012 and March 6, 2012 the District served four sets of interrogatories and requests for production on plaintiffs, seeking information about plaintiffs' contentions regarding the number of overdetentions during the Trial Period, as well as more granular requests calling for plaintiffs to supply the District with breakdowns of their overdetentions figures by various categories of information. Plaintiffs' responses to two of those sets of interrogatories, as well as the scope of an upcoming deposition of plaintiffs' statistical expert, are in dispute in the instant motions.

II.LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure state that parties "may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . ." Parties served with discovery are not generally required to create documents in order to respond to such discovery, since Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure only requires production of documents already in existence. See Wagener v. SBC Pension Benefit Plan-Non-Bargained Program, No. 1:03-CV-00769, 2007 WL 915209, at*4 (D.D.C. Mar. 26, 2007).

III.ANALYSIS

A.Defendant's Motion [331] to Compel Discovery Responses

In this first Motion to Compel, the District challenges plaintiffs' responses to four interrogatories: 1, 2, 5, and 6. Def.'s Mot. Compel [331] 1. Interrogatory No. 1 seeks, in short, the overall number of overdetentions during the Trial Period. Def.'s Interrogs. [335-2] 5. Interrogatory No. 2 seeks the number of overdetentions during the Trial Period that plaintiffs contend were caused by the 10 p.m. cut-off rule. Id. at 6. Interrogatory No. 5 seeks the number of overdetentions (the time period is not specified) in which an inmate was sent to the Medical Holding Unit before being overdetained. Id. Interrogatory No. 6 seeks a breakdown ("for all periods at issue") of the number of inmates who were overdetained for certain lengths of time- "less than 2 hours," "2 or more hours but less than 4 hours," and so forth. Id.

The parties raise numerous arguments in their Motions, but their disputes concerning plaintiffs' responses to each of these interrogatories emerge from a single disagreement about the scope of the discovery ordered by the Court. The District contends that the only overdetentions that are relevant to the upcoming liability trial are those that were not caused by the 10 p.m. cutoff rule, a position that is reasonable given that it tracks the language of the Court's June 2011 Memorandum Opinion. See Barnes, 793 F. Supp. 2d at 286 & n.18. Consequently, the District believes that it is evidence of this subset of overdetentions about which plaintiffs need to make a contention in order to prevail at trial, and that doing so necessarily requires determining the number of 10 p.m. cut-off rule overdetentions during the Trial Period so that they can be excluded. Plaintiffs argue that the plain language of the Court's December 2011 Order limited additional discovery to the number of overall overdetentions during the Trial Period, without specifying that this number had to exclude overdetentions caused by the 10 p.m. cut-off rule. Plaintiffs do not explain how the District's remaining liability could be legitimately ascertained using evidence that is interspersed with overdetentions for which the District has already been found liable.

Upon consideration of the parties' arguments, the Court agrees with the District that the purpose of the Court's December 2011 discovery Order was to permit the parties to ascertain the number of disputed overdetentions during the Trial Period. While plaintiffs are not wrong in pointing out that the Court's discovery Order did not explicitly state that the 10 p.m. cut-off rule overdetentions had to be excluded from the parties' overdetention estimates for the Trial Period, that requirement is easily inferred from the fact that summary judgment was awarded to plaintiffs for all 10 p.m. cut-off rule overdetentions and from the Court's previous statements explaining that the 10 p.m. cut-off rule overdetentions would be excluded from the trial of the remaining liability issues. See, e.g., 793 F. Supp. 2d at 286 & n.18. It is the District's liability for that limited subset of overdetentions, not "10 p.m. cut-off" rule overdetentions, that the trial ...


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