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Smith v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 6, 2016

GREGORY SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH A. ROBINSON United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff, Gregory Smith, brought this civil rights action in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia alleging that the District of Columbia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) unlawfully detained him for 23 days after he was ordered to be released from custody. Amended Complaint (ECF No. 36) at 1. Defendants subsequently removed the case to this court. Notice of Removal (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff dismissed the DOC as a defendant on February 27, 2015, leaving the District of Columbia (“the District”), and DOC employees Jack Jones and Jeanette Myrick as the remaining defendants. This case was referred to the undersigned for determination of Plaintiff's Motion for Costs and Fees (ECF No. 39), wherein Plaintiff alleges various discovery violations by the District and seeks sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. See Plaintiff's Statement of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Costs and Fees (“Plaintiff's P&A”) (ECF No. 39-1).

         BACKGROUND

         The Court (Jackson, J.), entered a scheduling order on March 10, 2015, establishing the deadlines governing the course of discovery in this proceeding. See Scheduling Order (ECF No. 13). During the discovery period, Plaintiff sought, inter alia, two main types of materials pertaining to the instant motion: data from the District's electronic transaction management system (“TMS”), and “over-detention reports” compiled by the DOC. Plaintiff's P&A at 1-2.[1]

         Over-Detention Reports

         Plaintiff served Defendants with his first request for production of documents on March 27, 2015. Plaintiff's P&A at 4. In that request, Plaintiff sought “all reports prepared by the District of Columbia relating to overdetention of inmates at the D.C. Jail between March 1, 2007 and April 10, 2014.” Id. at 5. The District responded to this request on September 1, 2015, pointing Plaintiff toward its prior response to Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 2, which had provided a table listing the number of over-detentions by month. Id.; Exhibit 6, District's Responses to Plaintiff's Request for Production of Documents and Interrogatories (ECF No. 39-7). On September 25, 2015, Plaintiff served a second request for the production of documents, slightly rephrasing his request for “[a]ll release discrepancy reports from March 2009 through April 2014.” Exhibit 8, Response to Plaintiff's Second Set of Requests for Production of Documents (ECF No. 39-9) at 2. Plaintiff followed up on October 7, 2015, noting that Plaintiff was seeking “all reports prepared by the District of Columbia relating to the over-detention of inmates, ” and that “[d]espite the acknowledgement of the existence of the monthly reports . . . the monthly reports have not been produced.” Exhibit 7, Plaintiff Letter to District of Columbia (ECF No. 39-8) at 1. In response, the District directed Plaintiff to a website for the District of Columbia's Judiciary and Public Safety on November 22, 2015. Exhibit 8 at 2.

         Plaintiff subsequently noticed a deposition pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) outlining, inter alia, the following topics:

10. Prisoner overdetention at the DC Jail between March 18, 2009 and April 10, 2014.
a) All sources of information relied upon in answering Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 2.
b) The definition of “overdetention” used in responding to Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 2.
c) All policies to decrease the instances overdetention of prisoners between March 18, 2009 and April 10, 2014.
d) All policies to prevent the overdetention of prisoners in place on March 2014.
e) All reports and/or written statements made by the Department of Corrections relating to prisoner overdetention between March 18, 2009 and April 10, 2014.

Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition Notice (ECF No. 39-10) at 4-5. In addition to noticing those topics, Plaintiff requested that the deponent designated by the District provide “[a]ll reports published by the Department of Corrections relating to prisoner overdetention between March 18, 2009 and April 10, 2014.” The 30(b)(6) deposition was held on November 23, 2015, and the District's designee, Defendant Jeanette Myrick, appeared and testified as to the over-detention reports, but did not bring the requested documents with her to the deposition. Exhibit 11, Jeanette Myrick Deposition I (Relating to Overdetention Reports) (ECF No. 39-12) at 2-3. Ms. Myrick testified that she authors over-detention reports and keeps electronic versions of said reports in a folder on her computer. Id. at 4.

         On December 6, 2015, Plaintiff submitted to the District his third request for documents, specifically identifying the reports contained on Ms. Myrick's computer. Plaintiff's P&A at 8. On January 27, 2016, the District produced said reports. Id.

         TMS Data

         Plaintiff first learned of the existence of the TMS data during the December 14, 2015 deposition of Defendant Jack Jones, an employee of the DOC. Plaintiff's P&A at 3. Mr. Jones testified that when the Records Office receives documents such as release orders from the D.C. Superior Court, such documents are uploaded into the TMS system. Id. The TMS system also indicates the time at which such documents are uploaded. Id. Plaintiff made his first request for the TMS data during the deposition. Id. Plaintiff followed up his initial request for the TMS data with an email request to the District on January 4, 2016. Exhibit 2, Plaintiff Email to District of Columbia (ECF No. 39-3) at 1. In this email, Plaintiff requested “screenshots of the TMS system indicating when the release orders (for cases 2014 CMD 452 and 2012 CMD 7806) were uploaded for [Plaintiff] into the TMS system.” Id. Alternatively, Plaintiff requested access to inspect the TMS system with regard to the cases pertaining to each of Plaintiff's releases. Id.

         On January 29, 2016, the parties filed a Joint Status Report with the Court, wherein the District stated that it “anticipates . . . full compliance with the requested discovery [of TMS data] in two (2) weeks.” Joint Status Report (ECF No. 27) at 2. The Joint Status Report also requested an extension of fact discovery until February 12, 2016. Id. at 2. On the final day of the fact discovery period, the District sent Plaintiff an email stating “[w]e have been advised that the TMI [sic] information you requested does not exist.” Exhibit 1, District Email to Plaintiff (ECF No. 39-2) at 1. The parties held a teleconference that same day, after which the Court (Jackson, J.) extended fact discovery until February 26, 2016. 01/12/2016 Minute Order.

         Plaintiff noticed a second deposition pursuant to Rule 30(b)(6) in relation to the retention and preservation of the TMS data. Exhibit 5, Deposition Notice Regarding TMS Data (ECF No. 39-6). This notice included, inter alia, the following topics: “[t]he existence of data and/or information in the TMS system as it related to [Plaintiff] (for cases 2014 CMD 452 and 2012 CMD 7806)”; “[t]he retention policy for data contained in the TMS system during March and April 2014”; “[t]he search performed by DOC to obtain data and/or information from the TMS system as it relates to [Plaintiff] (for cases 2014 CMD 452 and 2012 CMD 7806)”; and “[t]he existence of backup data from the TMS system.” Id. at 2. On March 4, 2016, the day of the deposition, the District provided Plaintiff with TMS data pertaining to 2014 CMD 452, but not 2012 CMD 7806. Plaintiff's P&A at 4. Fact discovery subsequently closed on March 11, 2016.

         CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

         Rule 37(c)(1) Violations

         Plaintiff argues that the District violated Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1) when it failed to initially disclose the TMS data, id. at 9, and the over-detention reports, id. at 15. According to Plaintiff, “the District's only purported defense in this matter is the claim that it did not receive the release order relating to [Plaintiff], ” and therefore “the District was required to disclose all information relating to the TMS system under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1).” Id. at 9. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that the District went further than simply failing to disclose the TMS data-it made a “false representation” regarding its existence. Id.

         Plaintiff also argues that the District violated Rule 28(e) when it failed to supplement its response to Interrogatory No. 2 with the actual over-detention reports that were eventually produced in January 2016. See Id. at 14. Plaintiff notes that Defendant Myrick answered Interrogatory No. 2 with a table containing the number of over-detentions, which was “data that directly contradicted the ‘overdetention reports' she authored and [which] were contained on her computer.” See Id. at 12, 14; District's Responses to Plaintiff's Request for Production of Documents and Interrogatories, Exhibit 6, at 5-8. Plaintiff points out that Ms. Myrick was both the author of the actual reports, and the person who “signed the interrogatory responses under oath.” Id. at 14. As such, there is “no good faith basis for the District's failure to disclose the overdetention reports contained on Ms. Myrick's computer for the ten months Plaintiff repeatedly requested the reports.” Id. Plaintiff argues that these failures to disclose under Rule 26(a)(1) and failures to supplement under Rule 28(e) amount to violations of Rule 37(c)(1) and therefore require that sanctions be levied against the District.

         The District argues that sanctions under Rule 37(c)(1) are inappropriate because Plaintiff “has not shown that the District violated any discovery rule under Rule 26(a) or 26(e).” Defendant District of Columbia's Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Costs and Fees (“Defendant's Opposition”) (ECF No. 40) at 6. Because the District ...


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