United States District Court, District of Columbia
M. MERIWEATHER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
January 10, 2017, this case was referred to the undersigned
Magistrate Judge, pursuant to Local Civil Rule 72.2(a), for
resolution of any discovery dispute. Pending before the Court is
the Doe Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel
(“Motion”) [ECF No. 231], which challenges the
adequacy of Defendant District of Columbia's response to
Plaintiffs' Interrogatory No. 9. After reviewing the
Motion, Plaintiffs' Memorandum in support thereof
(“Memorandum”) [ECF No. 231-1], Defendant
District of Columbia's Opposition to Plaintiffs'
Motion to Compel (“Opposition”) [ECF No. 233],
Plaintiffs' Reply (“Reply”) [ECF No. 234],
the representations of counsel at the February 7, 2017 status
conference, and the entire record herein, the Court will deny
the Motion without prejudice for the reasons set forth below.
Factual and Procedural History
Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant District of Columbia
(“Defendant” or the “District”) and
several employees of the District's Child and Family
Services Agency (“CFSA”) after CFSA temporarily
removed two of their children from their home without a court
order, alleging violations of District of Columbia law and
the Constitution. See First Amended Complaint for
Damages, Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF No. 30],
¶ 96. Judge Hogan dismissed the complaint in its
entirety, and the Doe Plaintiffs appealed that decision.
See Doe v. District of Columbia, 958 F.Supp.2d 178
(D.D.C. 2013), aff'd in part, vacated in part, Doe v.
District of Columbia, 796 F.3d 96 (D.C. Cir. 2015);
Doe v. District of Columbia, 796 F.3d 96 (D.C. Cir.
2015). The opinions issued by Judge Hogan and the United
States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
(“Circuit Court”) thoroughly describe the factual
and procedural history of this case. Accordingly, this
opinion discusses only the facts and procedural history
pertinent to the resolution of Plaintiffs' motion to
evaluating the viability of Plaintiffs' constitutional
claims against the District under a theory of municipal
liability, the Circuit Court concluded that the
District's liability would turn on whether
“District policy allows for the warrantless removal of
children when there is no bona fide emergency, ” and,
relatedly, whether the Doe children were “removed
pursuant to a custom or policy of the District.”
Doe, 796 F.3d at 105. The Circuit Court therefore
reversed the award of summary judgment to the District on the
Fourth and Fifth Amendment claims and remanded so that the
District Court could determine whether those claims could
proceed under a municipal liability theory.
remand, Judge Hogan granted Plaintiffs' motion to
propound limited discovery that Plaintiffs characterized as
being “focused on more fully developing facts and
evidence that would be useful in answering the questions
posted by the [Circuit Court].” Motion for Leave to
Conduct Limited Discovery on Remand [ECF No. 223] at 1;
12/23/2015 Order [ECF No. 226] at 2. Plaintiffs propounded
ten interrogatories on January 4, 2016. The discovery dispute
involves Plaintiffs' Interrogatory No. 9.
The Parties' Discovery Dispute and Efforts to Resolve
No. 9 requests that Defendant:
[P]rovide the material facts of each CFSA investigation for
the time period of 2002 to 2007 that involved children being
removed from their homes where a court order was not sought
prior to the removal. The term “material facts”
is used to mean (a) a case identifier that does not disclose
the names of the parties involved, (b) the open and close
dates for the case, (c) a description of the reason(s) CFSA
got involved in the case, (d) a description of any exigent
circumstances or immediate danger that played a role in the
decision to remove, (e) the number of children involved, (f)
the length of time the child(ren) remained in care outside
the home, (g) a description of all services provided, if any,
in order to avoid the need to remove the child(ren), and (h)
a description of any safety plan the family had in place at
the time of the removal.
Interrogatories on Remand [ECF No. 227] at 2-3. On February
5, 2016, the District objected to Interrogatory No. 9,
arguing that it was overly broad and unduly burdensome.
See Defendant District of Columbia's Answers to
Plaintiffs' Interrogatories on Remand [ECF No. 231-4].
Defendant challenged the relevance of including facts
regarding removals that occurred between 2005 and 2007
because that time period postdated the 2004 removal of the
Doe children from their home. See id.
February 17, 2016, Plaintiffs' counsel advised the
District that the discovery dispute could be resolved
“if the District would search its case files for the
narrowed period of January 2003 through October 2004 and
provide key dates including any pre- removal court hearing
date, and facts relevant to the basis for removal and any
exigency.” Memorandum at 3. On March 4, 2016, the
District supplemented its response to Interrogatory No. 9 by
providing a 147-page chart containing “data pulled from
CFSA's electronic system (FACES)” regarding
removals during the 2003-2004 time period. See
Defendant District of Columbia's Supplemental Answers to
Plaintiffs' Interrogatories [ECF No. 231-5] at 5-6. That
supplemental response addressed some of the information
requested in Interrogatory No. 9 but did not provide “a
description of any exigent circumstances or immediate danger
that played a role in the decision to remove.”
Id. at 5-6.
parties, with the assistance of Magistrate Judge Kay, strove
to resolve their discovery dispute informally. Beginning in
June, 2016, Magistrate Judge Kay convened numerous telephonic
status conferences in an effort to develop a workable plan
for the production of additional records - such as
complaints, removal placement screens, and affidavits of
reasonable efforts - in response to Plaintiffs'
Interrogatory No. 9. Magistrate Judge Kay sought to balance
Plaintiffs' professed need for that information against
the District's claim that it would be unduly
time-consuming and expensive to retrieve the information
requested by Plaintiffs because not all such information was
available in a searchable form within the custody of CFSA.
Magistrate Judge Kay also conducted an in camera
review of certain documents, but was unable to ascertain
whether the documents were responsive to all of the
categories of information requested by the
August 16, 2016, it had become apparent that this matter
could not be resolved informally. Accordingly, Plaintiffs
were permitted to file a motion to compel. Plaintiffs'
Motion was filed on September 16, 2016, and ...