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Breiterman v. United States Capitol Police

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 16, 2018

JODI BREITERMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBIN M. MERIWEATHER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Jodi Breiterman's Motion to Compel [ECF No. 27], which seeks to compel the United States Capitol Police (“Defendant” or “USCP”) to produce records responsive to Plaintiff's Request for Production 23, respond to Interrogatories 12 and 14, [1] and provide a witness to testify on Topic 15 of her Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice. The District Judge previously presiding[2] over this case referred all pending and future discovery disputes to the undersigned Magistrate Judge. See 6/9/17 Minute Order. Having considered the parties' submissions and attachments thereto, and the arguments presented orally at the August 15, 2017, Motions Hearing, the Court GRANTS-IN-PART and DENIES-IN-PART Plaintiff's Motion to Compel.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Background[3]

         Ms. Breiterman began working at the USCP in January 2002. See Second Am. Compl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 17. Prior to the events at issue in this action, Ms. Breiterman worked as a Project/Management Analyst for the USCP. See Id. ¶ 14. Ms. Breiterman assumed a new position as an Administrative Sergeant in or after 2014. See Id. ¶ 27. The claims at issue in this case arise from two incidents in 2014 and 2015. See Id. ¶¶ 121-49.

         In 2014, Ms. Breiterman told her supervisor that she felt that female officers “had to sleep with someone to get promoted within the USCP.” See Id. ¶ 29. A married female officer complained about Ms. Breiterman's statement, and Ms. Breiterman received a two-day suspension for making an improper comment. See Id. ¶¶ 31-33. Although Ms. Breiterman appealed her suspension, see Id. ¶ 34, she later learned that the USCP would impose the two-day suspension, without pay. Id. ¶ 108.

         In January 2015, a handgun was found in a public bathroom at the Capitol Visitor's Center by a congressional staffer. See Id. ¶ 36. Upon reporting to the scene, Ms. Breiterman and other officers took photos of the handgun. See Id. ¶¶ 37-39. The USCP later confirmed that the handgun was a USCP service weapon. Id. ¶ 41. Ms. Breiterman later shared her photo of the handgun with a reporter. Id. ¶¶ 46, 53-57. The photo was subsequently published with an article about the incident. See Id. ¶ 58. Ms. Breiterman was not named in the article. Id. ¶ 60. In June 2015, Ms. Breiterman was suspended indefinitely during an investigation into the sharing of the photo. See Id. ¶¶ 69-76. Approximately nine months later, Ms. Breiterman received and appealed a recommendation to demote her from Sergeant to Private First Class as a result of the USCP's investigation. Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 112-13, 119. In May 2016, the USCP denied the appeal and demoted Ms. Breiterman. Id. ¶ 120.

         II. Procedural Background

         Ms. Breiterman filed a Complaint against the USCP, on October 20, 2016, alleging gender discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-1, and violations of her right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment. Compl., ECF No. 1. On January 9, 2017, Ms. Breiterman filed a Second Amended Complaint [ECF No. 17] alleging the same. See Second Am. Compl. at 1. Ms. Breiterman claims that male employees commit similar infractions to hers, yet do not receive disciplinary action. See Id. ¶¶ 114-18. Ms. Breiterman further alleges that when she tried to address the issue of gender discrimination, she was suspended for her comments. See Id. ¶ 138. Finally, Ms. Breiterman claims that she had a right to share the photo of the handgun because of her concern for public safety, and that the punishment she received violated her right to free speech. See Id. ¶¶ 146-47. The USCP filed an Answer [ECF No. 20] to Ms. Breiterman's Second Amended Complaint on February 3, 2017.

         On June 28, 2017, Ms. Breiterman filed a Motion to Compel seeking to compel answers to two interrogatories and a request for production, and to compel the USCP to produce a witness to testify on one Rule 30(b)(6) deposition topic. See generally Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 27. Ms. Breiterman contends that the requested discovery is relevant to her Title VII gender discrimination and retaliation claims. See Id. On July 17, 2017, the USCP filed an Opposition asserting that Ms. Breiterman's requested discovery was overly broad and unduly burdensome. See generally Def.'s Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. to Compel (“Def.'s Opp'n”), ECF No. 30. Ms. Breiterman filed her Reply on July 26, 2017, reasserting the relevance of her discovery requests, noting that she had narrowed her requests, and contending that the requests were not unduly burdensome. See generally Pl.'s Reply in Support of Mot. to Compel (“Pl.'s Reply”), ECF No. 33. On August 15, 2017, the undersigned held a Motions Hearing, heard argument regarding the Motion to Compel, and took the Motion under advisement. See 8/15/2017 Minute Entry.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 allows for “discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37, a party seeking discovery through an interrogatory under Rule 33, the production of documents under Rule 34, or a deposition under Rule 30, and who believes that the opposing party has failed to meet its obligations under the relevant Rules, may - after conferring in good faith with the opposing party - seek to compel a response. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(1), 37(a)(3)(B)(i), (iii)-(iv).

         “The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure encourage the exchange of information through broad discovery.” In re England, 375 F.3d 1169, 1177 (D.C. Cir. 2004); see also Pederson v. Preston, 250 F.R.D. 61, 63-64 (D.D.C. 2008). A party may serve written interrogatories or requests for production provided such requests fall within the scope of Rule 26(b). Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a)(2) (“An interrogatory may relate to any matter that may be inquired into under Rule 26(b)”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a) (“A party may serve on any other party a request within the scope of Rule 26(b)”). Likewise, testimony responsive to deposition topics that fall within the scope of Rule 26(b) may be compelled. See Cobell v. Norton, 213 F.R.D. 16, 23 (D.D.C. 2003) (quoting 8A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Richard L. Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2286 (2d ed. 1994)) (“A motion to compel a witness to answer questions put at a deposition should be granted if the questions are relevant and proper and denied if the questions call for privileged information.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).

         DISCUSSION

         The parties' discovery dispute primarily concerns the relevance of the information requested in Interrogatories 12 and 14, Request for Production 23, and 30(b)(6) Deposition Topic 15, and the breadth of those discovery requests. The Court will consider Interrogatory 12, Request for Production 23, and Deposition Topic 15 together as they seek substantially similar information and testimony, and will then evaluate the dispute regarding Interrogatory 14.

         I. INTERROGATORY 12, REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION 23, AND DEPOSITION TOPIC 15

         A. Interrogatory 12 and ...


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