James v. Hayward Police Department et al

Filing 77

ORDER RE: DISCOVERY DISPUTE 74 . (Illston, Susan) (Filed on 2/27/2017)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 DENNIS LAMAR JAMES, Case No. 13-cv-01092-SI Plaintiff, 8 v. ORDER RE: DISCOVERY DISPUTE 9 HAYWARD POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Re: Dkt. No. 74 Defendants. 12 13 Before the Court are the parties‟ individual statements regarding a discovery dispute. Dkt. 14 Nos. 74, 75. While it appears the parties have been able to resolve many of their disputes, they 15 cannot agree as to “whether Defendant [Officer Miller] is required to produce the remainder of his 16 personnel file and other documents related to his work performance,” including: (1) recruitment 17 records; (2) Officer Miller‟s application to join the Hayward Police Department (“HPD”); and 18 (3) records of other HPD investigations into Officer Miller‟s conduct, “including investigations 19 into other allegations of excessive force, records of discipline, complaints filed against officer 20 Miller, commendations in his favor, performance evaluations, records reflecting a psychological 21 evaluation and psychological fitness determination, as well as all records of arrests officer Miller 22 has made during his tenure with the Department.” Pl.‟s Individual Statement (Dkt. No. 74) 23 at 1:20-27. Defendant has produced records related to the incident involving plaintiff and certain 24 training records. Pl.‟s Ex. 6 (Dkt. No. 74-6) at 3. 25 Plaintiff contends that these documents are relevant to Officer Miller‟s credibility. Id. 26 at 2:3-5. “[P]laintiff believes that recruiting documents and psychological records, in particular, 27 and the other responsive documents in general, are relevant to reveal bias and may explain how the 28 Defendant acted or why the Defendant acted differently than a reasonable officer in this 1 2 3 instance . . . .” Id. at 2:15-18. Defendant argues that the records are private and not relevant. Rule 26(b) defines the scope of discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 26(b)(1) provides, in part: 4 5 6 7 Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party‟s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties‟ relative access to relevant information, the parties‟ resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. . . . 8 Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The relevance standard is extremely broad, especially in civil rights 10 excessive force cases. See Soto v. City of Concord, 162 F.R.D. 603, 610 (N.D. Cal. 1995). 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 Relevant information “need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed. R. Civ. 12 P. 26(b)(1). However, “[o]n motion or on its own, the court must limit the frequency or extent of 13 discovery” under the Federal Rules if it determines that, inter alia, “the proposed discovery is 14 outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Id. 26(b)(2)(C). 15 The only remaining claim in this lawsuit is an excessive force claim against Officer Miller. 16 See Dkt. No. 55. The case will turn on whether Officer Miller‟s use of force was objectively 17 reasonable under the circumstances. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395-96 (1989). 18 “[C]onsidering the importance of the issues at stake, . . . the importance of discovery in resolving 19 the issues, . . . the burden or expense of the proposed discovery . . . [and] its likely benefit,” even 20 under a broad relevancy standard, plaintiff has not demonstrated a need for Officer Miller‟s 21 recruiting documents, HPD application, psychological records, or records of arrests. See Fed. R. 22 Civ. P. 26(b)(1). However, records of other excessive force investigations, disciplinary records, 23 complaints, performance evaluations, and commendations are relevant at least with regard to 24 Officer Miller‟s credibility or to show a pattern of conduct. See Soto, 162 F.R.D. at 614-15. 25 While federal courts recognize a right of privacy respecting confidential law enforcement 26 records, see Kelly v. City of San Jose, 114 F.R.D. 653 (N.D. Cal. 1987), “the privacy interests 27 police officers have in their records do not outweigh a plaintiff‟s interests in civil rights cases.” 28 Doe v. Gill, No. 11-4759 CW LB, 2012 WL 1038655, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 27, 2012) (citations 2 1 omitted); see also Green v. Baca, 226 F.R.D. 624, 644 (C.D. Cal. 2005) (citations omitted) (“In 2 cases involving section 1983 claims, courts have repeatedly held that police personnel files and 3 documents are relevant and discoverable.”). Officers‟ personal privacy “may be sufficiently 4 protected with the use of a „tightly drawn‟ protective order . . . .”1 Gill, 2012 WL 1038655, at *4. 5 The Court finds that plaintiff‟s interest in the above-described records outweighs Officer Miller‟s 6 privacy interest in those records. Officer Miller is hereby ordered provide his records of other excessive force investigations, 8 disciplinary records, complaints, performance evaluations, and commendations. Defendant may 9 limit his production to a period of two years after the incident involving plaintiff. Defendant need 10 not produce his recruiting documents, HPD application, psychological records, or records of 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 7 arrests. 12 This order resolves Dkt. No. 74. 13 IT IS SO ORDERED. 14 Dated: February 27, 2017 ______________________________________ SUSAN ILLSTON United States District Judge 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 The parties have entered into a stipulated protective order in this case. See Dkt. No. 73. 3

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?