WILLIAMS v. WALDO COUNTY MAINE DEPUTY MERL REED et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 40 Motion for Sanctions. By MAGISTRATE JUDGE JOHN C. NIVISON. (CWP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MAINE
BRADLEY PAUL WILLIAMS,
WALDO COUNTY MAINE
DEPUTY MERL REED, et al.,
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION
This matter is before the Court on the motion for sanctions of Defendants City of
Belfast and Belfast Police Chief Michael McFadden. (Motion, ECF No. 40.) Through the
motion, Defendants ask the Court to sanction Plaintiff for his repeated failure to respond
to Defendants’ discovery requests.
Defendants ask the Court to dismiss Plaintiff’s
complaint or, alternatively, to order Plaintiff “to immediately submit his responses to the
Discovery Requests and fashion other sanctions that it deems appropriate under the
circumstances.” (Defendants’ Reply at 3, ECF No. 45.)
The record reveals that on December 6, 2016, Defendants served interrogatories and
a request for documents upon Plaintiff. Plaintiff failed to respond to the discovery requests
as required by the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. Defendants wrote to Plaintiff to request
a response or to contact Defendants’ counsel to discuss the requested discovery. When
Plaintiff did not respond, Defendants requested a telephonic conference with the Court. In
response to Defendants’ request for a conference, Plaintiff asked for and received a week
extension of the time to respond to the discovery requests. Under the order, Plaintiff was
required to serve the responses by January 26, 2017. (Order, ECF No. 37.) On January
23, Plaintiff asked Defendants to send the discovery requests to him. Even though
Defendants had previously provided the requests to Plaintiff, Defendants forwarded to him
another copy of the requests. Nevertheless, Plaintiff has not served responses to the
discovery requests. (Reply in Support of Motion for Sanctions, ECF No. 45.)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(d)(1)(A)(ii) authorizes the Court to impose
sanctions where “a party, after being properly served with interrogatories under Rule 33 or
a request for inspection under Rule 34, fails to serve its answers, objections, or written
response.” According to the current record, Plaintiff has not served responses to the
discovery requests. When Defendants requested a telephonic conference in accordance
Local Rule 26(b) to address Plaintiff’s failure to respond to the requests, based on
Plaintiff’s representation he would provide responses to the discovery requests by January
26, 2017 (Motion to Extend Time at 2, ECF No. 36), the Court did not schedule the
conference. Instead, the Court extended the time for Plaintiff to serve the responses to
January 26, 2017. (Order, ECF No. 37.) Pursuant to the Court’s order, therefore, Plaintiff
was required to respond to the discovery requests by January 26.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b)(2)(A), which authorizes the Court to impose
sanctions for a party’s non-compliance with discovery orders, states in relevant part:
(A) For Not Obeying a Discovery Order. If a party… fails to obey an order
to provide or permit discovery, …the court …may issue further just
orders. They may include the following:
(i) directing that the matters embraced in the order or other designated
facts be taken as established for purposes of the action, as the prevailing
(ii) prohibiting the disobedient party from supporting or opposing
designated claims or defenses, or from introducing designated matters in
(iii) striking pleadings in whole or in part;
(iv) staying further proceedings until the order is obeyed;
(v) dismissing the action or proceeding in whole or in part;
(vi) rendering a default judgment against the disobedient party; or
(vii) treating as contempt of court the failure to obey any order except an
order to submit to a physical or mental examination.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2)(A).
Defendants ask the Court to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint as a sanction for his failure
to respond to the discovery requests. When considering whether to dismiss a case as a
sanction, the First Circuit has cautioned:
Prior to choosing the harsh sanction of dismissal, a district court should
consider the broad panoply of lesser sanctions available to it, such as
contempt, fines, conditional orders of dismissal, etc. The severe sanction of
dismissal serves as a powerful means of deterring others from frustrating the
district court’s well justified efforts at docket management, but it is not the
only such deterrent.
Crossman v. Raytheon Long Term Disability Plan, 316 F.3d 36, 39 – 40 (1st Cir. 2002)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “Dismissal is only one of the authorized
forms of sanctions, and the district court ‘should consider the totality of events and then
choose from the broad universe of available sanctions in an effort to fit the punishment to
the severity and circumstances of the violation.’” Vazquez-Rijos v. Anhang, 654 F.3d 122,
127 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Young v. Gordon, 330 F.3d 76, 81 (1st Cir. 2003)). A court
must also consider “the gravity of the violation and balance it with the need for order in
the trial court, the prejudice to the other party, and the preference for disposing of a case
on the merits.” Id. (citing Young, 330 F.3d at 81).
Here, Plaintiff has failed to respond to the outstanding discovery requests despite
Defendants’ reasonable efforts to obtain the responses. Plaintiff has had more than
sufficient time to respond to the discovery requests. Because Plaintiff has failed to provide
responses to the discovery requests within the time extended by the Court, a sanction is
warranted. Plaintiff must understand the rules of procedure are not advisory, nor mere
guidelines. All parties must comply with the rules. The Court, however, is not persuaded
that at this stage of the proceedings, dismissal is appropriate. The Court will order Plaintiff
to serve the responses, and will also impose a sanction that is designed to deter Plaintiff
from future similar conduct.
Based on the foregoing analysis, the Court orders:
1. On or before March 21, 2017, Plaintiff shall serve upon Defendants complete
responses to the interrogatories and request for production of documents that
Defendants served upon him.
2. As a sanction for Plaintiff’s failure to serve the discovery responses, until Plaintiff
serves complete responses to the discovery requests, Plaintiff may not serve any
discovery requests upon Defendants. To the extent Plaintiff has served discovery
requests upon Defendants, Defendants are not required to respond to the requests
until Plaintiff has complied with the terms of this Order.
3. If Plaintiff fails to comply with the terms of this Order, Plaintiff’s complaint could
Any objections to this Order shall be filed in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 72.
/s/ John C. Nivison
U.S. Magistrate Judge
Dated this 13th day of March, 2017.
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