Harrod v. Baltimore City et al
ORDER granting 55 MOTION to Bifurcate and Stay Discovery. Signed by Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher on 10/10/2019. (kw2s, Deputy Clerk)
Case 1:18-cv-02542-SAG Document 65 Filed 10/10/19 Page 1 of 2
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
101 WEST LOMBARD STREET
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND 21201
Fax (410) 962-1812
October 10, 2019
LETTER TO COUNSEL
Devon B. Harrod v. Mayor & City Council, et al.;
Civil No. SAG-18-2542
In this case, Plaintiff Devon B. Harrod sues former Baltimore City Police Officers
Evodio Hendrix and Wayne Jenkins (collectively “the Officer Defendants”), the Baltimore
Police Department (“BPD”), and former Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere (“Palmere”),
alleging civil rights violations in connection with his arrest by the Officer Defendants.
ECF 1. Specifically, Harrod alleges that the Officer Defendants, who have been convicted in
federal court for criminal conduct during their tenure with BPD's Gun Trace Task Force
(“GTTF”), planted evidence and coerced a false confession from him during a single interaction
on August 20, 2015. Id.1 I have reviewed BPD and Palmere's Motion to Bifurcate and Stay
Discovery (“the Motion”), ECF 55, the Opposition filed by Harrod, ECF 62, and BPD and
Palmere's Reply, ECF 64. No hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the
reasons set forth below, the Motion will be granted.
The Motion seeks to bifurcate the trial of Harrod's § 1983 claims against the Officer
Defendants from his § 1983 Monell claim against BPD, and his supervisory claims against
Palmere.2 First, the standard for bifurcating trials is addressed in Federal Rule of Civil
For convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the court may
order a separate trial of one or more separate issues, claims, crossclaims,
counterclaims, or third-party claims. When ordering a separate trial, the court
must preserve any federal right to a jury trial.
The alleged incident involving Harrod was not part of the charged conduct resulting in the
criminal conviction of either of the Officer Defendants. See ECF 55-1 at 6 n.4 (citing the Officer
Defendants’ Plea Agreements in their respective criminal cases).
Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978), authorized plaintiffs to bring § 1983
civil rights actions against municipalities where the municipality’s official policy or custom
caused constitutional injury.
Case 1:18-cv-02542-SAG Document 65 Filed 10/10/19 Page 2 of 2
Harrod v. Mayor & City Council, et al.
Civil No. SAG-18-2542
October 10, 2019
The decision whether to bifurcate claims for trial is committed to the broad discretion of the trial
judge. See Dixon v. CSX Transp., Inc., 990 F.2d 1440, 1443 (4th Cir. 1993).
The Motion also seeks to stay discovery related to the Monell and supervisory claims
until the case against the Officer Defendants is concluded. Decisions about the appropriate
timing and sequence of discovery lie within the discretion of the trial court. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
26(d)(1) (allowing discovery rules, including those pertaining to scheduling, to be modified “by
Both parties agree that, in the overwhelming majority of similarly situated cases, this
Court has bifurcated Monell and supervisory liability claims from the underlying § 1983 claims
against individual officers. See ECF 55-1 at 4 (BPD and Palmere's Motion citing a string of
cases bifurcating such claims); ECF 62 at 8 (acknowledging that “Monell claims are often
presently bifurcated for trial”). The decision whether to bifurcate is ultimately a fact-specific
inquiry, and nothing about the facts of this case differentiate it from those similar cases.
In order to establish Monell or supervisory liability, Harrod will have to establish that the
Officer Defendants caused him constitutional injury at the time of his arrest on August 20, 2015.
Discovery as to the facts of that single interaction should be relatively limited in scope. See, e.g.,
Marryshow v. Town of Bladensburg, 139 F.R.D. 318, 319 (D. Md. 1991). If Harrod does not
prove that critical element of his claim, his claims against BPD and Palmere cannot lie. See id.
Harrod correctly notes that it is conceivable that he will prove the requisite constitutional injury,
but that the Officer Defendants' defense of qualified immunity will exempt them from liability.
ECF 62 at 4-5 (citing Int’l Ground Transp. v. Mayor & City Council of Ocean City, 475 F.3d
214, 219 (4th Cir. 2007)). In that circumstance, the case can proceed to discovery and trial
against the BPD and Palmere. The discovery relevant to the Monell and supervisory liability
claims will be far broader than the discovery about the single incident on August 20, 2015,
because it will look at whether there has been a pattern or practice of violating constitutional
rights. Judicial economy is therefore best served by staying discovery into those broader claims
until there is a resolution of whether constitutional injury occurred during a single incident.
Moreover, the evidence that would be relevant at a Monell/supervisory liability trial would be
highly prejudicial if introduced at the trial of the Officer Defendants. Accordingly, bifurcated
trials, in addition to a stay of discovery, are appropriate, and the Motion, ECF 55, is GRANTED.
Despite the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as an Opinion and docketed
as an Order.
Stephanie A. Gallagher
United States District Judge
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?