Hermann, Timothy et al v. State of Wisconsin et al
ORDER granting defendants' 56 motion to compel discovery. Plaintiffs Timothy Louis Hermann and Karen Elaine Hermann may have until March 27, 2018, to file responses to defendants' discovery requests that comply with the Federal Rules of C ivil Procedure. Plaintiffs' motion to strike defendants' amended answer, Dkt. 65 , is DENIED. Plaintiffs' motion for an order forcing the parties to settle the case, Dkt. 60 , is DENIED. Signed by District Judge James D. Peterson on 3/6/2018. (jef),(ps)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
TIMOTHY LOUIS HERMANN and
KAREN ELAINE HERMANN,
DUNN COUNTY and DENNIS P. SMITH,
Pro se plaintiffs Timothy Louis Hermann and Karen Elaine Hermann bring this lawsuit
alleging that defendant Dunn County Sheriff Dennis Smith violated their rights when he
removed them from their home following foreclosure proceedings and that defendant Dunn
County discriminated against them in its decision to reject their proposed tax foreclosure
repurchase agreement. Defendants have filed a motion to compel discovery, stating that the
Hermanns have provided incomplete, evasive answers to some of their requests. Dkt. 56.
More specifically, the Hermanns responded to several of defendants’ interrogatories
asking for the Hermanns’ basis for stating that defendant Smith falsely arrested Timothy and
used excessive force, by referring defendants “to the case file and Amended Complaint.”
See Dkt. 58-3. They responded in a similar way in response to interrogatories asking them to
identify the policies or procedures they believe caused Dunn County to discriminate against
them. Finally, in response to defendants requests for production of documents, the Hermanns
stated, “Please refer to all documents in the case file including all the documents the defendants
and the law firm have and the information submitted in this interrogatory.” Id.
Defendants say that they wrote to the Hermanns on December 27, 2017, explaining
the deficiencies with their responses. The Hermanns say they did not receive that letter, but
now they contend that their responses were appropriate anyway. They say that “[t]he defense
attorneys have access to the case file and the amended complaint. It is not the Plaintiff’s
responsibility to be a reference librarian/clerk to the case file.” Dkt. 60, at 2. They also say that
they “are not bound just by Rules 33 & 34 but also to equity, Constitutional, and God’s
law/Natural law.” Dkt. 60, at 2. They do not explain why any of these sources of law would
allow them to stonewall defendants on their reasonable discovery requests, other than to
reiterate that defendants should refer to the “case file” and the amended complaint.
The Hermanns misunderstand their burden in the discovery phase of this litigation.
After plaintiffs file a lawsuit, they must explain to the defendants in detail why they believe
that defendants have violated their rights, and provide access to documents they intend to use
to prove those violations. Blanket references to the case file or amended complaint are not close
to sufficient, particularly here, where the documents that have been filed thus far, including
the amended complaint, do not explain in detail exactly why the Hermanns believe that
defendants violated their rights. The Hermanns need to answer defendants’ questions aimed
at understanding the Hermanns’ version of events surrounding their eviction by defendant
Smith, and their theory for why the county turned down their bid to buy the property back.
They also need to share the documents they will use to support their case.
I will grant defendants’ motion to compel and give the Hermanns a short time to
provide more complete, detailed answers to the interrogatories and requests for production of
documents. The Hermanns are indeed bound by Rules 33 and 34 as well as the rest of the
discovery rules. In particular, they need to answer the interrogatories under oath. And even if
some of the records supporting their case are already in the court record, they need to explain
to defendants which of those documents answer each numbered request, rather than just citing
generally to the case file.
Defendants move for attorney fees spent on litigating the motion. Because I cannot
confirm on the record currently before me whether the Hermanns actually received the
December 27 letter, and because the Hermanns are litigating this case pro se, I will deny this
request for fees. But if the Hermanns continue to drag their feet in responding to these requests
and defendants are forced to file another motion, I will award fees to defendants.
The Hermanns also object to defendants amending their answer to allege that Dunn
County is not a municipal corporation under Wisconsin law. I gave the Hermanns a chance to
amend their complaint even after defendants filed a motion to dismiss it, and it would be unfair
to deny defendants an opportunity to make a revision of their own pleading. So I will deny the
Hermanns’ request that I strike the amended answer.
Finally, the Hermanns ask for an order to compel settlement of this case. Perhaps the
parties will see an opening for productive discussions once the Hermanns provide defendants
with more information about their version of the events at issue. But I cannot force the parties
to settle the case.
IT IS ORDERED that:
1. Defendants’ motion to compel discovery, Dkt. 56, is GRANTED. Plaintiffs Timothy
Louis Hermann and Karen Elaine Hermann may have until March 27, 2018, to file
responses to defendants’ discovery requests that comply with the Federal Rules of
2. Plaintiffs’ motion to strike defendants’ amended answer, Dkt. 65, is DENIED.
3. Plaintiffs’ motion for an order forcing the parties to settle the case, Dkt. 60, is
Entered March 6, 2018.
BY THE COURT:
JAMES D. PETERSON
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?