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Callahan v. Unified Government of Wyandotte County

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

April 29, 2013

PATRICK CALLAHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE UNIFIED GOVERNMENT OF WYANDOTTE COUNTY/KANSAS CITY KANSAS, et al., Defendants,

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

KAREN M. HUMPHREYS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court on defendants' motions to compel. (Doc. 192, 193, & 204). The rulings are set forth below.

Background

The genesis of this lawsuit is the arrest and detention of certain police officers employed by the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department ("KCKPD"). Highly summarized, on January 4, 2011, Officer Callahan was part of a ten-person SCORE team assigned to search a residence located in Kansas City, Kansas.[2] The search was part of a sting operation to determine whether any members of the SCORE team would steal items that had been planted in the residence. All ten members of the team entered the residence to clear it of occupants and, within minutes, it was determined that no one was in the residence. Callahan then stepped outside the house and took an assigned position covering the front entrance for the remainder of the search. Callahan alleges that defendants and/or the FBI conducted video surveillance of the residence and were aware that he had not taken anything from the house during the operation.

Following the search, Callahan and the other team members were ordered to board their tactical van and told that they were going to another location to conduct a second search. When team members got in the van they discovered that Sergeant Cross was in the driver's seat and Sergeant Sims was in the passenger seat.[3] Instead of proceeding to the second search location, Cross drove the van to the police headquarters parking garage where the SCORE team members were arrested at gunpoint, searched, and detained. Callahan alleges that nothing illegal, improper, stolen, or in violation of KCKPD was found on him or under his control and that the arrest was without probable cause. He also alleges that the illegal arrest and detention continued until he was released at 2:00 a.m. on January 5, 2011. Officer Callahan and the consolidated plaintiffs assert various federal civil rights violations and state law claims related to the sting operation and their unlawful arrest.

Defendants' Motion to Compel (Doc. 192)

Defendants move to compel plaintiffs Gambrill, Gardner, Hoang, and Mills to provided more complete answers to approximately 40 interrogatories.[4] Plaintiffs oppose the motion, arguing that their objections are proper and that they have otherwise sufficiently answered the interrogatories. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion to compel (Doc. 192) shall be DENIED.

Defendants argue that their discovery requests are relevant because: "[r]elevancy is broadly construed at the discovery stage of the litigation and a request for discovery should be considered relevant if there is any possibility that the information sought may be relevant to the subject matter of the action. " Citing Smith v. MCI Telecommunications Corp. , 137 F.R.D. 25, 27 (D. Kan. 1991)(emphasis added). Smith accurately stated the standard for "relevance" under the federal rules of civil procedure in 1991; however, the scope of discovery under FRCP 26(b)(1) was substantially amended in 2000 and is limited to the parties' "claims and defenses." Defendants' reliance on a discovery standard and related case law that was abrogated 13 years ago by amendments to the federal rules of civil procedure is misguided and improper.

Defendants also cite two cases from the early 70's and one case from 1985 concerning FRCP 33(c) and the identification of documents when answering an interrogatory. Again, FRCP 33 has been amended and the current version of FRCP 33(c) does not address the identification of documents when answering an interrogatory.[5]

More importantly, defendants' motion to compel is woefully inadequate. Stripped of prolixity, the discovery motion before the court concerns the sufficiency of plaintiffs' answers to a number of interrogatories. Defendants contend that plaintiffs should provide more information in their answers and plaintiffs assert that they have sufficiently answered the interrogatories. When presented with such an issue, the court begins its analysis with a review of the information requested in an interrogatory by the movant and the answer provided by the respondent.

The problem in this instance is that defendants seek to compel answers to multiple interrogatories served by different defendants on different plaintiffs and then directs the court to two exhibits containing over 600 pages of interrogatories and answers. The following excerpt from defendants' brief illustrates the confusing structure of defendants' motion:

Defendants Brown and Nicholson's Interrogatory Nos. 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 (all Plaintiffs); Lawson's Interrogatory Nos. 1, 5, 9, 10, 11 (all Plaintiffs), No. 6 and 8 (Plaintiffs Gardner, Hoang and Mills only); Steele's Interrogatory Nos. 1, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11 (all Plaintiffs) and No. 9 (Plaintiffs Gambrill and Mills only); York and Ziegler's Interrogatory Nos. 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 (all Plaintiffs) and No. 7 (Plaintiff Mills only); Unified Government Nos. 7-13 and 20 and Armstrong's Interrogatory Nos. 1, 7, 9-13
Plaintiffs supplemented their answers to Defendants Brown and Nicholson's Interrogatory Nos. 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11; Lawson's Interrogatory Nos. 1, 5, 9, 10, 11, (all Plaintiffs) and Nos. 6 and 8 (Plaintiffs' Gardner, Hoang and Mills only); Steele's Interrogatory Nos. 1, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11 (all Plaintiffs) and No. 9 (Plaintiffs Gambrill and Mills); York and Ziegler's Interrogatory Nos. 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 (all Plaintiffs') and No. 7 (Plaintiff Mills only); Unified Government Nos. 7-13 and 20; and Armstrong's Interrogatory Nos. 1, 7, 9-13, subject to their blanket objections previously raised in their original answers objecting on the basis that these interrogatories were "overly broad and unduly burdensome" as Plaintiffs claimed it required them to "summarize in narrative form information contained in twenty depositions taken in this case and information from more than 30, 000 documents produced by Defendants." Exhibit 5 and 6. Plaintiffs supplemented their answers to these interrogatories "[w]ithout waiving this objection." Exhibit 6.

Defendants' Motion, Doc. 192, p. 7 (emphasis in original). Defendants followed this recitation of interrogatories with a single paragraph of five sentences asserting that plaintiffs' objections were not properly supported and that the court should compel additional responses without objection.[6] Plaintiffs counter with similar conclusory arguments that the interrogatories were overly broad on their face and that plaintiffs' ...


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