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Monroe v. City of Lawrence

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

December 20, 2013

MICHAEL MONROE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF LAWRENCE, KANSAS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DAVID J. WAXSE, Magistrate Judge.

The Court has before it Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (ECF No. 41). Plaintiff Michael Monroe moves for an order compelling Defendant, City of Lawrence, Kansas ("the City"), to produce "(c)opies of the 360 degree evaluations' that were done within the LPD at the end of 2012, including without limitation the actual evaluation and any documents relating or referring to the evaluations." Monroe also moves for an award of his reasonable expenses incurred in making the Motion, including attorney's fees. The City filed a Memorandum in Opposition (ECF No. 58), reasserting its objections that the request at issue is vague, ambiguous, overly broad, and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The City also requests an award of its reasonable expenses incurred in opposing the Motion, including attorney's fees. For the following reasons, the Court concludes that the Motion to Compel should be granted.

I. Nature of the Matter before the Court

Monroe asserts claims against the City for denial of due process and race discrimination arising from his termination from employment with the City's Police Department ("LPD"). Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 34, Monroe served his First Request for Production of Documents to the City on May 1, 2013, including Request 6 for "(c)opies of the 360 degree evaluations' that were done within the LPD at the end of 2012, including without limitation the actual evaluation and any documents relating or referring to the evaluations."[1] The City served its Objections to Plaintiff's First Requests for Production of Documents to Monroe on June 5, 2013, objecting to Request 6 as follows:

This particular request is vague, ambiguous, overly broad, seeks documents protected by the attorney client and/or attorney work product privileges, does not specify the documents sought with reasonable particularity to the extent the request asks for "any documents relating or referring to the evaluations, " and is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.[2]

The City served Amended Objections and Responses to Plaintiff's First Requests for Production of Documents to Monroe on or about June 28, 2013, but it does not appear that the City amended or supplemented its original objection to Request 6 therein.[3]

Thereafter, the parties exchanged letters, emails, and telephone conversations in an attempt to resolve the dispute over Request 6.[4] Monroe sent a golden rule letter to the City on July 9, 2013 addressing the City's objections to Request 6.[5] The City responded to the golden rule letter on July 24, 2013, restating that Request 6 is "vague, overbroad, ambiguous and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence."[6] The City also stated that the 360 degree evaluations ("evaluations") "asked LPD officers to assign numerical ratings to their supervisors on a few discrete topics" which did not address race discrimination, were not performed until after Monroe was terminated, and are inadmissible as "hearsay comprised of information that is itself derived from hearsay statements of anonymous declarants."[7] In an email sent by the City to Monroe on July 26, 2013, the City stated further that the 360 degree evaluations' "are a summary and/or tabulation of various anonymous surveys completed by individual City employees about all the supervisors at LPD, " are "layered with hearsay, " and that the "broad scope of discovery does not permit discovery regarding anonymous employees' opinions about their supervisors."[8] Monroe filed the instant Motion to Compel on August 26, 2013. To date, the City has produced no documents responsive to Request 6.

II. Analysis

A. The City's Objection that Request 6 is Not Reasonably Calculated to Lead to the Discovery of Admissable Evidence

The City objected to Request 6 as not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence in its original objections. It restated this objection in its response to Monroe's golden rule letter, specifying that the evaluations "asked LPD officers to assign numerical ratings to their supervisors on a few discrete topics" which did not address race discrimination, were not performed until after Monroe was terminated, and are "hearsay comprised of information that is itself derived from hearsay statements of anonymous declarants" which is inadmissible.[9]

Monroe argues that the evaluations fall within an acceptable temporal scope relative to his dismissal and may contain exculpatory evidence. Monroe also argues that the City waived its hearsay objection by not raising it in its original objections. In its response, the City asserts that Monroe has not explained how Request 6 is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The City also states that its hearsay objection was not a new objection, but rather a clarification of the specific basis for its previous objections.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides that a party "may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." "Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence."[10] Relevancy is broadly construed, and a request for discovery should be considered relevant if there is "any possibility" that the information sought may be relevant to the claim or defense of any party.[11] Consequently, a request for discovery should be allowed "unless it is clear that the information sought can have no possible bearing" on the claim or defense of a party.[12]

When the discovery sought appears relevant on its face, the party resisting the discovery has the burden to establish that the requested discovery does not come within the scope of relevance as defined under Rule 26(b)(1), or is of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.[13] Conversely, when the relevancy of the discovery request is not readily apparent on its face, the party seeking the discovery has the burden to show the relevancy of the request.[14]

The Court finds that the relevance of the evaluations and related documents to Monroe's discrimination claims is not apparent on the face of the Request 6. As a result, Monroe has the burden of showing how the request is ...


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