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Dotson v. Edmonson

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 13, 2017


         SECTION: “E” (1)



          Janis van Meerveld United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is the Motion to Compel the Louisiana State Police (“LSP”) to produce subpoenaed documents. (Rec. Doc. 36). For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED in part. Within 14 days, the LSP shall perform and complete a search for any recordings of communications on the evening of October 7, 2015, related to the “Jackson Square” arrest referred to in the Plaintiffs' motion. As to all other documents and information, the Motion to Compel is DENIED.


         As previously discussed by this Court in earlier discovery rulings, this lawsuit arises out of the purportedly wrongful arrest of plaintiff Lyle Dotson by certain LSP officers in the French Quarter in New Orleans on October 7, 2015. Plaintiffs assert that LSP officers were patrolling the French Quarter pursuant to a contract with the City of New Orleans. At the time, Lyle was eighteen years old and alleges that he was visiting New Orleans with his father, plaintiff Olon Dotson, a professor of architecture at Ball State University and a group of Professor Dotson's architecture students. The group was touring the French Quarter and sometime after 8:00 p.m., they arrived at the St. Peter's Street entrance of Pat O Brien's where they planned to walk through the courtyard and building. Lyle was not permitted to enter the bar because he was under-aged. Apparently his group arranged for him to meet them at the back entrance of Pat O'Brien's on Bourbon Street after they walked through. According the Complaint, Lyle became lost and ended up at the intersection of Bourbon Street and Toulouse Street.

         Professor Dotson called Lyle on his cell phone when the group discovered Lyle was not at the Bourbon Street entrance of Pat O'Brien's after the walk-through. According to the Plaintiffs, while they were talking, three LSP troopers, defendants Huey McCartney, Calvin Anderson, and Tagee Journee, “came upon Lyle very aggressively, without warning, and without announcing themselves.” Lyle alleges that McCartney demanded to know who he had been speaking with and Anderson and Journee restricted his movement. Lyle alleges that the officers refused to identify themselves, pushed him against a building and searched him three or four times. Lyle alleges that the officers told him that a fourth officer, Rene Bodet, had been working undercover in the French Quarter, and had been following someone and that Lyle had been “pointed out” as the individual that had been following Bodet “for an extended period of time.” Plaintiffs submit that Bodet directed McCartney, Anderson, and Journee to Lyle based on his race. They insist that the only similarities between the person Bodet had been following and Lyle was that they were both wearing red bottoms (Lyle in pants and the other individual in shorts), black shirts (with different colored logos), and that they were African-American men.

         Plaintiffs allege that Lyle explained to McCartney, Anderson, and Journee that he could not have been the individual followed by Bodet because he just arrived in the French Quarter. They allege that McCartney used his personal cell phone to take pictures of Lyle. Plaintiffs believe they did so to send the photographs to Bodet. Apparently Lyle resisted having his photo taken, and plaintiffs allege that Lyle raised his knee to block his face from the camera and the officers told him that they would say he kicked them if he did not allow the photo to be taken. The officers arrested Lyle and took him to jail. Lyle was released from jail at 1:38 a.m. on October 9, 2017, after Professor Dotson posted bond. Lyle's name appeared on a news website suggesting he had been arrested for drug activity, and Plaintiffs allege this posting still appears if Lyle's name is searched on the Internet. Lyle alleges that he abandoned an application to Tuskegee University because he felt such discomfort in answering questions about prior arrests and convictions. Eventually, after incurring “substantial lawyer's fees, ” the charges against Lyle were dismissed and expunged from his record.

         Lyle and Professor Dotson filed this lawsuit on October 7, 2016, against officers McCartney, Anderson, Journee, Bodet, alleging that these officers violated Lyle's constitutional rights when they stopped, detained, and arrested him. Plaintiffs assert that defendants McCartney, Anderson, Journee, and Bodet were under Archote's direct command, and that Edmonson served as Superintendent of the LSP during the relevant period. Plaintiffs also sued Edmonson and Archote, alleging that they failed to supervise their subordinates McCartney, Anderson, Journee, and Bodet to ensure that they did not violate individuals' constitutional rights. Plaintiffs also allege that Edmonson and Archote are responsible for establishing and maintaining policies, customs, usages, practices, and procedures that they knew would deprives members of the public, including Lyle, of their constitutional rights. Plaintiffs also raise tort claims against all defendants.

         Discovery Issues

         For some time now the Plaintiffs have been attempting to obtain documents from the LSP. Initially, they did so by serving discovery requests on the individual defendants.[1] Eventually, they issued a subpoena to the LSP. They received the LSP's objections on September 15, 2017. They received selected documents on September 21, 2017. On September 26, 2017, this Court conducted a telephone conference with the parties regarding a previous motion to compel the Defendants to produce certain LSP documents. At that time, Plaintiffs were not prepared to discuss whether the documents they had received from LSP on September 21, 2017, were satisfactory. Ten days later, on October 6, 2017, they filed the present Motion to Compel LSP to produce certain documents and materials. They asked the Court to expedite the Motion, and the Court agreed to do so.

         The present Motion to Compel seeks production of all LSP Policies and Procedures. Plaintiffs acknowledge that LSP has turned over 43 policies, which appear to include all of the policies that the Plaintiffs prioritized as most important to receive. Plaintiffs also seek production of an unredacted copy of two polices (included in the 43): the Critical Incident Response and Special Task Planning policy and the Pursuit/Roadblock policy. The Plaintiffs further seek audio records of radio calls for October 7, 2015, radio logs for that date, and procedures regarding use of cell phones. Finally, the Plaintiffs seek a desk log showing duty, post or detail assignments on the evening of October 7, 2015.

         In granting the Motion to expedite, the Court also ordered that as to the additional policies sought by the Plaintiffs, the Motion to Compel was denied. The Court concluded that Plaintiffs had not shown sufficient relevance and need for those additional policies and that the production of additional policies would not be compelled unless specific need for a specific policy is articulated, based on more than a desire to demonstrate “LSP culture.” The Court also ordered the LSP to respond to several questions regarding its search for documents. The LSP has now responded.

         Law ...

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