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Geller v. City of Baton Rouge

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 6, 2019

MAX GELLER
v.
CITY OF BATON ROUGE, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION TO COMPEL

          ERIN WILDER-DOOMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is a Motion to Compel Discovery Responses from Sheriff Sid. J. Gautreaux III and Motion for Award of Attorneys' Fees (the “Motion to Compel”)[1] filed by plaintiff, Max Geller (“Plaintiff”). Defendant, Sid. J. Gautreaux, III, Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish (“Sheriff Gautreaux”), has filed an Opposition.[2]

         For the reasons set forth herein, the Motion to Compel[3] is granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, Sheriff Gautreaux shall respond to Interrogatories 15 and 17, as well as revised Interrogatory 10 and revised Requests for Production 19 and 20 within ten (10) days of this Ruling and Order. Plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees is denied.

         I. Background

         This suit arises out of the July 5, 2016 shooting of Alton Sterling and the subsequent protests that occurred in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 8-10, 2016. Plaintiff alleges that while participating in a peaceful protest on July 10, 2016 near the intersection of East Boulevard and France Street, he was “brutally attacked and beaten, ”[4] “arrested on charges of simple obstruction of a highway of commerce, per La. R.S. 14:97 and resisting an officer, per La. R.S. 14:108, ”[5] and denied medical care. Plaintiff asserts claims pursuant to, inter alia, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983[6] and 1985(3), [7] and 1986.[8]

         The Court previously deferred ruling on Sheriff Gautreaux's defense of qualified immunity and allowed limited discovery regarding the identity of the officers involved in the alleged underlying constitutional violations.[9] During an August 7, 2019 status conference, Plaintiff sought to compel discovery targeted to Plaintiff's conspiracy claim.[10] The Court granted Plaintiff leave to propound written discovery “narrowly targeted to plaintiff's conspiracy claim; specifically, times, places, and other circumstances of agreements preceding the alleged violation of Mr. Geller's constitutional rights and the identification of officers actually physically involved in the alleged underlying constitutional violations.”[11]

         II. Law and Analysis A. The Motion to Compel is Granted as to Interrogatories 15 and 17; Interrogatories 1, 7, and 10, Requests for Production 19, 20, and 21 Are Not Within the Scope of Allowable Discovery at this Stage; Sheriff Gautreaux Shall Also Respond to Revised Interrogatory 10 and Revised Requests for Production 19 and 20.

         “Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.”[12] Here, the Court has limited discovery to narrow and specific issues.[13] Accordingly, while the scope of discovery is generally “construed broadly to encompass ‘any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matters that could bear on, any issue related to the claim or defense of any party, '”[14] Plaintiff's instant Motion to Compel must be considered in light of this Court's previous grant of leave to propound written discovery “narrowly targeted to plaintiff's conspiracy claim; specifically, times, places, and other circumstances of agreements preceding the alleged violation of Mr. Geller's constitutional rights and the identification of officers actually physically involved in the alleged underlying constitutional violations.”[15]

         Plaintiff seeks to compel responses to five interrogatories and three requests for production. Sheriff Gautreaux has objected to each of these discovery requests “as beyond the scope of limited discovery ordered by this Court.”[16] The disputed discovery requests are as follows:

Interrogatory No. 1:
Describe Sheriff Gautreaux and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office's duties and responsibilities in coordinating or participating in other law enforcement agency response to the Baton Rouge Protests under the East Baton Rouge Parish's Emergency Operations Plan.
Interrogatory No. 7:
Describe how other law enforcement agencies or officers coordinated their response to the Baton Rouge Protests with Sheriff Gautreaux or the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office.
Interrogatory No. 10:
For the time period between noon on July 9, 2016 through 2 a.m. on July 10, 2016, identify and describe any communications (whether in person, on radio transmission, e-mail, text message or other form of communication) between Sheriff Gautreaux and any official, officer or supervisor of the Louisiana State Police, City of Baton Rouge, the Parish of East Baton Rouge, or the Baton Rouge Police Department, including but not limited to then-Colonel Edmonson, then-Mayor/President Holden and then-BRPD Chief Dabadie, about or concerning threatened, potential or actual protests at the intersection of East and France or other Baton Rouge Protests.
Interrogatory No. 15:
Please identify any and all commands, orders, instructions, briefings or directions given by Sheriff Gautreaux or by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office directing other law enforcement officers to charge Max Geller with violating La. R.S. 14:97 and La. R.S. 14:108 and identify any and all documents or communications related to the commands, orders, instructions, or directions.
Interrogatory No. 17:
Who gave the order to prepare any pre-printed Affidavits of Probable Cause and who ...

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