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RUTHER v. BOYLE

January 30, 1995

JOAN RUTHER, Plaintiff, against ROBERT BOYLE, individually and as a police officer of the Greenport Village Police Dept.; Detective Sergeant SHOTT, individually and as a Detective of the Greenport Village Police Dept.; and the VILLAGE OF GREENPORT, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARTHUR D. SPATT

 The plaintiff Joan Ruther ("Ruther") moves for an order compelling the District Attorney of Suffolk County ("District Attorney") to produce to the Court, for in camera inspection, documents in the District Attorney's possession related to (1) the District Attorney's investigation into the plaintiff's arrest, and (2) the District Attorney's investigation into alleged abuses by the Village police. The plaintiff wants the documents to be made available for discovery and inspection by her, subject to any appropriate protective order. The defendants and the District Attorney's office oppose the motion.

 BACKGROUND AND COMPLAINT

 The plaintiff has brought an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging an unlawful arrest and use of excessive force by the defendant officers. Ruther also alleges a claim under Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S. Ct. 2018, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1978) against the Village of Greenport ("Village" or "Greenport"), on the ground that the officers' actions were part of an institutionalized practice of the Village police, which the Village condoned.

 On the morning of May 14, 1993 the plaintiff alleges she was picketing approximately 90 feet away from the Village Court in Greenport. The picketing allegedly stemmed from difficulties Ruther's daughter had been encountering as a result of terminating an intimate relationship with a Village Police Officer, Eric Heins.

 According to Ruther, while she was picketing the defendant officer Robert Boyle ("Boyle") approached her, attempted to grab the sign she was carrying, and declared that she was under arrest. Boyle allegedly ordered Ruther to accompany him to the courthouse. Ruther further alleges that the defendant Sergeant Shott ("Shott") then appeared on the scene, grabbed her picket sign and ripped it apart.

 According to Ruther, as Shott ripped her sign Boyle grabbed her, threw her on the hood of a nearby car and handcuffed her behind her back. Because of the force used by Boyle, the plaintiff alleges her feet were elevated off the ground and her chest and face struck the hood. Ruther alleges that she was detained for approximately 90 minutes in the courthouse, as the defendants unsuccessfully searched for an offense with which to charge her.

 As a result of the police officer's actions, Ruther alleges that she sustained physical injuries to, among other places, her lower back, neck, and head. The plaintiff contends that she was arrested without probable cause, that Boyle and Shott used excessive force against her, and that the officer's actions were calculated to deprive her of her right to exercise free speech.

 Ruther also alleges in her complaint that the officer's misconduct was part of an institutionalized practice of the Village police, which was tolerated and approved of by the Village. According to Ruther, despite knowing of the officers' misconduct the Village failed to take any effective action to prevent Boyle and Shott, and other officers, from engaging in such acts of misconduct. In support of this allegation, Ruther claims that the Village failed (1) to properly discipline and control Boyle and Shott and other officers known for dealing irresponsibly with citizens, (2) to take adequate precautions in hiring and training officers, (3) to forward evidence of criminal conduct by Village police officers to the District Attorney's office, and (4) to establish a bona fide system for dealing with complaints of police misconduct. Ruther also claims that the Village established a bogus investigation apparatus for investigating police misconduct, which was calculated to deceive the public and allow the police to continue their misconduct.

 The plaintiff contends that the defendants' conduct violated her rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, including her rights to equal protection, procedural and substantive due process. Ruther demands compensatory and punitive damages.

 PRESENT MOTION

 The plaintiff moves pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 and Fed. R. Civ. P. 34 for an order compelling the District Attorney's office to produce to the Court, for in camera inspection, "all documents" in the possession of the District Attorney's office related to its investigation of the incidents surrounding the plaintiff's May 14, 1993 arrest and detention, as well as its investigation of the Greenport Police Department.

 The plaintiff contends that the District Attorney's office has been investigating the Greenport Police Department with respect to the type of institutional misconduct alleged in the complaint. Indeed, the plaintiff contends that in October, 1994 a report resulting from a Grand Jury investigation of the Greenport Police Department was released in its entirety by the District Attorney's office. According to Ruther, the report refers to, among other officers, the defendant Shott and Officer Heins, the officer plaintiff's daughter had a relationship with. Ruther contends that the issue of the Village's condonation of the defendant officers' misconduct is of "central importance" to this case, and that the District Attorney's investigation files on the Greenport Police Department must be discovered and inspected because they contain material relevant to her Monell claim against the Village.

 The plaintiff agrees that upon an in camera review of these documents by the Court, irrelevant or sensitive material may be redacted, and any material information disclosed to the plaintiff can be subject to an appropriate protective order.


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