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Harper v. Port Authority of New York

July 10, 2006

WILLIAM HARPER, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK & NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald L. Ellis, United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, William Harper, Jr. ("Harper"), brings this action against defendant Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ("Port Authority"), under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, seeking compensatory and punitive damages for alleged civil rights violations. Pending before the Court is Harper's application for an order directing the Port Authority to produce outstanding discovery records. For the reasons which follow, Harper's request is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part.

II. BACKGROUND

Harper claims that the Port Authority and individual police officers are guilty of false arrest and malicious prosecution. He also claims, under Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978), that the Port Authority is guilty of negligent hiring, training and supervision of the police officers. Harper served the Port Authority with interrogatories and document requests on April 18, 2006. For each individual defendant, Harper requested: 1) the entire file from the police academy and other training programs (Harper's Document Request No. 13); 2) the disciplinary, medical, psychological, employment and personnel files, pre-employment investigation information, psychological test results, early intervention monitoring records, fitness for duty evaluations, use of force records, interviews, memoranda, and other documents contained in or made part of the personnel records or other files (Harper's Document Request No. 14); 3) the Civilian Complaint Review Board ("CCRB") history and the file for every complaint filed (Harper's Document Request No. 15); 4) every complaint of any sort made to the Port Authority (Harper's Document Request No. 16); 5) all documents concerning any suit filed concerning abuse of their lawful authority, false swearing, excessive force, assault, battery, false arrest, malicious prosecution, malicious abuse of process, or violation of any federal constitutional rights (Harper's Document Request No. 17); and 6) all documents concerning internal Port Authority disciplinary actions, letters in the personnel file, charges and specifications, warnings and admonishment (Harper's Document Request No. 18).

Pursuant to Rule 33(b)(3), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Port Authority's response was due on May 18, 2006. By letter, dated May 26, Harper apprised the Court of the Port Authority's failure to timely respond, and requested an order directing it to respond by June 2. The Port Authority served its answer on June 2, fifteen days after the May 18 deadline. On June 6, Harper asked the Court for an order directing the Port Authority to produce discovery records. On June 7, the Port Authority filed a supplemental submission, arguing that disclosure is not appropriate because 1) although state law is not , controlling in this case, as a matter of comity, the records are protected from disclosure under New York State Civil Rights Law ("N.Y.C.R.L.") § 50(a); 2) the records Harper seeks are private; 3) the production is onerous; and 4) the records are not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The Port Authority has failed to indicate how many records its discovery production would comprise, and why the production is allegedly onerous. It does not assert any privileges with respect to the requested records. Although Harper contends that the Port Authority has waived its objections to the document requests by failing to serve a timely response, the Court will address Harper's document requests on the merits. On June 20, the Court held a conference to resolve the pending motion.

III. DISCUSSION

A. The Legal Standards

The scope of discovery is generally limited to any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action or appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Rule 26(b), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. "Relevancy is broadly construed to encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case." Carey v. Berisford Metals Corp., 1991 WL 44843, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 1991) (quotations and citation omitted). "Discovery is of broader scope than admissibility, and discovery may be had of inadmissible matters." King v. Conde, 121 F.R.D. 180, 194 (E.D.N.Y. 1988). The Court has broad discretion in managing discovery. Wills v. Amerada Hess Corp., 379 F.3d 32, 41 (2d Cir. 2004); In re Fitch, Inc., 330 F.3d 104, 108 (2d Cir. 2003); Cruden v. Bank of New York, 957 F.2d 961, 972 (2d Cir. 1992).

B. Harper's Document Requests No. 13-18

1. Complaint Records

Harper seeks the individual defendants' complaint records. More specifically, Harper requests that the Port Authority disclose records concerning false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, false swearing, false testimony, excessive force, assault, battery, and the violation of other federal constitutional rights. The Port Authority argues that these records are protected from disclosure pursuant to N.Y.C.R.L. § 50(a), a state statute mandating confidentiality for personnel records of correctional officers, and that this provision should be applied to this case as a matter of comity. However, privileges set forth in New York State law do not govern discovery in federal cases. Melendez v. Greiner, 2003 WL 22434101, at *4-7 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 23, 2003). The Port Authority contends that discovery should be limited to records of complaints and charges for conduct similar to that alleged by Harper -- namely, false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. In addition to those records conceded by the Port Authority, records concerning allegations of false swearing and false testimony are relevant to this action, and may lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The Port Authority will therefore produce records in the conceded categories as well as false swearing and false testimony.

The Port Authority contends that unsubstantiated complaints and charges should be disclosed. It relies on Pacheco v. The City of New York, 234 F.R.D. 53 (E.D.N.Y. 2006), and Thompson v. The City of New York, 2006 WL 298702 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2006), in support of this contention. It's reliance on these cases is misplaced. In Pacheco, the court recognized that unsubstantiated records may be discoverable. "That the allegations may not have been substantiated . . . does not protect the records from discovery." Pacheco, 234 F.R.D. at 55. In Thompson, the court conducted an in camera inspection and determined that the contested records where privileged, or simply not relevant to the allegations in the complaint. The court noted, however, that "there may be cases where the production of unsubstantiated allegations filed with the CCRB . . . may be relevant to a complaint or lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." 2006 WL 298702 at *3. Neither Pacheco nor Thompson therefore stand for the proposition that unsubstantiated complaint records are protected from disclosure. Because Harper asserts claims based on Monell, the Port Authority's knowledge of, and response to, defendants' behavior and complaint history is relevant. Bradley v. The City of New York, 2005 WL 2508253, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 3, 2005); see also Vann v. The City of New York, 72 F.3d 1040, 1045 (2d Cir. 1995). Since the Court has broad discretion to manage ...


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