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Bridgeforth v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 22, 2017

Jasmine Bridgeforth et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
The City of New York et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          STEWART D. AARON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs, Jasmine Bridgeforth, Delano Broadus and David Fairfax (“Plaintiffs”), move to compel production of nine Internal Affairs Bureau (“IAB”) files and to re-open discovery so that they may take a deposition of Defendant City of New York (the “City”), pursuant to Rule 30(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, regarding certain topics related to those files. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Letter-Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs bring this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988, and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, alleging false arrest, fabrication of evidence and failure to intervene against a group of individual members of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”). See Am. Compl., filed Apr. 29, 2016 (ECF No. 18), ¶¶ 1, 59-81. Plaintiffs also bring a claim against the City under Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978), alleging, among other things, that it failed to properly train and supervise its employees. Id. at ¶¶ 76-81; Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91 (to hold a municipality liable as a “person” under § 1983, plaintiffs must show that a policy or practice of that entity caused the deprivation of their federal rights); see also Brown v. City of Oneonta, New York, 235 F.3d 769, 790 (2d Cir. 2000) (Section 1983 claims against municipal entities, must show that the entity's “policy or custom ... played a part in the violation of federal law”) (internal quotations omitted).

         During discovery, in pursuit of their Monell claim, Plaintiffs sought production of IAB and other disciplinary files from Defendants. Specifically, in March 2017, Plaintiffs requested nine IAB files regarding two of the individual defendants. Defs.' Resp. to Pls.' Letter Mot. Ex. A, filed Dec. 19, 2017 (ECF No. 74). On June 22, 2017, Plaintiffs were permitted to inspect the “summary reports” associated with these files at the Office of Corporation Counsel. Defs.' Resp. to Pls.' Letter Mot., filed Dec. 19, 2017 (ECF No. 74), at 2.[1] Plaintiffs determined that the summary reports were insufficient because they were abbreviated and “communicated almost nothing about the nature or disposition of underlying matters.” Pls.' Letter Mot. to Compel, filed June 30, 2017 (ECF No. 57), at 4. On June 30, 2017, Plaintiffs moved to compel the production of the files “in toto.” Id. Following two discovery conferences before District Judge Pauley, Defendants were ordered on October 20, 2017 to produce the individual Defendants' disciplinary files. Order (ECF No. 65). On December 1, 2017, Defendants produced what amounted to 27 pages of documents. Defs.' Resp. to Pls.' Letter Mot., filed Dec. 19, 2017 (ECF No. 74), at 2.

         Plaintiffs' filed the current Letter-Motion on December 14, 2017. Plaintiffs seek compliance with the Court's October 20, 2017 Order and also seek a deposition of the City, pursuant to Rule 30(b)(6), regarding the acronyms and abbreviations contained in the files, departmental complaint-recording practices and departmental investigative and record-retention practices. Pls.' Letter Mot., filed December 14, 2017 (ECF No. 70), at 1, 3. The Letter- Motion was referred to Magistrate Judge Aaron on December 15, 2017, and oral argument was held on December 21, 2017. On December 22, 2017, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and accompanying papers. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. (ECF Nos. 76-83). Plaintiffs' response to Defendants' motion is due by January 31, 2018. Order (ECF No. 71).

         DISCUSSION

         I. IAB Files

         Plaintiffs are skeptical that the 27 pages produced by Defendants represent the entirety of the nine IAB files and contend that more documents must exist based on the information contained in the summary reports. Plaintiffs argue that such discovery is relevant to their Monell claim. In response, Defendants maintain that no additional documents exist. Defs.' Resp. to Pls.' Letter Mot., filed Dec. 19, 2017 (ECF No. 74), at 2 (“upon information and belief, there are no additional records to be produced”) (emphasis in the original). Yet, during oral argument, Defendants' counsel stated that a “second request” had been made for one of the files and Defendants will produce further documents, if they are located.[2]

         In the circumstances presented, it seems plausible that additional documents comprising the IAB files exist or at one time existed. Thus, this Court hereby orders that Defendants shall conduct a diligent search for the nine IAB files at issue-including without limitation by consulting with knowledgeable individuals in the NYPD and any other relevant City agencies, and by searching all sources where such documents likely would be located-and produce all documents located as a result of such search. Given the impending deadline for Plaintiffs to respond to Defendants' summary judgment motion, such production shall be made no later than January 15, 2018.

         II. 30(b)(6) Deposition

         Plaintiffs also seek by their motion to take a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of the City with respect to the acronyms and abbreviations contained in the files, departmental complaint-recording practices, and departmental investigative and record-retention practices. Defendants argue that such discovery is “irrelevant, disproportional to the needs of this case, and untimely.” Defs.' Resp. to Pls.' Letter Mot., filed Dec. 19, 2017 (ECF No. 74), at 3. As an alternative, Defendants offered to furnish an affidavit concerning the efforts to locate the IAB files. Id. During oral argument, Defendants also agreed to consider producing a glossary of terms used in the IAB reports to aid Plaintiffs in their review of those documents.

         Where, as here, a party is seeking to re-open discovery, the party bears the burden of showing good cause. See Bakalar v. Vavra, 851 F.Supp.2d 489, 493 (S.D.N.Y. 2011). Courts also consider (1) whether trial is imminent, (2) whether the request is opposed, (3) whether the non-moving party would be prejudiced, (4) whether the moving party was diligent in obtaining discovery within the guidelines established by the court, (5) the foreseeability of the need for additional discovery in light of the time allowed for discovery by the district court, and (6) the likelihood that the discovery will lead to relevant evidence. Id. at 493.

         Given the pendency of Defendants' summary judgment motion, the Court finds the sixth factor to be the most significant. Under these circumstances, the Court will consider whether the requested deposition will lead to discovery of evidence relevant to the summary judgment motion. If the requested Rule 30(b)(6) deposition is not relevant to Defendants' summary judgment motion, and ...


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