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Handy v. Fisher

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 14, 2019



          S. Kato Crews U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         This order address pro se Plaintiffs Wyatt and Ashlee Handy's Second Motion to Compel Discovery (“Motion”) [#76].[1] The Motion was referred to this Court. The Court has considered the Motion, Defendants' response [#79], and Plaintiffs' reply [#82].[2] No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion.


         The Court summarizes the facts using Judge Jackson's description from his prior order [#47]: Plaintiffs were driving along Highway 285 to visit a friend in Conifer, Colorado in the early morning of April 14, 2016 when the alleged incident occurred. Three people were in the vehicle: Mrs. Handy, who is white, was driving; Mr. Handy, who is black, was the front seat passenger; and an unidentified white female passenger sat in the backseat behind Mrs. Handy. At approximately 12:43 a.m. Plaintiffs stopped in the parking lot of the 24-hour Kum and Go convenience store in Conifer to reprogram their GPS navigational unit. As Plaintiffs pulled into the Kum and Go located off Highway 285, they noticed Deputy Fisher's (“Fisher”) patrol vehicle parked in the convenience store's parking lot. Mr. Handy alleges that he made eye contact with Fisher as Plaintiffs' vehicle pulled into the Kum and Go parking lot.

         Within one minute of parking, Plaintiffs allege that Fisher repositioned her patrol car behind Plaintiffs' vehicle and activated her emergency lights. Because Plaintiffs' car faced the Kum and Go building, Plaintiffs were boxed in and unable to move their car. Apparently, Fisher radioed for backup because within “seconds, ” several additional officers arrived. Deputy Johnson (“Johnson”) was one of those officers. With backup in place and their weapons drawn, Fisher approached the driver's side of the vehicle and Johnson approached the passenger's side. Fisher asked Mrs. Handy for her license, insurance, and registration. Mrs. Handy complied with the request, and then she explained that she pulled over to reprogram her GPS. Fisher then asked Mr. Handy for his identification “in a hostile manner.” Mr. Handy initially refused to produce identification, but he eventually complied after Defendants made clear that he would be arrested if he did not produce identification. Defendants did not request identification from the backseat passenger. Defendants released Plaintiffs after verifying there were no outstanding warrants pending against them.

         Plaintiffs brought this action alleging two 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against Defendants. First, Plaintiffs alleged an unlawful seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Second, they asserted that Defendants racially profiled Mr. Handy in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court dismissed Plaintiffs' Equal Protection Clause claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and dismissed all official capacity claims. [#47.] Only Plaintiffs' claim for unlawful seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment remains against the Defendants in their individual capacities.

         B. ANALYSIS

         The written discovery requests at issue include: Interrogatory Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 14, to Fisher; and Requests for Production of Documents 15, 16, and 23, to Fisher and Johnson. They are addressed, in turn, below.

         1. Legal Standards

         The scope of discovery in federal court is broad:

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.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) (emphasis added). Rule 26 permits discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense, while the proportional needs of the case serve as guardrails for further reasonably tailoring the scope of discovery. Id. The Court may limit the scope of discovery to protect a party from undue burden or expense. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1).

         Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[a] party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling . . . production” if the other party fails to produce requested information. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B). The moving party bears the burden of proof. EchoStar Commc'ns. Corp. v. News Corp., 180 F.R.D. 391, 394 (D. Colo. 1998). The moving party must prove the opposing party's responses are incomplete. Daiflon Inc. v. Allied Chem. Corp., 534 F.2d 221, 227 (10th Cir. 1976); Equal Rights Ctr. v. Post Props., 246 F.R.D. 29, 32 (D.D.C. 2007). Additionally, when the relevance of a discovery request is not apparent on the face of the request, the proponent of that discovery bears the burden of making an initial showing of relevance. See Thompson v. Jiffy Lube Int'l, Inc., No. 05-1203-WEB, 2007 WL 608343, at *8 n.20 (D. Kan. Feb. 22, 2007).

         2. Interrogatory Nos. 2 and 3

         These interrogatories ask Fisher to:

• No. 2: Please explain where and how Plaintiffs' car was positioned when it was parked.
• No. 3: Please explain where and how your car was positioned when you pulled up to stop Plaintiffs' car.

         Fisher raised objections to these interrogatories and then answered them “subject to and without waiving” her objections. In response to No. 2, she answered: “When I saw Plaintiffs' vehicle it was parked nose-in facing the empty building at 30403 Kings Valley Drive, in Conifer, Colorado. Plaintiffs' vehicle was on the north side of Kum and Go, closest to Kings Valley Drive, in a spot towards the end of the parking row.” [#76-2 at p.3.] In response to No. 3, she answered:

Plaintiffs' vehicle was already parked when I contacted them, so I did not stop them or pull them over. I parked my Sheriff's Office vehicle at an angle towards the back passenger-side bumper so that Plaintiffs' vehicle was closer to Kings Valley Drive than my vehicle. I was trying to shine my vehicle's bright lights into Plaintiffs' ...

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