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Huertas v. City of Camden

November 6, 2008

HECTOR L. HUERTAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CAMDEN, CITY OF CAMDEN POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER WARREN BROWN, AND JUAN C. ANDINO DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Noel L. Hillman, U.S.D.J.

OPINION

HILLMAN, District Judge

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's appeal of the Order entered by the Honorable Ann Marie Donio, U.S.M.J., dismissing in part and denying in part Plaintiff's motions to compel and for sanctions. Plaintiff's motions requested the Court to compel Defendant City of Camden to answer Plaintiff's interrogatory #7 and to impose sanctions. Judge Donio dismissed this motion as moot and denied sanctions. Plaintiff also moved for sanctions and requested the Court to compel defense counsel and the court stenographer to abide by Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(e), to preclude the continuation of his deposition, and to impose sanctions. Judge Donio dismissed Plaintiff's motion to compel, denied Plaintiff's motion to preclude the continuation of his deposition, and denied sanctions.

For the reasons expressed below, Magistrate Judge Donio's Order will be affirmed.

I. BACKGROUND

On September 28, 2006, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants City of Camden, City of Camden Police Department, Officer Warren Brown, and Juan C. Andino seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 65. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants prevented him from engaging in lawful activities and visiting his terminally ill mother without establishing probable cause of wrongdoing.

More specifically, plaintiff alleges that on September 16, 2006, Defendant Andino arrived at Plaintiff's residence and demanded that Plaintiff drop simple assault charges then pending against him, and, in exchange, Andino would allow Plaintiff to visit Plaintiff's mother who resided in the same residence as Andino. Plaintiff claims that later on in the day, he arrived at this residence to visit with his terminally ill mother. Plaintiff further alleges that although Plaintiff's half brother, Miguel A. Cruz, and his father, Juan M. Cruz, Sr., own the residence, Andino contacted the police during the visit. While Plaintiff was outside the residence, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Brown beckoned to Plaintiff, told him that "there have been too many calls here," and told him to leave the area. Plaintiff allegedly requested a police report from Brown who allegedly responded by providing his name and badge number. Plaintiff claims he later called a police emergency number and informed the dispatcher about the interaction.

With regard to the first motion at issue in this appeal, Plaintiff requested the court to compel the City of Camden to respond to Plaintiff's interrogatory #7 and for sanctions.*fn1 Plaintiff contends that on October 29, 2007, he served the City of Camden with interrogatories and subsequently received their responses on February 13, 2008. The Plaintiff took issue with the response to Interrogatory #7 which inquired into the identities of all police officers present during the September 2006 incident described in Plaintiff's Complaint. The City of Camden's response identified only Defendant Brown as an officer involved in the incident, and stated that they were "unable to determine at this time, whether any other Camden police officers were present at the time of Officer Brown's encounter with Mr. Huertas."

On February 13, 2008, Plaintiff sent to counsel for the City of Camden an "objection" to this answer, noting that "the City of Camden's answer to interrogatory No. 7 is woefully inadequate." Plaintiff further stated in his "objection" that "the City did not specify if anyone checked the police logs [for the day of the incident], to identify any other officer who could have been there that day with Officer Brown." According to the Opinion below, counsel for the City then told Plaintiff that he would "request a further search of police records" and advised Plaintiff that counsel would provide the information to Plaintiff once it was obtained. Despite these apparently good faith efforts and assurances, on February 27, 2008, Plaintiff filed the motion to compel. Subsequently, the City of Camden provided the Plaintiff a supplemental interrogatory response with the identity of a second officer present during the incident.*fn2

The second aspect of this appeal concerns a second motion to compel and for sanctions filed by the Plaintiff on April 9, 2008.*fn3 In this motion, Plaintiff had requested the Court to compel defense counsel and the court stenographer to comply with Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(e).*fn4 On March 17, 2008, defense counsel deposed Plaintiff with both parties allegedly agreeing to complete the deposition in thirty days. Plaintiff claimed he reiterated throughout the deposition his right to review the deposition transcript and make any changes necessary before signing it. Plaintiff contended that defense counsel "persisted in his bad faith not to instruct his deposition officer to properly identify herself and properly provide her business address on the record before beginning the deposition as mandated by Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(4)(A) and [(]B)." Plaintiff further claimed that during a discovery conference on April 8, 2008, defense counsel implored him to review and sign his copy of the deposition transcript at that time. Plaintiff says he declined to do so arguing that the rule allowed him thirty days to review a deposition transcript and sign it. In his motion before the magistrate judge, Plaintiff requested the Court to terminate the deposition, and have a copy of his deposition transcript mailed to him so he could review the transcript, make changes, and return it to the court stenographer within thirty days.

Defendant responded to the motion to compel before the magistrate judge by contending that the court stenographer provided to Plaintiff on the date of the deposition her name, the company where she worked, and that Plaintiff could exercise his right to review the deposition transcript by traveling to the office of the court reporting company. Because Plaintiff allegedly stated that he was unable to travel to the office location and insisted that a copy of the deposition transcript be mailed to him, defense counsel told this court that he had suggested that the court reporting company could send the transcript to defense counsel's office and Plaintiff could review the transcript there, and defense counsel could subsequently return the transcript to the court reporting company.

On April 4, 2008, the court reporting company allegedly sent the transcript to defense counsel, and defense counsel allegedly made the transcript available to Plaintiff during the April 8, 2008 discovery conference. Plaintiff did not review the transcript at that time, and the next day, April 9, 2008, filed the motion to compel at issue here. On April 10, 2008, the court reporting company allegedly notified Plaintiff that Plaintiff's deposition transcript was available for review at the office of the court reporting company. In addition, on April 23, 2008, Plaintiff set forth in his reply to Defendants' opposition to his motion that he had "already made arrangements for payment and mailing of his copy of the deposition transcript with the court reporter[.]"

With this procedural history, on June 9, 2008, Judge Donio issued an Order dismissing in part and denying in part Plaintiff's motions to compel and motions for ...


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