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Folta v. Winkle

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 27, 2016

Shawn Michael Folta, Plaintiff,
v.
Jeffrey Van Winkle, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          EILEEN S, WILLETT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         The Court has reviewed Defendants Contreras and Burke’s “Motion for Reconsideration of a Non-Dispositive Pretrial Order (DKT. 103)” (Doc. 111). For the reasons discussed herein, the Motion for Reconsideration is denied in part and granted in part.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted by Defendant Burke while Defendant Burke was employed as a Correctional Officer II at the Arizona Department of Corrections (“ADC”). (Doc. 60 at 3). On January 14, 2016, the Court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiff’s “Motion to Compel Production of Documents” (Doc. 76). The Court ordered Defendants to produce “any and all disciplinary history” pertaining to Defendant Burke by February 16, 2016. (Doc. 84 at 4). On February 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a “Motion to Compel Re: defendants Disciplinary history on Defendant Burke . . .” (Doc.90). Plaintiff attached to his Motion a transmittal cover sheet from defense counsel, dated February 3, 2016, that states “Enclosed please find Defendant Burke’s Disciplinary History.” (Id. at 4). Enclosed with the cover sheet is a one page notice of dismissal dated July 22, 2014 from ADC to Defendant Burke. (Id. at 5). The notice of dismissal does not state the reasons for Defendant Burke’s dismissal. Defendants did not enclose any additional disciplinary history or information regarding Defendant Burke with the February 3, 2016 transmittal letter.

         In their Response to Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel (Doc. 97), Defendants argued that the February 3, 2016 transmittal complied with the Court’s January 14, 2016 Order (Doc. 84). The Court concluded otherwise. In its April 4, 2016 Order granting Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel, the Court explained that because Defendant Burke’s termination from ADC has not been in dispute,

the Order that Defendants produce “any and all disciplinary history” pertaining to Defendant Burke intended to encompass all documents ancillary to any official disciplinary action taken against Defendant Burke. Such documents would include those that indicate the reasons for taking disciplinary action against Defendant Burke or relate to investigations of Defendant Burke’s conduct. The Court therefore orders that by April 18, 2016, Defendants shall produce all grievances and Information Reports (IRs) pertaining to Defendant Burke. By April 18, 2016, Defendants also shall produce any and all other documents that Defendants do not classify as a “grievance” or “Information Report, ” but indicate any of the following: (i) the reasons for Defendant Burke’s dismissal from ADC; (ii) conduct that Defendant Burke engaged in that constitutes grounds for disciplinary action or dismissal; or (iii) allegations/statements from any individual that Defendant Burke engaged in misconduct while employed by ADC.

(Doc. 103 at 3).

         On April 18, 2016, Defendants filed a Notice (Doc. 108) indicating that they partially complied with the Court’s Order (Doc. 103) by producing three Administrative Inquiries, an Administrative Investigation document, and a Memorandum from Warden Credio to Defendant Burke. On April 25, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion for Reconsideration seeking “reconsideration or clarification as to other reports and documents that may involve Defendant Burke but are unrelated to the Plaintiff’s instant claims.” (Doc. 111 at 10). Specifically, Defendants object to (i) the production of “documents unrelated to Plaintiff regarding conduct that Defendant Burke engaged in that constitutes grounds for disciplinary action or dismissal where no disciplinary action was taken” and (ii) the production of “documents unrelated to Plaintiff regarding allegations/statements from any individual that Defendant Burke engaged in misconduct while employed by the ADC.” (Id. at 10).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Review of Motions for Reconsideration

         Motions for reconsideration should be granted only in rare circumstances. See Carroll v. Nakatani, 342 F.3d 934, 945 (9th Cir. 2003). “Reconsideration is appropriate if the district court (1) is presented with newly discovered evidence, (2) committed clear error or the initial decision was manifestly unjust, or (3) if there is an intervening change in controlling law.” School Dist. No. 1J, Multonomah County v. AC and S, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993); see also LRCiv 7.2(g)(1) (“The Court will ordinarily deny a motion for reconsideration of an Order absent a showing of manifest error or a showing of new facts or legal authority that could not have been brought to its attention earlier with reasonable diligence.”); Harsco Corp. v. Zlotmicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985). Such motions should not be used for the purpose of asking a court “to rethink what the court had already thought through - rightly or wrongly.” Defenders of Wildlife v. Browner, 909 F.Supp 1342, 1351 (D. Ariz. 1995) (quoting Above the Belt, Inc. v. Mel Bohannon Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D. Va 1983)).

         B. Discovery in Eighth Amendment Excessive Force Claims

         The core issue in a case accusing prison officials of using excessive physical force in violation of the Eighth Amendment is “whether force was used in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Hudson v. McMillian et al., 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992). There is no constitutional violation if force is applied in a good faith effort to restore discipline and order and not “maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.” Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986); Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d 898, 903 (9th Cir. 2002) (stating that under the Eighth Amendment, courts look for malicious and sadistic force, not merely objectively unreasonable force). “This standard necessarily involves a more culpable mental state than that required for excessive force claims arising under the Fourth Amendment’s unreasonable seizures restriction.” Clement, 298 F.3d at 903 (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 398 (1989)).

         “[A]ctions alleging violations of § 1983 require especially generous discovery.” Cox v. McClellan, 174 F.R.D. 32, 34 (W.D.N.Y. 1997); see also Burke v. New York City Police Dept., 115 F.R.D. 220, 225 (S.D.N.Y. 1987) (“the overriding policy is one of disclosure of relevant information in the interest of promoting the search for the truth in a federal question case”). Courts have permitted civil rights litigants to discover prior complaints against defendant officers regardless of whether the complaints were substantiated or unsubstantiated. See, e.g., Cox. 174 F.R.D. at 35 (“[T]he fact that a prior complaint was determined to be unfounded does not bar its discovery.”); Unger v. Cohen, 125 F.R.D. 67, 70 (S.D.N.Y. 1989) (‚ÄúCivilian complaints that were abandoned or conciliated may not be admissible at trial, but that does not make them undiscoverable. The names of complainants and the circumstances of the recorded complaints, among other things, may ...


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