United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
DR. TONEY FORD, SR., Plaintiff,
DEREK SESSOMS, in his individual and official capacity, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins, United States Magistrate Judge.
the Court in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action are two
motions to compel (DE 67; DE 74) filed by pro se Plaintiff
Dr. Toney Ford, Sr. (“Ford”), asking that the
Court order Defendant Derrick Sessoms to more completely
answer his initial set of interrogatories (DE 52; DE 65) and
to fully respond to his initial request for production of
documents (DE 53; DE 66). Sessoms timely filed a response in
opposition to Ford's motion (DE 85); Ford, however, has
not filed a reply brief, and his time to do so has now
passed. Accordingly, the motion is now ripe for ruling.
following reasons, Ford's motions to compel will be
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
Factual and Procedural Background
October 2014, Ford filed this § 1983 case against
Sessoms, a police officer for the City of Marion, Indiana, in
both his individual and official capacities, advancing
various civil rights violations based on Sessoms's
purported harassment, arrest, and detention of Ford on or
about September 23, 2013. (DE 1; DE 3 at 3-4; DE 38). Ford
also sued a host of other Defendants associated with the City
of Marion, but after screening his complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A, only one claim remained-Ford's
assertion that Sessoms, in both his individual and official
capacities, violated Ford's equal protection rights by
discriminating against him on the basis of his race and
nationality through harassing, arresting, and detaining him.
(DE 3 at 3).
April 6, 2015, Sessoms filed a motion to dismiss (DE 19),
which the District Judge subsequently granted as to
Ford's claims stemming from detention, but denied as to
his claims (both in his individual and official capacities)
stemming from harassment and arrest (DE 37).
Court conducted a preliminary pretrial conference on February
26, 2016, setting a discovery deadline of September 10, 2016.
(DE 46). Discovery ensued, and the discovery deadline was
subsequently extended to October 24, 2016. (DE 64). On August
4, 2016, Sessoms produced his answers and responses to
Ford's initial set of interrogatories and initial request
for production of documents. (DE 65; DE 66). Several days
later, Ford filed the instant motions to compel. (DE 67; DE
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides:
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
discovery purposes, relevance is construed broadly to
encompass ‘any matter that bears on, or that reasonably
could lead to other matter[s] that could bear on, any issue
that is or may be in the case.'” Bd. of Trs. of
the Univ. of Ill. v. Micron Tech., Inc., No.
2:11-cv-02288-SLD-JEH, 2016 WL 4132182, at *2 (C.D. Ill. Aug.
3, 2016) (alteration in original) (quoting Chavez v.
DaimlerChrysler Corp., 206 F.R.D. 615, 519 (S.D. Ind.
2002)). Information within the scope of discovery need not be
admissible in evidence to be discoverable. Fed.R.Civ.P.
party opposing discovery has the burden of proving that the
requested discovery should be disallowed.” Bd. of
Trs. of the Univ. of Ill., 2016 WL 4132182, at *2
(citations omitted). “The objecting party must do more
than simply recite boilerplate objections such as overbroad,
burdensome, oppressive or irrelevant.” Id.
(citations omitted). “If the basis for an objection is
lack of relevance, the party resisting the discovery has the
burden to establish the lack of relevance by demonstrating
that the requested discovery is of such marginal relevance
that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would
outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad
disclosure.” Id. (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). “District courts have broad
discretion in matters relating to discovery.”
Id. (citing Brown-Bey v. United States, 720
F.2d 467, 470-71 (7th Cir. 1983)).
contends that Sessoms failed to completely answer
Interrogatory Nos. 10, 11, 12, 20, 22, and 23, and failed to
fully respond to Request for Production Nos. 4, 8, 9, and 11.
The Court will discuss each of these discovery requests in
Interrogatory No. 10
Ford's Interrogatory No. 10 reads as follows:
Please describe [fully] your knowledge of all applicable
Federal, State, County and/or Municipal laws, regulations,
ordinances and or policies regarding traffic stops, motor
vehicle incidents, motor vehicle accidents, lawful stops,
unlawful stops, public policy and City of Marion (IN)
internal policies and protocols, public liability as well as
all other controlling authorities regarding your and Marion
(IN) Police Department's relationship and accompanying
responsibilities in reference to incidents similar to the
above- named incident on or about September 23, 2013, and
continuing through this Dated:
(DE 52 at 10 (brackets in original)). Sessoms objects to the
form of this Interrogatory-an open-ended question seeking a
description of his full knowledge in several broad
areas-asserting that it is impossible to answer without a
lengthy dissertation, and that as such, it is overly
burdensome and oppressive, and the burden and expense of
preparing a complete answer outweighs any likely benefit. (DE
65 at 5). In response, Ford asserts that it is “fair
game” to inquire into Sessoms's “actual
understanding” and “knowledge” of the laws
that may have informed his decision-making regarding the
arrest. (DE 57 at 2).
Court finds Sessoms's objections have merit. The
Interrogatory as written is overly broad in scope and too
confusing for the Court to compel a response. “If
plaintiff wants information from defendant, he must ask
simple questions that are clear to the reader and can be
answered with simple responses.” Shelley v.
Hoenisch, No. 08-cv-107-bbc, 2008 WL 2489927, at *2
(W.D. Wis. June 19, 2008). Accordingly, Ford's motion to
compel is DENIED with respect to Interrogatory No. 10.