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Martinez v. City of Raton Police Department

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

October 18, 2017

LAWRENCE & PETE MARTINEZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF RATON POLICE DEPARTMENT, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTIONS TO COMPEL DISCLOSURE AND REQUESTS FOR A TELEPHONIC HEARING

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the following motions filed by the pro se Plaintiffs: (1) Motion for and [sic] Order to Disclose the Identity of Undercover Officer #A and or Undercover Officer Lobo Imposing Confidentiality Limitations (Doc. 12), filed April 6, 2017; (2) Motion for and [sic] Order to Disclose the Identity of Undercover Officer Lobo and or Undercover Officer #A and All Hooded and Masked Officers Who Entered the Home of Pete Martinez on 5/18/13 Imposing Confidentiality Limitations (Doc. 28), filed May 30, 2017; (3) Request for Telephonic Hearing (Doc. 29), filed May 30, 2017; (4) Second Request on a Motion for and [sic] Order to Disclose the Identity of Undercover Officer Lobo and or Undercover Officer #A and All Hooded and Masked Officers Who Entered the Home of Pete Martinez on 5/18/13 Imposing Confidentiality Limitations (Doc. 38), filed July 10, 2017; and (5) Second Request for a Telephonic Hearing (Doc. 40), filed July 10, 2017. The foregoing motions are numerous but duplicative. For ease of reference, the Court refers to them collectively as “Plaintiffs' Motions to Compel Disclosure” and “Plaintiffs' Requests for a Telephonic Hearing.”

         Additionally at a Status Conference held on August 8, 2017, the Court ordered Defendant to provide a supplemental brief addressing the law enforcement privilege, which it asserted in the context of Plaintiffs' Motions to Compel Disclosure. Doc. 45. Defendant filed its supplemental brief on August 22, 2017 (Doc. 47), and Plaintiffs responded on August 31, 2017. See Doc. 49. Having now reviewed the enumerated motions, the parties' supplemental briefs, the exhibits, and the relevant authorities, the Court finds that Plaintiffs' Motions to Compel Disclosure will be granted in part and that Plaintiffs' Requests for a Telephonic Hearing will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs brought this cause of action for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Fourth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Section 504”), and the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. Doc. 1-2 at 1. Plaintiffs' claims arise out of the arrest and allegedly prolonged detention of Plaintiff Lawrence Martinez, the “de facto arrest” of Plaintiff Pete Martinez, and the search of Plaintiffs' home.

         The Complaint alleges that in late 2012 or early 2013, Plaintiff Pete Martinez met with then-acting Chief of Police for the City of Raton, Captain John Garcia, to express concerns that his son, Plaintiff Lawrence Martinez, was using drugs and to encourage Captain Garcia to “take care of the drug dealer.” Doc. 1-2 at ¶ 10. According to Plaintiffs, Captain Garcia then recruited his nephew to solicit drugs from Lawrence Martinez. Id. at ¶ 11. Around the same time, Plaintiffs assert that the Region IV Narcotic Drug Task Force began an operation within the City of Raton to solicit narcotics from known drug traffickers. Id. at ¶ 12.

         According to the police reports and arrest affidavit submitted by Plaintiffs in conjunction with their Complaint and briefing on the subject motions, an undercover officer referred to as “Officer Lobo” made contact with Lawrence Martinez in the school zone of an elementary school on March 22, 2013, and purchased what was later determined to be methamphetamine. See, e.g., Doc. 1-2 at Ex. 4.

         Lawrence Martinez was charged in the State District Court in Colfax County with “trafficking a controlled substance to wit: Methamphetamine.” See Doc. 1-2 at Ex. 3 (capitalization omitted). However, according to state court documents and audio transcripts submitted by Plaintiffs, the criminal case against Lawrence Martinez was dismissed when the state court judge granted his Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Comply with Rules of Discovery. See Doc. 1-2 at Ex. 5. Judge Paternoster determined that the State failed to respond to Lawrence Martinez's motion to dismiss and failed to “accomplish[] discovery or show[] good cause why they were entitled to an extension” for doing so. Id.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Initially, the Court takes note of Plaintiffs' pro se status. “[A] pro se litigant's pleadings are to be construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1096 (10th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). In Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991), the Tenth Circuit stated:

We believe that this rule means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.

         Even so, the court “will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or to construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's behalf.” Id.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) governs the scope of discovery, providing that “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense - including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). “Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Id. The party requesting discovery may move to compel the disclosure of any materials requested so long as such discovery is relevant and otherwise discoverable. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs contend that the affidavit in support of the warrant for Lawrence Martinez's arrest was false and misleading. As a result, they maintain that the arrest was unsupported by “reasonable cause or evidence to believe that he had committed or was about to commit a crime.” Doc. 1-2 at 1. Plaintiffs contend that they were both “subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure of their person and their home.” Id. Pete Martinez alleges that he and his daughter were “brutally terrified by the conduct of the hooded and masked [officers] who entered their home without just cause or evidence in the early AM hours on May 18, 2013 to arrest Lawrence ...


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