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United States v. City of Albuquerque

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

November 27, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE, Defendant,
v.
THE ALBUQUERQUE POLICE OFFICERS' ASSOCIATION, Intervenor.

          JAMES D. TIERNEY Acting United States Attorney District of New Mexico.

          MICHAEL H. HOSES Assistant United States Attorney Chief, Civil Division.

          JOHN M. GORE Acting Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division.

          RUTH F. KEEGAN Assistant United States Attorney U.S. Attorney's Office.

          PAUL KILLEBREW Special Counsel, LUIS E. SAUCEDO Counselor to the Chief, COREY M. SANDERS, STEPHEN RYALS, Trial Attorneys Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division U.S. Department of Justice.

          UNITED STATES' MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF THE JOINT MOTION FOR CLARIFICATION [DOC. 309]

         Plaintiff, United States of America, respectfully submits its memorandum in support of the Joint Motion for Clarification (Doc. 309) regarding Paragraph 315 of the Court-Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). In the Joint Motion, the Parties requested an order clarifying whether the text of the paragraph requires the City to protect written “communications between the Monitor and the parties” from disclosure. As set forth below, the United States does not intend that the Court issue a prohibited advisory opinion and, therefore, respectfully requests that the Court consider the attached alternate proposed order. The alternate proposed order is limited to defining the scope and purpose of Paragraph 315, rather than answering questions on any future controversies involving the City's obligations under New Mexico's Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), NMSA 1978, Section 14-2-1, et seq. (2011). This kind of clarifying order is within this Court's equitable powers and necessary to ensure effective compliance with the CASA.

         I. The United States Does Not Request an Advisory Opinion.

         Federal courts have neither the power to render advisory opinions nor to decide questions that cannot affect the rights of litigants in the case before them. In re Special Grand Jury 89-2, 450 F.3d 1159, 1170 (10th Cir. 2006) (quoting Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 401 (1975)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Tenth Circuit has interpreted the relevant limits of Article III jurisdiction to mean that a court's judgments “must resolve a real and substantial controversy admitting of specific relief through a decree of a conclusive character, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts.” Id. The Tenth Circuit explained further that the “[t]he real value of the judicial pronouncement-what makes it a proper judicial resolution of a ‘case or controversy' rather than an advisory opinion-is in the settling of some dispute which affects the behavior of the defendant towards the plaintiff.” Id. (quoting Hewitt v. Helms, 482 U.S. 755, 761 (1987)) (emphasis omitted).

         The proposed order lodged with the Joint Motion requests clarification of Paragraph 315 in the context of potential disclosures related to requests received by Defendants under IPRA. Proposed Order attached to Email from Saiz to Chambers of 10/23/17. The proposed order calls for the Court to indicate prospectively whether Defendants would or would not be in violation of Paragraph 315 if it produced “written ‘communications'” or “the Monitor's draft reports” in response to IPRA requests. The United States did not intend for the lodged proposed order to require an advisory opinion and submits that the references to IPRA are superfluous and not dispositive of the Joint Motion. There are no pending controversies involving IPRA before this Court, and neither party has asserted any claims or defenses involving IPRA. The reference to IPRA in the lodged proposed order would not resolve any dispute involving the Parties nor clarify the requirements of the CASA.

         To avoid any potential misinterpretation that the Parties are seeking a prohibited advisory opinion, the United States respectfully requests that the Court consider the attached alternate proposed order. The alternate proposed order does not refer to the City's external obligations under IPRA or other issues that are not properly before this Court. The alternate proposed order is limited to clarifying that Paragraph 315 requires that “communications between the Monitor and the parties” are protected from disclosure.

         II. An Order Clarifying the Scope and Purpose of Paragraph 315 is Proper and Necessary to Ensure Full Compliance with the CASA.

         The alternate proposed order clarifying the scope and purpose of Paragraph 315 is within this Court's equitable powers and necessary to ensure full and effective compliance with the CASA. Paragraph 315 provides as follows:

The Monitor is not a state or local agency or an agent thereof, and accordingly, the records maintained by the Monitor or communications between the Monitor and the Parties shall not be deemed public records subject to public inspection.

(Doc. 247-1, ¶ 315.) The plain language of the paragraph excludes “communications between the Monitor and the parties” from public records that are subject to public inspection and, thus, conveys the Parties' intention to protect these communications from disclosure. Nonetheless, the City has pointed to tension between its obligations under Paragraph 315 and ...


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