Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ellis v. Hobbs Police Department

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

December 11, 2018

BRANDON ELLIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HOBBS POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL DEFENDANT MCCALL'S RESPONSES TO WRITTEN DISCOVERY

          GREGORY B. WORMUTH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Chief Christopher McCall's Responses to Written Discovery (doc. 67) and the attendant briefing (docs. 77, 93). Defendant McCall objected in his Answers to all of Plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for production on several grounds, including relevancy and proportionality, constitutional zone of privacy, existence of a collective bargaining agreement, and numerosity. See generally docs. 72-5, 72-6. Because the Court finds that the interrogatories directed to Defendant McCall exceeded the total number allowed, it hereby DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel and reserves ruling on Defendant's other objections until Plaintiffs have amended their interrogatories.

         I. Interrogatories

         By order of the Court, [1] each side in this case is limited to fifty (50) interrogatories and fifty (50) requests for production to serve or notice on the other side. Doc. 26 at 1. Plaintiffs submitted thirteen numbered interrogatories to Defendant McCall. See doc. 72-5. However, Defendant McCall contends that Plaintiffs exceeded the interrogatory limit in Interrogatory No. 8 by using subparts that constitute discrete questions and should therefore count as separate interrogatories. Doc. 77 at 15-16.

         Courts have recognized that, while interrogatory subparts are permissible, “[e]xtensive use of subparts, whether explicit or implicit, could defeat the purposes of the numerical limit contained…in a scheduling order, by rendering it meaningless unless each subpart counts as a separate interrogatory.” Williams v. Board of County Commissioners, 192 F.R.D. 698, 701 (D. Kans. 2000). Accordingly, parties “cannot evade [interrogatory limitations] through the device of joining as ‘subparts' questions that seek information about discrete separate subjects.” Soseeah v. Sentry Ins., 2013 WL 11327129, at *6 (D.N.M. Nov. 4, 2013) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 33 Advisory Committee Notes (1993 Amendment)).

         Determining which subparts of an interrogatory constitute discrete questions is a “case-specific assessment” not reducible to a “crisp verbal formula.” Synopsys, Inc. v. Atoptech, Inc., 319 F.R.D. 293, 295 (N.D. Cal. 2016) (internal citation omitted). See also Burget v. Capital W. Secs., Inc., 2010 WL 11508643, at *2 (W.D. Okla. Mar. 30, 2010) (“The difficulty with the numerical limitations of interrogatories lies with how to count both the discrete and natural subparts to interrogatories, ” which courts generally resolve “on a case-by-case basis”). However, courts have developed some general principles for counting interrogatories. Subparts directed toward a “common theme” should generally be counted as a single interrogatory, while “subparts inquiring into discrete areas” are generally counted as multiple interrogatories. Williams, 192 F.R.D. at 701 (quoting Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Richard L. Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2168.1, at 261 (2d ed. 1994)); see also Meadows v. Home Depot USA, Inc., 2002 WL 31374956, at *2 (D. Kans. August 29, 2002) (explaining that “subparts directed at eliciting details concerning a ‘common theme' should generally be considered a single question, ” while “subparts that inquire into discrete areas should, in most cases, be counted as more than one interrogatory”). Parties may not evade discovery limitations “through the device of joining as ‘subparts' questions that seek information about discrete separate subjects.” Meadows, 2002 WL 31374956, at *2.

         More specifically, some courts have held that “[s]ubparts count as one interrogatory…only if they are logically or factually subsumed within and necessarily related to the primary question.” EEOC v. New Mexico Corrections Dep't, Civ. No. 15-879 KG/KK (D.N.M. Sept. 30, 2016) (quoting Rodriguez v. Chavez, 2013 WL 1444183, at *1 (D. Colo. Apr. 9, 2013)). Put another way, subparts are considered discrete “if the first question can be answered fully and completely without answering the second question.” Paananen v. Cellco P'ship, 2009 WL 3327227, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 8, 2009) (quoting Estate of Manship v. U.S., 232 F.R.D. 552, 555 (M.D. La. 2005)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Conversely, subparts are considered discrete when the second question is fully independent of the first:

Probably the best test of whether subsequent questions, within a single interrogatory, are subsumed and related, is to examine whether the first question is primary and subsequent questions are secondary to the primary question. Or, can the subsequent question stand alone? Is it independent of the first question?

Kendall v. GES Exposition Servs., 174 F.R.D. 684, 685 (D. Nev. 1997).

         As explained below, the Court has counted Plaintiffs' interrogatories under the guidance of these general principles and concludes that Plaintiffs' interrogatories to Defendant McCall alone exceed the Court-ordered limit of fifty. Notably, however, Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs have also submitted requests to other individual defendants. See doc. 77 at 15 (“At the same time that Plaintiffs propounded their requests to Chief McCall, they sent requests to Defendant J.J. Murphy.”), doc. 45, doc. 46. It appears that, at least in the case of Defendant J.J. Murphy, these requests included interrogatories. See doc 46 (“Plaintiffs' First Set of Interrogatories to Defendant City Manager J.J. Murphy” sent on August 10, 2018). The scheduling order in this case limits interrogatories to fifty per side to serve or notice on the other side. Doc. 26 at 1. Therefore, Plaintiffs' interrogatories to any Defendant are counted and must not exceed fifty.

         Interrogatory No. 1

         By the Court's count, Interrogatory No. 1 contains three (3) discrete questions.

         Subpart (a) is directed at evaluations “to improve the working environment as it relates to minority communities.” Doc. 72, Ex. 5 at 2. This is thematically distinct from the other questions, which ask about racially derogatory remarks.

         Subparts (b), (c), and (d) inquire about HPD's policies and procedures regarding racially derogatory remarks and ask for information about any discipline of HPD officers for violation of such policies.

         Subparts (e) and (f) ask Defendant McCall about his individual conduct, including whether Defendant McCall has ever used derogatory remarks/conduct (regardless of whether he was disciplined for it-indeed, this question is not specifically limited to the workplace). While related to the broader theme of racially derogatory remarks, subparts (f) and more particularly (e) diverge from the focus on HPD's policies and procedures, and so constitute a discrete area of inquiry.

         Interrogatory No. 2

         Because all questions within Interrogatory No. 2 are directed at a common theme (HPD's affirmative action plan), it is counted as a single interrogatory.

         Interrogatory No. 3

         Because all questions within Interrogatory No. 3 are directed at a common theme (a COMSTAT-like program requiring the presence of reasonable suspicion and probable cause for every detention), it is counted as a single interrogatory.

         Interrogatory ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.