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Thompson v. Butte County

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

October 29, 2013

JAMES THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BUTTE COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA, as an individual respondent superior for county officials; BUTTE COUNTY SHERIFF; FRED LEMEPHERE; DEPUTY GARY BRANER; DEPUTY TRISTAN CLEMENTS; DEPUTY DOUG PARROW; BUTTE COUNTY STATES ATTORNEY; HEATHER PLUNCKETT; ASST. TIMOTHY VANDORHYDE; MAGISTRATE PERCY; and JUDGE MACY BASTIAN, Defendants.

REPORT & RECOMMENDATION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SANCTIONS

VERONICA L. DUFFY, Magistrate Judge.

INTRODUCTION

On July 23, 2012, plaintiff James Thompson, appearing pro se, filed a complaint against defendants above-named, alleging violations of his constitutional rights by defendants, although in truth, the court is at a loss to understand exactly what acts took place that Mr. Thompson bases his claims on and what constitutional rights were violated by which acts. See Docket No. 1. Previously, the court dismissed the three judicial defendants, the Honorable Circuit Court Judge Randall Macy, the Honorable Circuit Court Judge John Bastian, and the Honorable Magistrate Judge Michelle Percy. See Docket Nos. 35 and 57. Now pending before the court is a motion to dismiss Mr. Thompson's complaint against the remaining defendants or, in the alternative, a motion for default judgment, or for sanctions. See Docket No. 54.

FACTS

The defendants' motion to dismiss is based on Mr. Thompson's refusal to engage in the discovery process. The court notes that early on in this litigation, the court sent to Mr. Thompson copies of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12 and 26-37. In addition, the court supplied Mr. Thompson with a complete copy of this district's local rules of civil procedure. It is this court's entirely reasonable expectation that Mr. Thompson would have read these documents.

On April 15, 2013, defendants served Mr. Thompson with written interrogatories and requests for the production of documents. See Docket No. 56-2. Defendants, like this court, sought to understand what, exactly, Mr. Thompson is claiming in this lawsuit. The questions in the discovery requests are straight forward. For example, the third interrogatory states as follows:

3. In your Complaint dated November 2, 2012, you sued Butte County.
(a) State the specific claim that you are making against Butte County;
(b) State the specific facts and dates that you allege support your claim against Butte County;
(c) Are you claiming money damages against Butte County as a result of your claim against the County? If so, state the dollar amount of any such damages and the facts that support such claim.
(d) Do you have any written documents that you claim will support your claims against Butte County, including any damages? If so, please produce these documents.

See Id . The interrogatories posed similar questions as to each named defendant. The discovery requests explained that defendants were making these requests pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33 and 34. The instructions accompanying the discovery requests explained to Mr. Thompson that he was required to serve answers, under oath, to the questions within 30 days. Id.

Counsel for the defendants also sent a cover letter to Mr. Thompson which accompanied the April 15, 2013, discovery requests. See Docket No. 56-1. In that letter, counsel explained that he was enclosing a computer disk containing discovery to which Mr. Thompson was entitled and that the documents on the computer disk were BATES stamped BUTTE CO. 0001 through 1196. Id . Counsel also requested that Mr. Thompson come to his office to have his deposition taken once he had supplied the answers to the enclosed discovery requests. Id.

On April 24, 2013, Mr. Thompson served defense counsel with a document styled "Statement in Lieu of Interrogatories." See Docket No. 59-1. The statement was not under oath and did not answer all of the questions posed in defendants' discovery requests. Id . Mr. Thompson's Statement in Lieu of Interrogatories did not interpose legal objections to the discovery either. Id . In the Statement, Mr. Thompson expressed a willingness to have his deposition taken on the condition that all defendants "likewise be available for depositions before the Court's Reporter at that time."

On April 30, 2013, counsel for defendants wrote to Mr. Thompson and informed him that his Statement was not an acceptable substitute for answering defendants' interrogatories because the Statement did not address all of defendants' questions. See Docket No. 56-3. Defense counsel warned Mr. Thompson that he needed to answer all of defendants' questions or a motion to dismiss would be forthcoming. Id . No further written responses were rendered by Mr. Thompson.

Instead of immediately moving to dismiss, counsel for defendants tried another tack. He served Mr. Thompson with a notice of his deposition for June 13, 2013, perhaps hoping that an oral dialogue with Mr. Thompson would shed some light on his claims. See Docket No. 56-5. In the letter accompanying the Notice, defense counsel expressed the hope that Mr. Thompson would orally ...


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