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Walker v. Shafer

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

March 26, 2019

CLAYTON WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
CORY SHAFER, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY; and CITY OF RAPID CITY, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DISCOVERY MOTIONS

          DANETA WOLLMANN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff Clayton Walker is a pro se litigant who has been granted in forma pauperis status in this case. Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel (Doc. 58), a Motion for Fees for Expert Witnesses and Extension of Time to Identify Experts (Doc. 59), a Motion to Amend Pleadings and Add Parties (Doc. 60), a Motion for Civil Rules and Procedures (Doc. 61), and a Motion for Copies of Pleadings (Doc. 68). Defendants City of Rapid City and Cory Shafer filed a Motion for Protective Order (Doc. 62) and a Motion to Extend Deadlines (Doc. 72). United States District Court Judge Jeffrey L. Viken, Chief Judge, referred the case to this magistrate judge for the purposes of resolving pretrial motions and conducting any necessary hearings. (Doc. 69).

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On July 9, 2015, Plaintiff had an interaction with Rapid City Police Officer Cory Shafer that Plaintiff claims resulted in violations of his constitutional and statutory rights. (Doc. 1 at p. 3). Plaintiff asserts Officer Shafer stopped him on the street and proceeded to place him in handcuffs, search his backpack and inspect his wallet's contents. (Id.) Officer Shafer checked whether Plaintiff had outstanding warrants and discovered there was a warrant. (Id.) While Officer Shafer placed Plaintiff in his police vehicle, Plaintiff alleges he suffered a head injury. (Id.) Plaintiff and Defendants filed the following motions.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (Doc. 58)

         Plaintiff's dissatisfaction over discovery stems from the Defendant's responses, or lack thereof, to his “First Motion for Discovery Request” served on Defendants on April 1, 2018. (Doc. 63-1). The Discovery Request contains 42 numbered categories, many of which appear to fall outside the bounds of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b), and does not specify which categories are intended to be interrogatories under Rule 33, or requests for production under Rule 34. (Id.).

         Under Rules 33 and 34, Defendants had thirty days to serve answers, responses, and objections to Plaintiff's requests. Defendants' responses were accordingly due on May 2, 2018; nevertheless, Plaintiff submitted the instant Motion to Compel on April 15, 2018, which the Clerk of Courts filed on April 17, 2018. (Doc. 58). In his motion, Plaintiff states “the good faith time has came [sic] to a halt, and 14 days has [sic] passed.” (Id.). Plaintiff states he “attempted multiple times to dispute and got no communication in return, ” and “No attempted [sic] to dispute under D.S.D. LR 37.1 was offered by the defendants.” (Id.). In support of his motion, Plaintiff cites “SDCL, ” Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and the Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. (Id.).

         Local Rule 37.1 states that “[a] party filing a motion concerning a discovery dispute must file a separate certification describing the good faith efforts of the parties to resolve the dispute.” D.S.D. L.R. 37.1. “[T]he application of local rules is a matter peculiarly within the district court's province.” Chrysler Credit Corp. v. Cathey, 977 F.2d 447, 449 (8th Cir. 1992) (internal quotations omitted); Reasonover v. St. Louis Cnty., 447 F.3d 569, 579 (8th Cir. 2006) (“District courts have broad discretion to . . . enforce local rules.”). A movant's failure to comply with the meet and confer requirement may dictate denial of his motion. United States v. Wicks, No. 11-CV-5027-JLV, 2012 WL 1576000, at *2 (D.S.D. May 3, 2012) (analyzing D.S.D. L.R. 37.1). Furthermore, although pro se pleadings are to be construed liberally, pro se litigants are not excused from compliance with procedural and local rules. Ziegler v. Norton, Civ. No. 04-4098, 2006 WL 571866, at *1 (D.S.D. Mar. 6, 2006).

         Here, Plaintiff failed to file a separate certification describing the parties' good faith efforts to resolve any discovery disputes. Even if Plaintiff had filed the required certification, his good faith efforts are cast into doubt by the fact he filed this Motion to Compel well before the deadline for Defendants' responses. Plaintiff therefore has failed to comply with Local Rule 37.1, and his motion is denied without prejudice.

         II. Defendants' Motion for Protective Order (Doc. 62)

         Defendants have moved for a protective order or in the alternative, to strike the Plaintiff's “First Motion for Discovery.” Subsequent to filing the Motion for a Protective Order, the Defendants filed a dispositive motion for summary judgment which is pending the court's resolution. Defendants assert they are entitled to qualified immunity.

         Qualified immunity protects government officials from liability and from having to defend themselves in a civil suit if the conduct of the officials “does not violate clearly established statutory and constitutional rights.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). Qualified immunity is immunity from suit, not just a defense to liability at trial. Michell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985). Therefore, the Supreme Court has “repeatedly stressed the importance of resolving immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation.” Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 536 (1991).

         The Supreme Court has stated that “if the defendant does plead the [qualified] immunity defense the district court should resolve that threshold question before permitting discovery.” Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 598 (1992). Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 ‚Äúvests the trial judge with ...


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