United States District Court, D. Nebraska
D. Thalken United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the court on Megan McGuire's (McGuire)
Motion to Compel Complaint Documents (Filing No. 57) and
Second Motion to Compel Complaint Documents (Filing No. 61).
McGuire seeks to compel discovery regarding complaints of
sexual misconduct against law enforcement officers; improper
use of in-car video systems; improper searches and seizures;
and improper physical contact. McGuire filed indexes of
evidence attached to the motions. Timothy F. Dunning,
individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff of
Douglas County, Nebraska, and Douglas County (collectively
Douglas County) filed briefs (Filing Nos. 62 and 65) and
indexes of evidence (Filing Nos. 63 and 66) opposing the
motions. McGuire filed briefs (Filing Nos. 64 and 69) and
additional evidence either attached (Filing No. 64) or as a
separate index (Filing No. 70). Cory Cooper (Cooper) did not
participate in briefing.
February 10, 2013, then Douglas County Sheriff's Office
(DCSO) Deputy Cooper sexually assaulted McGuire after placing
her in the backseat of his patrol cruiser, which was parked
at Zorinsky Lake Park. See Filing No. 1 -
Complaint ¶¶ 8-26. Subsequently the DCSO and Omaha
Police Department investigated the assault.
Id. ¶ 29. McGuire alleges
Cooper falsified police reports regarding his location;
however, the patrol cruiser's GPS system confirmed he was
at the park. Id. ¶ 30. On June 10, 2013, Cooper
was charged with first-degree sexual assault and attempted
tampering with evidence. Id. ¶ 32. On April 17,
2014, Cooper pleaded no contest to third degree assault and
was sentenced to six months in jail.
Id. ¶ 30. Based on the assault
and surrounding events, McGuire filed this lawsuit, pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the defendants violated
her constitutional rights. Id. at 1. Specifically,
McGuire alleges four claims for relief. First, McGuire
asserts the defendants violated her Fourth Amendment right to
be free from unreasonable search and seizure with malice,
willfulness, and reckless indifference pursuant to DCSO
policies or practices, including failure to adequately train,
supervise, and control officers, and failure to adequately
investigate, punish, and discipline prior instances of
unconstitutional misconduct against citizens. Id. at
5-6. Second, McGuire alleges the defendants, motivated by
gender animus, denied her equal protection of the law,
causing her emotional distress and anguish. Id. at
6-7. Third, McGuire alleges the defendants abridged her right
to due process by engaging in arbitrary government action
depriving her of her liberty in a manner so malfeasant as to
shock the conscience. Id. 7-8. Finally, McGuire
seeks indemnification from Douglas County for any
compensatory damages award against Cooper under Nebraska law.
Id. at 8. After their motion to dismiss was denied,
Douglas County filed an answer denying liability for
McGuire's claims. See Filing No. 30 - Answer.
seeks discovery from Douglas County regarding complaints of
law enforcement officers' (1) improper use of in-car
video systems; (2) improper searches and seizures; (3)
improper physical contact; and (4) sexual misconduct,
including misconduct by corrections officers.
See Filing Nos. 57 and 61. McGuire contends
Douglas County's responses to these types of complaints
relates to her constitutional claims stemming from policies
and practices resulting in systemic failures in officer
training and supervision leading Cooper to abuse his power to
assault her. See Filing No. 16 p. 1. More specifically,
McGuire alleges that although Douglas County's written
policy required male officers to use in-car video systems
during stops involving female detainees, the evidence
suggests no supervisor enforced the policy and Cooper
violated the policy when he assaulted McGuire and another
woman, in separate incidents. See Filing No.
57 - Motion p. 3. Similarly, McGuire states she has a
“strong suspicion” Douglas County was on
“clear notice that its officers had a pattern of
violating constitutional rights, yet created a system to
shield those officers from accountability.”
Id. at 5. In support, McGuire asserts the evidence
disclosed to date indicates Cooper snuck up on people in
parked cars in public parks, sometimes resulting in searches.
Id. Cooper was commended for this conduct, which he
thought was appropriate an acceptable. Id.
County denies the discovery requests are relevant and argues
the requests are overly broad and unduly burdensome.
See Filing No. 62 - Response p. 5, 7, and
12; Filing No. 65 - Second Response p. 10. Additionally,
Douglas County argues the request for complaints of improper
physical contact is vague and ambiguous. See Filing No. 62 -
Response p. 12. Douglas County agrees evidence of a pattern
of sexually assaultive misconduct amongst Sheriff
Dunning's subordinates is relevant; Douglas County
resists production of documents for personnel not subordinate
to Sheriff Dunning or constitutional conduct dissimilar to
that alleged in the complaint. See Filing No. 62 - Response
p. 14; Filing No. 65 - Second Response p. 10.
may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that
is relevant to any party's claim or defense and
proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b)(1). “Broad discovery is an important tool for the
litigant, and so ‘[r]elevant information need not be
admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably
calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible
evidence.'” WWP, Inc. v. Wounded Warriors
Family Support, Inc., 628 F.3d 1032, 1039 (8th Cir.
2011) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b)(1)). Accordingly, relevant information includes
“any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could
lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or
may be in the case.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v.
Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978); see Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(c)(1). Mere speculation that information might be useful
will not suffice; litigants seeking to compel discovery must
describe with a reasonable degree of specificity the
information they hope to obtain and its importance to their
case. See Cervantes v. Time, Inc., 464 F.2d 986, 994
(8th Cir. 1972). Once the requesting party meets the
threshold relevance burden, generally “[a]ll discovery
requests are a burden on the party who must respond thereto.
Unless the task of producing or answering is unusual, undue
or extraordinary, the general rule requires the entity
answering or producing the documents to bear that
burden.” Continental Ill. Nat'l Bank &
Trust Co. of Chicago v. Caton, 136 F.R.D. 682, 684-85
(D. Kan. 1991) (citation omitted). The court has authority to
limit the scope of discovery. Roberts v. Shawnee Mission
Ford, Inc., 352 F.3d 358, 361 (8th Cir. 2003).
In-Car Video System Complaints
all documents that relate in any way to any complaint,
charge, accusation, disciplinary proceeding by any supervisor
at DCSO, from 2008 to 2013 that an officer, supervisor, or
other employee of the DCSO improperly used any in-car video
system, failed to use any in-car video system, or failed to
save video evidence from any in-car video system.
Filing No. 57 - Ex. 1 Request for Production (Second Set) No.
contends Cooper's modus operandi of stopping
women without using his in-car video system supports her
request. See Filing No. 57 - Motion p. 3. Further, McGuire
argues the discovery is relevant to whether Douglas County
had notice of the officer's noncompliance with
departmental policy of using the cameras and taking
meaningful steps to train, supervise, and discipline officers
regarding such ill-use. Id. Finally, McGuire argues
Douglas County's practice of allowing the ill-use
“caused . . . Cooper to believe he could get away with
not using the in-car video and with sexually assaulting
Plaintiff in his police vehicle.” Id. at 4.
County seeks to limit the requests to sexual misconduct.
See Filing No. 62 - Response p. 5-6. Douglas
County argues failure to use an in-car video system does not,
by itself, constitute a constitutional violation and would
not provide notice of sexually abusive conduct. Id.
at 6. Further Douglas County states, “there is no
indication whatsoever that other alleged incidents involved
any claim of sexual misconduct or other ...