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Shadburne v. Bullitt County

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

December 14, 2017

BULLITT COUNTY, KENTUCKY, and MARTHA KNOX, in her capacity as the Bullitt County Jailer DEFENDANTS


          Dave Whalm, Magistrate Judge United States District Court.

         Before the Court is the motion of Plaintiff Tabatha Lynn Shadburne (“Shadburne”), individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, to compel discovery responses from Defendants Bullitt County, Kentucky, and Martha Knox, Bullitt County Jailer (collectively referred to as “Defendants”). (DN 25). Shadburne alternatively seeks discovery sanctions against Defendants in the same motion. (Id.). Defendants have filed a response in opposition. (DN 26). Shadburne has filed a reply. (DN 27). These matters are ripe for review.


         Tabatha Lynn Shadburne was arrested on December 8, 2016, on a bench warrant issued by Bullitt County Family Court for failure to appear in a domestic violence case. (DN 1, at ¶ 12). Upon arrest, Ms. Shadburne was taken to the Bullitt County Detention Center and was strip-searched at booking. (Id.). As a result of these events, Ms. Shadburne brought the instant action against Defendants Bullitt County, Kentucky, and Martha Knox, Bullitt County Jailer, alleging that the strip search violated her civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including her rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-17). Shadburne also claims that Defendants' actions were negligent, grossly negligent, and constituted intentional infliction of mental and emotional distress. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-21). Shadburne brings this action in her individual capacity and also as a class action under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 on behalf of “all persons arrested for minor offenses, or no offenses at all, who were required by the Defendants . . . to remove their clothing for a visual inspection upon admission to the Jail despite the absence of any reasonable suspicion that they were carrying weapons or contraband.” (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 4-10).

         On June 14, 2017, Shadburne served discovery upon the Defendants, and, one month later, Defendants responded to such discovery requests. (DN 17). Shadburne felt Defendants' answers were “non-responsive” and, as a result, sent Defendants a letter attempting to resolve the issue. (DN 25-3). Defendants responded to Shadburne's letter, explaining why they would not withdraw their objections to Shadburne's discovery requests. (DN 25-4). Shadburne's continued dissatisfaction with Defendants' answers led her to file the instant motion to compel. (DN 25).


         Shadburne's motion specifically objects to Defendants' responses to Request for Production of Documents 1, Interrogatory Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9, and Requests for Admission Nos. 2, 3, 4, 9, and 15. Defendants, in response, submit that their discovery answers are complete and non-evasive. (DN 26).

         Trial courts have wide discretion in dealing with discovery matters. See S.S. v. E. Ky. Univ., 532 F.3d 445, 451 (6th Cir. 2008); Chrysler Corp. v. Fedders Corp., 643 F.2d 1229, 1240 (6th Cir. 1981). The “scope of discovery” encompasses “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). Relevance is to be construed broadly to include “any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on” any party's claim or defense. Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351, 98 S.Ct. 2380, 57 L.Ed.2d 253 (1978) (citation omitted). In analyzing proportionality, the Court must consider the need for the information sought based upon “the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 allows a party to move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery when “a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule 33” or “fails to produce documents . . . as requested under Rule 34.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(iii), (iv). Under this Rule, an “evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer, or response must be treated as a failure to disclose, answer, or respond.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4). The party seeking discovery bears the burden of proving that a discovery response is inadequate. Equal Rights Center v. Post Props, Inc., 246 F.R.D. 29, 32 (D.D.C. 2007).

         A. Requests for Production of Documents

         Request for Production of Documents No. 1

         Shadburne's Request for Production of Documents No. 1 stated: “[p]lease produce a complete version of the rules, regulations, and policies of the Bullitt County Detention Center (which, according to the open records request previously provided, would seem to be 129 pages).” (DN 25-2). Defendants originally objected to the request as overbroad and burdensome in that it seeks documents unrelated to Shadburne's allegations that her rights were violated when she was strip-searched. (Id.). Defendants also explained that they previously provided Shadburne with the Jail's policy on strip searches from the Policy and Procedure Manual because it is the subject matter of her Complaint. (Id.).

         Shadburne now asserts that she is entitled to discovery of the entire Jail Policy and Procedure Manual (“the Jail Manual”) since her claims extend beyond the strip search, in that she also alleges she was improperly detained despite having met the conditions of bond release. (DN 25-1, at pp. 2-4). In an attempt to resolve this dispute, Defendants offered to provide a full copy of the Jail Manual under an agreed protective order since “matters contained [within] affect the safety and security of the jail, its staff, and inmates.” (DN 25-3). But because Shadburne believes the Jail Manual is a public record, and Defendants have not shown how its publication would affect the safety and security of the Jail, its staff, and inmates, she rejected the Defendants' compromise.

         The inquiry here is twofold. First, should Defendants be required to produce the entire Jail Manual? Second, if so, should the Jail Manual be provided under a protective order as requested by the Defendants? As for the first question, the Court agrees with Shadburne that additional portions of the Jail Manual could be responsive to the factual allegations in her Complaint. Specifically, any section discussing bonding procedures could be relevant for Shadburne's allegations that the Jail was aware she had $350 on her person to immediately make bond with at the time of her arrest and, therefore, knew she would not be housed at the Jail but still performed a strip search. (DN 1, at ¶ 12). Because relevance is to be construed broadly and other portions of the Jail manual could bear on Shadburne's claims, the Court finds Defendants should be required to produce the Jail Manual in its entirety.

         Moving on to the second question, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 provides that a “court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). A motion for protective order “must include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with other affected parties in an effort to resolve the dispute without court action.” Id. The parties here clearly attempted to resolve the dispute by exchanging written correspondence before seeking the Court's assistance.[1] (See DN 25-3; DN 25-4). The question that remains is whether Defendants have established good cause for protection of the Jail Manual.

         Defendants assert that public release of their policies and procedures could affect the safety and security of the Jail, especially if it were shared with inmates. (DN 16, at p. 2). This Manual, Defendants explain, includes “sections related to weapons and their storage, transport procedures, and location of keys” and “[c]ommon sense dictates that this information should not be made available to the public” because of the risk that such information would be shared with the individuals incarcerated at the Jail. (Id. at n.1).

         Defendants' reasoning is compelling. Federal courts have repeatedly found good cause to limit discovery or disclosure of information implicating the safety and security of prisons and jails. See Fourhorn v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 261 F.R.D. 564, 569, (D. Col. 2009) (“Ample case law addressing issues relating to jail or prison security and safety concerns reflects a broad policy against Court interference in matters which affect those concerns.”) (citing Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 415, 109 S.Ct. 1874, 104 L.Ed.2d 549 (1989)); see also Robinson v. Adams, No. 1:08-cv-01380-AWI-BAM PC, 2012 WL 912746, at *2-3 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 16, 2012) (issuing protective order for documents containing information which implicated the safety and security of the prison).[2]

         Accordingly, despite the presumption in favor of public access, the Court finds here that good cause has been shown to permit the designation of the Jail Policy and Procedures Manual as confidential. The Jail Manual shall be produced and maintained pursuant to the terms of a protective order. Defendants are directed to file a proposed protective order with the Court, indicating that the documents shall be marked as “Confidential” and shall not be disclosed to unauthorized individuals or used for any purpose other than the preparation of the case.[3]

         B. Interrogatories

         Interrogatory No. 2

         Interrogatory No. 2 seeks “all reasons and justifications, if any, for why the Bullitt County Detention Center strip searched the Plaintiff.” (DN 25-2, at p. 2). Defendants objected to this Interrogatory as duplicative and burdensome because this information was previously provided to Shadburne. Without waiving that objection, Defendants went on to state:

Plaintiff was brought to the Bullitt County Detention Center in a van with six other detainees/arrestees who were either returning from court to the jail or had been committed to custody by the judge following a court appearance. Plaintiff was then detained for the purpose of processing and then strip searched prior to being placed in a holding cell where another inmate was being held. Once it was Plaintiff's turn to be booked, she was called out of the holding cell for purposes of the booking process by utilizing the Jail Tracker program. Plaintiff's strip search prior to her detention in the holding cell occurred pursuant to 501 KAR 3:120(3)(b)(3) which provides that ‘A prisoner may be strip searched only on reasonable suspicion that is based upon the existence of objective information that may predict the likelihood of the presence of a weapon, drugs, or other item of contraband concealed on a particular prisoner. Reasonable suspicion may be based upon one (1) or more of the following examples: . . . (3) . . . after transport from or through an area to which the public may have access.'

(Id.). This response is deficient, according to Shadburne, because Defendants do not state how the interrogatory is duplicative and burdensome and because “baldly quoting a law, without stating how the law applied to the Plaintiff - when it clearly does not - is not an answer.” (DN 25-1, at pp. 4-5). Defendants respond that this interrogatory is duplicative because Defendants previously provided this information to Shadburne through their Motion for Summary Judgment and supporting affidavits.

         It is clear from Defendants' response to Interrogatory No. 2, and additionally from Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgement and the affidavits submitted therewith, that the Bullitt County Detention Center strip-searched Shadburne because she was being placed in a holding cell with another inmate while waiting to be booked. (DN 7-1, at p. 6; DN 7-2; DN 25-2, at p. 2). Defendants believe that KAR 3:120(3)(b)(3) justifies their strip-search of Shadburne on ...

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