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Brooks v. The City of St. Louis

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 17, 2018

CHRISTINA BROOKS, on Behalf of All Beneficiaries, Pursuant to §537.080, R.S. Mo., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Motion to Compel Directed to Defendant the City of Jennings ("Jennings") (ECF No. 67). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Christina Brooks ("Brooks") filed this lawsuit on behalf of her son, DeJuan Brison ("Brison"), who was confined at the St. Louis City Justice Center from October 1, 2014 to October 4, 2014, and hung himself four hours after being transferred to the Jennings Detention Center. Count XI alleges that Brison died as a result of Jennings operating a "modern debtors' prison" in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983, as well as violations of the First, Fourth Sixth, Thirteen, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. (ECF No. 68 at 2; Complaint, ECF No. 3, at 43-47). Brooks refers this Court to Samantha Jenkins v. The City of Jennings, 4;l5cv252CEJ (E.D. Mo. Sept. 16, 2015) to support her contention that her discovery requests are relevant and proportional to Count X and XI of her Complaint. In Jenkins, the class of plaintiffs was comprised of individuals who were jailed by Jennings because they were unable to pay fines imposed by Jennings as a result of traffic tickets or other minor offenses. In Jenkins, it was alleged that Jennings imprisoned those plaintiffs solely because they could not afford to make a monetary payment related to fines issued by the municipal court. In addition, it was alleged that no inquiry was made into the individual's ability to pay the fines issued by the Court. Jennings maintains that this case is inapposite because Jennings never levied fines against Brison or issued warrants for his failure to pay such fines. Instead of fining Brison for his 2012 Theft charge and his 2013 Failure to Appear charge, the municipal court ordered Brison to complete a state-sponsored financial responsibility class after Brison failed to appear in Court three times.[1]

         LEGAL STANDARD FOR MOTION TO COMPEL

         Generally, "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense-including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The Federal rules further provide for limits on discovery requests. Specifically,

the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by these rules or by local rule if it determines that: (i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or (iii) the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).

         Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C)(i)-(iii). Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions to compel discovery.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Requests 33 through 38 and Interrogatories 16 through 20

         Brooks claims that these interrogatories and requests for production are related to Count XI of her Complaint. Brooks asserts that these requests are tailored to identify evidence in Jennings' possession that it was operating a debtors' prison.

         Interrogatory 17 asks Jennings to state the amount of its revenues generated for 2012 through 2015 from (a) court-ordered fines and fees, (b) the collection of court-ordered fines and fees from legal violations; and (c) the issuance of warrants. (ECF No. 68 at 6). Requests 35, 36, and 37 correspond to that interrogatory and direct Jennings to produce documents relating to the revenues generated by Jennings from its fines, fees, collection efforts and warrants for 2012 to 2015. (ECF No. 68 at 6). Brooks claims that these requests relate to the allegation in this case that Jennings was levying exorbitant fines and costs in an effort to maximize revenues and profits. (ECF No. 68 at 6).

         Interrogatory 18 asks Jennings to state the amount of expected police and court revenue Jennings predicted in its revenue projections for 2012 through 2015. (ECF No. 68 at 6). Request 38 likewise seeks documents relating to Jennings' projections, goals, and strategies for generating revenue from these fines, fees, collection efforts and warrants for 2012 through 2015. Brooks claims these requests relate to Jennings' scheme to use this revenue to meet its yearly budget goals. (ECF No. 68 at 7).

         Interrogatory 19 asks Jennings to state the number of hearings it held in 2012 through 2015 related to an individual's ability to pay court-imposed fines prior to, during, or after the individual was detained. (ECF No. 68 at 7). Interrogatory 20 asks Jennings to state the number of individuals in 2012 through 2015 who, as a result of such hearings, were ...


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