Mere moments ago new filings in the LACAN/LACW lawsuit against the City of LA and the Central City East Association hit the RSS feed of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and what a doozy! It seems that, despite their representations to the contrary in front of Federal Magistrate Judge Andrew Wistrich, the City of Los Angeles is not complying with the Court’s discovery orders. I haven’t had time to read any of this stuff yet, but it looks super hot so I wanted to get it up here as quickly as possible. First we have an ex parte application for an order holding the City of Los Angeles in contempt and seeking sanctions against them. The plaintiffs state:
Good cause exists for such a motion because despite two orders from this Court compelling the production of responsive documents, the City has failed to produce these documents or identify a date certain when all responsive documents will be produced. Without further intervention and sanctions against the City, the City will continue to ignore this Court’s order and the City’s discovery obligations. Plaintiffs will experience prejudice if the City continues to be permitted to ignore its obligations and this Court’s orders.
Well, that ought to put the fear of God into them. The application was supported by two declarations and a proposed order, to which you will find links after the break (along with another long selection from the application).
On January 11, 2016, this Court held a hearing on Plaintiffs’ motion to compel after the City refused to produce even the most fundamental documents in this case, provided an incomprehensible privilege log, and failed to meet and confer in good faith. In its opposition, the City offered no substantive justification for refusing to produce documents and argued only that Plaintiffs’ meet and confer efforts were insufficient. The Court dismissed this argument, and instead raised spoliation concerns, based on the City’s admission that the City emails could not be accessed during the entire window allowed for discovery in this case. After hearing from Plaintiffs’ counsel that Plaintiffs had received responsive emails in another matter, the Court requested the parties meet and confer regarding the production. After meeting and conferring with Ronald Whitaker and Elizabeth Fitzgerald from the City Attorney’s office, the City agreed to produce all of the documents responsive to Plaintiffs’ requests, subject to the limitations Plaintiffs had previously offered in October 2015. With regards to the emails from city employees, because the City IT department represented that the City’s email archives would not be accessible for another 90 days. The parties agreed that the City would do department-by-department searches for responsive emails. These agreements were memorialized on the record. The Court issued an order requiring the production of all documents responsive to Plaintiffs’ requests within ten days.
On Tuesday, January 12, 2016, the City Attorney’s office notified Plaintiffs’ counsel that Ms. Fitzgerald had unexpectedly gone out on medical leave. Plaintiffs attempted numerous times to get in touch with Mr. Whitaker, Ms. Fitzgerald’s supervisor, who had also been present at the hearing , to receive clarification from the City Attorney about Ms. Fitzgerald’s absence and the City’s position with regards to the documents it had been ordered to produce. Plaintiffs’ Counsel explicitly requested that the City inform them if the City believed that Ms. Fitzgerald’s absence would have any impact on Defendant’s ability to produce responsive documents, to which the City did not respond. On January 21, the deadline set by this Court to produce responsive documents, defense counsel contacted Plaintiffs’ counsel to inform Plaintiffs that the City was not prepared to produce responsive documents. On January 22, 2016, the parties met and conferred, and counsel stated that although the City could have and should have searched for responsive documents earlier, at this time, he was unable to produce responsive documents. He indicated that: 1) Department heads within the City were not responding to his emails or phone calls about the discovery; and 2) LAPD had not even begun searching for responsive documents.
The City has now ignored two of this Court’s discovery orders. The City Attorney’s office has made it clear that it has not produced the documents because City departments have not been responsive to the City Attorneys’ requests for documents. Such a response from the City not only completely justifies a contempt order, but also demonstrates why such an order is necessary. The City is a party to this litigation and has an obligation to provide responsive documents, particularly where the Court has twice compelled the production of these documents. To the extent the City’s failure to produce responsive documents stems from the failure of departments to take the requests for information from the City Attorney seriously, such a contempt order and continued sanctions are necessary and proper to impress on these departments and entities that Court orders cannot be ignored, as they have done for the past month.
What a mess!
- Declaration of Shayla Myers in support of the application
- Declaration of Catherine Sweetser in support of the application
- Proposed order holding City of Los Angeles in contempt
Logo of the United States District Court for the Central District of California is in the public domain due to the usual federalistics.