891 F.2d 373 (1st Cir. 1989), 89-1108, Santiago v. Fenton

Docket Nº:89-1108.
Citation:891 F.2d 373
Party Name:Hector SANTIAGO, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. Paul J. FENTON, etc., et al., Defendants, Appellees.
Case Date:December 11, 1989
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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891 F.2d 373 (1st Cir. 1989)

Hector SANTIAGO, Plaintiff, Appellant,


Paul J. FENTON, etc., et al., Defendants, Appellees.

No. 89-1108.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

December 11, 1989

Heard Sept. 12, 1989.

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Elizabeth O'Connor Tomlinson and Charles J. DiMare, with whom Joan A. Antonino and Antonino & DiMare, Amherst, Mass., were on brief, for plaintiff, appellant.

Edward M. Pikula, Asst. City Sol., with whom Jane M. Payne, City Sol., was on brief, for defendants, appellees.

Before BREYER, Circuit Judge, COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge, FAIRCHILD, Senior Circuit Judge. [*]

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COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Hector Santiago claims that the City of Springfield, Massachusetts, its police chief and three police officers violated his constitutional rights by forcibly arresting and repeatedly striking him after he threw a snowball that hit a police officer's unmarked car. Santiago brought a civil rights action alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Mass.Gen.L. ch. 12, § 11I, federal and state constitutions and state common law. He ultimately prevailed at trial against one officer on one claim.

Santiago alleges three errors to this court. First, he claims that the district court abused its discretion by granting an overly broad protective order that prevented him from obtaining effective discovery. Second, he argues that the court erred in granting summary judgment for the city and the police chief because sufficient facts had been alleged and supported to create a genuine issue of material fact. Third, appellant claims that the directed verdicts for one of the defendant police officers should not have been granted because the facts taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff would have supported a reasonable jury's finding of liability. We will address each of these claims in turn, but first sketch the factual context.

I. Facts

The underlying facts of this case concern a January evening in 1983. The events we narrate were generally the subjects of widely conflicting testimony but our account will, as it must in reviewing the summary judgment and the directed verdicts, state those facts in the light most favorable to the appellant. Lipsett v. Univ. of Puerto Rico, 864 F.2d 881, 894 (1st Cir.1988); Kinan v. City of Brockton, 876 F.2d 1029 (1st Cir.1989).

On the night in question, Hector Santiago, age 13, had been engaged in a snowball match with several other youths when he accidentally threw a snowball that hit the unmarked car of Springfield police officer Rivera, not causing any damage. Rivera stopped and Santiago and the other youths ran to a nearby apartment complex, not realizing at first that the driver was a police officer. Rivera ran after them for about ten feet, but then abandoned the chase. He later encountered the youths at the complex and overheard Santiago say that he had thrown the snowball, but had not intended to hit the car. Rivera grabbed Santiago by the coat, causing his eyeglasses to fall and break. He yelled that it was his car that was hit and told Santiago that he was in "big trouble." Rivera then identified himself as a police officer.

Rivera dragged appellant into the hallway of one of the apartments and repeatedly pushed and shoved him against a wall. The officer then knocked on several residents' doors, asking that the police be telephoned. Shortly thereafter, detectives Carelock and Mackler arrived. After some discussion, the officers informed Santiago that he would have to go with them to check the vehicle for damage. He refused, indicating that his stepfather was coming. Officer Mackler grabbed him by the jacket collar and pulled him down two stairs, causing him to fall. The officers held him face down and handcuffed him. Santiago was then led to a police car while the officers made jokes about him. He was thrown against the police car and punched in the back several times. The police officers then escorted Santiago to the police station, disregarding the arrival of his stepfather. While in the car, Officer Mackler repeatedly struck him in the face while yelling at him and calling him names. At the station, Santiago was searched and booked on a misdemeanor charge of being a disorderly person.

The officers unambiguously testified that Santiago was not arrested for throwing the snowball. They claimed that Santiago was arrested for striking or pushing Rivera while refusing to accompany the officers, and for using abusive and offensive language. The complaint also indicates that the violent conduct and abusive language were the acts for which Santiago was charged. In their brief, however, defendants argue that the snowball incident could have given them probable cause to

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arrest Santiago. We will address the implications of these differing scenarios at the relevant points in our discussion.

After being released from the police station into the custody of his stepfather, Santiago was treated at the local hospital. He had bruises on his lower back and left cheek as well as cuts on his left cheek. He was advised to rest in bed for a week. Three days later, he returned to the hospital for a second examination. For several days, Santiago had difficulty breathing and bending over and was forced to miss school and work. As the result of defendants' acts, Santiago experienced humiliation, anxiety and loss of sleep, and was emotionally and physically shaky for several months.

Santiago filed suit in July 1985. He alleged claims against officers Rivera, Mackler and Carelock for false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and federal and state civil rights claims. Count IX of his complaint alleged that the City and police chief were responsible for his injuries based on unconstitutional policies and customs related to the training and discipline of police officers.

During the course of discovery, defendants moved for protective orders in response to plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for police department disciplinary, civilian complaint and civil litigation records. After plaintiff's opposition, which did not include a supporting memorandum, the district court granted the protective orders. Appellant requested reconsideration, filing a memorandum of law, but that motion was denied.

In December, 1986, the City of Springfield, police chief Fenton, and officers Mackler and Carelock moved for summary judgment. In May, 1987, summary judgment was granted to the City of Springfield and police chief Fenton on count IX of plaintiff's complaint alleging unconstitutional custom and policy. Summary judgment was denied on the other counts.

The parties consented to try the case before a magistrate. At the end of the evidence, the magistrate entered directed verdicts for defendant Mackler on the claims of false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and state and federal civil rights claims. The remaining claim of use of excessive force went to the jury and a verdict against Mackler was returned. Damages were awarded to plaintiff in the amount of $1,500. An additional $1,500 was awarded on an earlier default judgment against defendant Rivera. Plaintiff and defendant Carelock had settled during trial.

II. Protective Orders

The defendants requested protective orders in response to extremely broad discovery applications that sought police department records of internal investigations, disciplinary matters and civil litigation. In support of these requests, the defendants filed a memorandum asserting factual and legal reasons why the plaintiff's sweeping discovery should not be granted.

Three basic reasons were proposed. First, the defendants argued that plaintiff had so far failed to present any facts tending to implicate a de facto policy of the defendants, and examination of these voluminous records therefore was not relevant to any cause of action properly stated by the plaintiff. Second, defendants asserted that the discovery requests were so general that they placed an unwarranted burden on them. Third, the defendants argued that the matters being inquired into were privileged and needed to remain confidential to preserve the effective operation of the internal investigation unit.

The district court granted the motions for protective orders after allowing the plaintiff expanded time to file a memorandum in support of his opposition. For personal reasons, the plaintiff was unable to file that memorandum within the agreed period of extension. Although the plaintiff had obtained defendants' consent to an additional extension, the court, obviously uninformed of that agreement, ruled on the motions without benefit of the plaintiff's memorandum. The court stated that it granted the defendants' motions for protective orders

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for the reasons and supporting law stated in [the] motion[s]. The plaintiff has filed opposition, but no material in support thereof.

In denying appellant's motion for reconsideration, the district court said:

The plaintiff has shown no factual basis for this request and now seeks to establish a factual basis for this allegation. Moreover, the wholesale examination of the records of this department will lead to a series of mini-hearings, and do not aid in the resolution of the straightforward issues presented here.

Before we begin our analysis, we reject plaintiff's contention that he was denied all discovery on his claim of municipal liability. We note that he received answers to numerous interrogatories, copies of the defendants' written policies and procedures, the internal investigation files regarding the instant incident, and deposition testimony from...

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