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Tennison v. City and County of San Francisco

March 25, 2005

JOHN TENNISON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY & COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edward M. Chen United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT HENDRIX'S MOTION TO COMPEL; GRANTING DEFENDANT SANDERS' REQUEST FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE; AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT SANDERS' MOTION TO COMPEL (Docket Nos. 76, 77, 80)

Plaintiff John Tennison filed suit against various defendants, including the City and County of San Francisco ("City"), the San Francisco Police Department ("SFPD"), two police inspectors (in their official and individual capacities), and an ADA (George Butterworth), alleging that Defendants violated his civil rights during the criminal investigation and prosecution of a murder case in which Mr. Tennison was the criminal defendant. More specifically, Mr. Tennison claims that Defendants

(1) withheld exculpatory and impeachment evidence that likely would have led to his acquittal and

(2) relied extensively on perjured testimony while ignoring and failing to investigate other exculpatory evidence. Previously, Judge Wilken granted Mr. Tennison habeas relief based on the finding that Defendants had suppressed exculpatory evidence.

Pending before the Court are two motions to compel filed by the individual officers, Napoleon Hendrix and Prentice Earl Sanders. The officers seek to compel Mr. Tennison to provide further responses to contention interrogatories and to produce two categories of documents. Having considered the parties' briefs and accompanying submissions, the oral argument of counsel, and post-argument supplemental briefing, the Court hereby GRANTS Mr. Hendrix's motion to compel and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Mr. Sanders' motion to compel.

I. DISCUSSION

A. Mr. Hendrix's Motion to Compel

In his motion to compel, Mr. Hendrix argues that Mr. Tennison should be compelled to provide full and complete answers to Interrogatories Nos. 2, 3, and 5.

1. Interrogatory No. 2

In Interrogatory No. 2, Mr. Hendrix asked Mr. Tennison to state all facts supporting his denial that (1) the individual defendants were not aware of any exculpatory evidence prior to Mr. Tennison's conviction and that (2) Mr. Tennison was aware or reasonably should have been aware of exculpatory evidence prior to his conviction. In response to the interrogatory, Mr. Tennison made various objections and then stated that

[his] pleadings in Tennison v. Ivalee Henry, No. 98-3842 (N.D. Cal.), the proceedings and discovery therein, and Judge Claudia Wilken's Order granting habeas relief documents possible facts responsive to this interrogatory. Even though these documents are in the public record or otherwise available to Hendrix, Tennison will as a courtesy make them available to [Hendrix] in response to this Interrogatory, along with any and all other responsive, non-privileged documents within Tennison's custody and control, from which Hendrix can obtain such information as readily as can Tennison in response to this Interrogatory.

Wong Decl., Ex. G (responses to interrogatories).

Mr. Hendrix's motion to compel Mr. Tennison to provide a full and complete response to Interrogatory No. 2 is granted. The interrogatory does not require Mr. Tennison to disclose any privileged information, and it is not being asked early on in the pretrial process. (Fact discovery is set to close on April 18, 2005.). Thus, the disfavored status that normally applies to early contention interrogatories before discovery is undertaken (see Nelson v. Capital One Bank, 206 F.R.D. 499, 501 (N.D. Cal. 2001); In re Convergent Techs., 108 F.R.D. 328, 332-40 (N.D. Cal. 1985)) is inapposite here. At this juncture, discovery is nearly complete, and hence Plaintiff is in a position to provide meaningful answers. Furthermore, the interrogatory will advance the litigation as it will pin down Mr. Tennison's position as the parties prepare for trial regarding the exact state of his (and his attorney's) knowledge (a fact Mr. Tennison concedes is relevant to this suit as discussed below), and the knowledge of the individual defendants regarding exculpatory evidence prior to his conviction. Although a great deal of information obviously is in the hands of Mr. Hendrix, the information about Mr. Tennison's knowledge about the exculpatory information is not. Finally, the interrogatory is not unduly burdensome as Mr. Tennison presumptively is in the final stages of organizing and preparing his case for presentation of evidence at trial. Thus, embodying this information into an interrogatory response is feasible.

To be sure, although this is not a case in which Defendants are in the dark about Plaintiff's position given the extensive civil and criminal litigation history of this case, overall the factors set forth in Nelson favor permitting the contention interrogatory. Mr. Hendrix's motion to compel a response is granted.

2. Interrogatories Nos. 3 and 5

In Interrogatories Nos. 3 and 5, Mr. Hendrix asked Mr. Tennison to state all facts supporting his claim for compensatory and general damages. In response to each interrogatory, Mr. Tennison made several objections and then provided the same answer above. He also stated that "his damages stem from 13-1/2 years of wrongful incarceration."

Mr. Hendrix's motion to compel full and complete responses to these interrogatories is granted. Mr. Hendrix should not have to guess whether, e.g., Mr. Hendrix has suffered emotional distress because of the incarceration, whether he sought treatment for such distress, and so forth.

B. Mr. Sanders' Motion to Compel

In his motion to compel, Mr. Sanders argues that Mr. Tennison should be compelled to provide full and complete answers to Interrogatories Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15 and that he should be ...


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