The opinion of the court was delivered by: Howard R. Lloyd United States Magistrate Judge
** E-filed March 17, 2011 **
United States District Court For the Northern District of California
ORDER RE: PRODUCTION OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS FILE
[Re: Docket Nos. 28, 31, 33, 38, 40]
Plaintiff Glenn Harper ("Harper"), an African-American police officer with the San Jose Police Department ("SJPD"), filed this action against the City of San Jose (the "City"), the SJPD, 19 and SJPD Chief Robert Davis ("Davis") (collectively, "Defendants") for racial discrimination and 20 retaliation in violation of 28 U.S.C. § 1983. After he was passed over for promotion and complained 21 of racial discrimination to state and federal agencies, Harper was transferred from vice to patrol.
Docket No. 1 ("Complaint") ¶¶ 6-10. He was told that he was being transferred because a 23 subordinate female officer in his unit made a discrimination/harassment complaint against him. Id. ¶
10. Harper claims that Defendants used the complaint - which was ultimately determined by the SJPD Internal Affairs ("IA") Department to be unfounded - as a pretext to demote him in 26 retaliation for his complaints of racial discrimination. Id. ¶ 12.
Harper served the IA Department with a subpoena for "all internal affairs files and complaints" related to him. Defendants objected to the production of any internal affairs file and any related recorded statements, summaries of statements, and any testimony from SJPD officers about 2 the investigation contained in the file. While Harper has been allowed to personally review the file, Court accepted the parties' stipulation to submit the contents of the internal affairs file in camera to 5 the Court and to brief their respective positions. Docket No. 28; Docket No. 33 ("Plaintiff's Brief"); Docket No. 38 ("Defendants' Reply Brief"). No hearing was set or requested, nor is one 8 necessary. Docket No. 28. 9
As an initial matter, Defendants challenge the relevance of the internal affairs file.
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[p]arties may obtain
discovery regarding any
non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or
defense . . . ." FED. R.
CIV. P. 26(b)(1).
"Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably 15 calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id. A relevant matter is "any matter that 16 bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matters that could bear on, any issue that is or may 17 be in the case." Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). Moreover, discovery 18 is not limited to only those specific issues raised in the pleadings since it is designed to define and 19 clarify the issues in the case. Miller v. Pancucci, 141 F.R.D. 292, 296 (C.D. Cal.1992) (citing Oppenheimer, 437 U.S. at 351). As such, the question of relevancy should be construed "liberally 21 and with common sense" and discovery should be allowed unless the information sought has no 22 conceivable bearing on the case. Id. Harper, who has been permitted to view the internal affairs file, correctly notes that the papers state, in some places, that the "complainant" is the Office of the Chief of Police. This, he 25 says, shows that the investigation "was initiated by the Chief's office in an apparent attempt to 26 retaliate against [him] and manufacture further pretexts not to promote him." Plaintiff's Opening Brief at 5-6. However, upon in camera review, it is clear that the papers - more often than not - 28 identify the subordinate officer as the "complainant." In fact, one page separately lists the Defendants have refused to produce it in response to ...