United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO QUASH
TERRENCE G. BERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Tyson Hoban alleges that he was beaten in Flint City LockUp,
operated by the Genesee County Sheriff Department, in
violation of his Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment
rights to be free from excessive force and cruel and unusual
punishment. Complaint, ECF No. 1. His Complaint also includes
a count seeking damages for assault and battery under
Michigan law. Id.
incident giving rise to this lawsuit took place on June 2,
2018. While Plaintiff was booked into the jail after his
arrest, Defendants allegedly pushed Plaintiff to the ground,
pinned him down, sprayed him with pepper spray, and punched
him repeatedly. Id. at PageID.5. Plaintiff admits
that he used offensive language but maintains that he was not
acting in a physically aggressive manner. Id.
Plaintiff claims that he suffered serious injuries that
Defendants delayed seeking medical attention for him for an
hour and twenty-five minutes. Id.
discovery, Plaintiff seeks production of the internal
investigation report that the Genesee County Sheriff's
Department completed in response to the incident. This matter
is now before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Quash
Plaintiff's Subpoena. ECF No. 17. The Court ordered
Defendants to submit the report for in camera
review, ECF No. 29, which they did on June 14, 2019.
initial matter, “[p]arties may obtain discovery
regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any
party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of
the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b). Because “mutual
knowledge of all the relevant facts gathered by both parties
is essential to proper litigation, ” the discovery
rules “are to be accorded a broad and liberal
treatment.” Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495,
507 (1947); see also Schlagenhauf v. Holder, 379
U.S. 104, 114-115 (1964) (citing Hickman).
Defendants raise two arguments in support of their position
that the Court should grant them an exemption from
liberally-construed discovery rules.
Defendants argue that public policy favors keeping their
internal investigation confidential. And second, they argue
that the report is privileged pursuant to the deliberative
process privilege. The Court addresses each argument below.
Public policy arguments cannot overcome the presumption in
favor of broad discovery.
rely on two central cases for their argument that public
policy concerns support their position that the internal
investigation report should be protected from public
disclosure. First, they cite Garrity v. New
Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967), a case in which the Supreme
Court held that police officers' statements taken during
an investigation could not be used against them in a
subsequent criminal trial because the officers were told that
they would be fired if they refused to answer questions. The
Supreme Court determined that use of these statements
violated the officers' Fifth Amendment right against
self-incrimination. Defendants concede that Garrity
does not control the outcome of this motion but argue that
the same principles underlying Garrity warrant
quashing the subpoena. The Court disagrees. Garrity
rests on the principle of the Fifth Amendment's right not
to be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against
oneself. The rule in Garrity protects that right by
preventing statements given during internal investigations
from being used in any subsequent criminal cases. In a civil
case, there is no criminal penalty at issue. A witness may
choose not to testify in a civil case by invoking the Fifth
Amendment, although the jury may draw an adverse inference
from such an invocation that the testimony would be
unfavorable. Defendants mischaracterize Garrity when
they interpret it as “afford[ing] protections in order
to encourage cooperation within an internal
investigation.” ECF No. 17 PageID.123. Garrity
affords protections in criminal prosecutions in order not to
violate the Constitution.
Defendants cite a Michigan Supreme Court case exempting a
police department's internal investigation report from
disclosure pursuant to the Michigan Freedom of Information
Act (MFOIA). Kent Cnty Depute Sheriff's Ass'n v.
Kent Cnty Sheriff, 463 Mich. 353 (2000). The Michigan
Supreme Court interpreted a provision in MFOIA allowing a
public body to exempt personnel records of law enforcement
agencies from disclosure “[u]nless the public interest
in disclosure outweighs the public interest in nondisclosure
in the particular instance.” Mich. Comp. Laws §
15.243. In applying this balancing test, the Michigan court
found that public interest favors nondisclosure, reasoning
that disclosure of the report would make it more difficult
for the police department to convince officers to participate
in future investigations. Kent Cnty, 463 Mich. at
of a state court interpreting state law do not bind this
Court. And Defendants' argument that public policy
requires that they be able to withhold otherwise relevant
discovery does not appear to be grounded in any federal rule.
Moreover, the balancing test that Michigan courts use to
determine whether documents are exempted from production
under MFOIA cannot cleanly apply here, because the instant
matter relates to discovery, not public
disclosure-Plaintiff has offered to stipulate to a
protective order prohibiting public disclosure of the report.
The interests at stake in producing clearly relevant evidence
to the other side in a civil action are different from those
involved when a citizen is seeking public disclosure of
internal government documents. But even if we were to apply
the MFOIA exemption rule to the facts of this case, the Court
cannot conclude that the benefits to the public of
nondisclosure outweigh the benefits of disclosure in this
seeks materials that include transcripts of the interviews of
the officers who were involved in the altercation with
Plaintiff, taken shortly after the incident occurred.
Disclosure of such material constitutes a benefit to the
public that outweighs the concern of Defendants that, in the
future, officers may not be willing to participate in
internal investigations. While employees may not
want to participate in internal investigations that
could eventually become public, employers frequently require
employees to do things that they may not necessarily wish to
do-particularly when they involve investigations of possible
misconduct by those employees.
guaranteeing that the results of internal investigations
should permanently remain shrouded in secrecy does not
protect the public. It is possible, as Defendants argue, that
guaranteed secrecy might make officers feel more comfortable
answering questions truthfully, even if that truth is
embarrassing or inculpating. But the Court is unwilling to
assume that employees would be untruthful if made aware that
their answers may become known to the public-and making
decisions based ...