United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
se plaintiff Eric Harris brought this 42 U.S.C. §
1983 case to recover for injuries that he allegedly suffered
as a result of the use of excessive force during his arrest.
See, e.g., doc. 8 at 5 (Amended Complaint). He is
proceeding without counsel. Chatham County, Georgia and the
City of Savannah, Georgia responded to his Complaint,
asserting various defenses. Doc. 16 (Answer). Their response,
however, did not identify the officers allegedly involved.
See Id. at 1 (responding on behalf of “CNT
Agent 1, and CNT Agent 2”). The Court, therefore,
directed counsel for the responding defendants to provide
Harris with limited discovery so that he might identify the
officers he contends exerted excessive force. Doc. 27.
defendants complied and provided documentation of Harris'
arrest. See doc. 28-1 (police reports). The Court
then directed Harris to amend his Complaint and identify the
officers. Doc. 30. Within the time provided for that
amendment, he has responded, protesting that he is unable to
identify the officers from the discovery materials. Doc. 31.
He notes that defendants' prior response undertook to
provide recordings of his arrest, which he now seeks in an
effort to identify the officers and comply with the
Court's Order. Compare doc. 28 at 1 (explaining
that recordings are not in defendants' possession or
control, but that defendants were “attempting to locate
any audio/video and, if any, . . . provide[ it] by
supplemental response”), with doc. 31 at 1
(repeating Harris' requests for “a copy of the
actual audio/video footage from his arrest . . . as well as a
narrative of the video.”).
Court might construe Harris' most recent filings in a
number of ways: as a motion for an extension of time to
comply with its amendment order until after production of the
recordings, or as a motion to compel their production.
Regardless of its technical construction, his most recent
filing seeks the same identity information he sought before.
See doc. 31 at 2 (“Harris is also request
[sic] the Defendant to reveal the identity of the 2 Agents
that led Harris out of the house.”). He has, however,
made a good-faith attempt to clarify their identities based
on the materials provided: he now clearly alleges that the
officers, referred to (but not named) in an internal
police report, are the officers who exerted the excessive
force. See doc. 31 at 1 (“Lt. Gunditch [sic]
reports only indicate the contact he witnessed outside of the
house. The 2 Agents in his report are the same Agents
that are accused of excessive force.” (emphasis
the Court is confronted by the prospect of Plaintiff's
service of a Rule 45 subpoena on Lt. Gundich, or the use of
some other discovery device, to determine whether he can
provide any further information concerning the relevant
officers' identities. Before undertaking that process,
however, the Court will again call upon counsel for the
specially-appearing defendants. The Court
DIRECTS counsel who prepared the limited
Answer on behalf of the City and County to secure copies of
any incident reports or other documents reflecting the
identities of the SWAT officers present during the relevant
events of July 13, 2017. If the officers' identities are
not recorded in any document, counsel may simply disclose
their identities (if known to them) or identify a proper
official in the SWAT command who can appear for a
court-supervised deposition pursuant to Fed. R Civ. P. 30 or
who can answer a focused set of written questions posed
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 31. Counsel should file copies of the
documents or report with the Clerk within thirty days from
the date of this Order. If the responding parties believe the
records or report contain information which should be
protected from public disclosure, they are free to request
that the documents be sealed, pursuant to the Court's
Local Rule 79.7.
 The report identifies the CNT agents
who were present when Harris was arrested. See doc.
28-1 at 5. Although Harris continues to refer to the officers
who subjected him to excessive force as “agents,
” implying CNT agents, the documents provided suggest,
on the contrary, that they were SWAT officers. See
Id. (“I (Lt[.] Gundich) was on scene during the
warrant and observed Mr. Harris led out of the house by
SWAT and turned over to CNT agents.” (emphasis
added)). None of the documents provided include any
names of SWAT officers. See generally doc. 28-1.
Thus, it is unclear whether, as defendants' response
contends, the reports provided include “[a] list of
all officers that entered the residence . . . and
participated in detaining and arresting Eric Harris on
7/13/2017.” Doc. 28-1 at 1.
The identities of the two SWAT officers are knowable, that
knowledge is almost certainly within the possession of the
City or County law enforcement officials, and the Court will
see to it that that knowledge is disclosed to the Plaintiff.
The use of Civil Rules 30, 31, and 45 can be cumbersome,
costly, and time-consuming, particularly when those tools are
placed in the hands of a pro se litigant. Both the
Court and the parties have a duty “to secure the just,
speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and
proceeding.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 1. If a formal deposition (or
series of depositions) in the courtroom is needed in this
case, then that is what we will have. But the Court is
satisfied that the able and highly professional attorneys who
have appeared in this case for the defense, as well as the
clients they represent, will much prefer a more informal
mechanism for providing Plaintiff with the ...