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Knight v. Sheriff of Leon County

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division

May 9, 2018

BRITTANY KNIGHT, Petitioner,
v.
SHERIFF OF LEON COUNTY, Respondent.

          ORDER ON DEPOSITIONS OF THE SHERIFF AND TWO JUDGES

          Robert L. Hinkle United States District Judge.

         Pending are motions to limit scheduled depositions of a sheriff and two judges. This order grants the sheriff's motion in part and grants the judges' motion.

         I. Background

         The petitioner Brittany Knight filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus while in pretrial detention in the Leon County Jail. She asserts the practice in Leon County of setting unaffordable bail even when detention is unnecessary-in effect, detaining some criminal defendants but not others based solely on wealth- violates the United States Constitution. Ms. Knight seeks to represent a class of similarly situated pretrial detainees. The respondent is the Sheriff of Leon County in his official capacity.

         Ms. Knight has scheduled the deposition of the Sheriff under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6). The Sheriff has moved to limit the scope of the deposition. Ms. Knight has responded.

         Ms. Knight also has scheduled the depositions of two state-court trial judges-a circuit judge and a county judge-who preside over criminal cases in Leon County and thus have a role in setting bail in specific cases. The judges have moved to limit the duration and scope of the depositions. Ms. Knight has not yet responded, and a response to the motion is not yet due. This order limits the duration and scope of the depositions until otherwise ordered. The issue will be reconsidered de novo if Ms. Knight files a response to the motion.

         II. The Sheriff

         A. Rule 30(b)(6) and Ms. Knight's Notice

         A 30(b)(6) deposition is a deposition of an entity-not a deposition of an individual. So here, the deponent will in effect be the Sheriff's Department, not the Sheriff individually. A proper 30(b)(6) notice lists the topics on which testimony will be sought. The choice of the person who will provide the testimony lies with the entity that is being deposed, not with the party taking the deposition. So here, the Sheriff may choose any appropriate person to provide testimony on properly noticed topics. The Sheriff need not testify himself in response to this notice.

         Ms. Knight's 30(b)(6) notice lists three topics on which she wishes to depose the Sheriff-that is, on which she wishes to depose one or more individuals designated by the Sheriff to testify on his behalf. The topics deal with an “ad hoc committee” the Sheriff apparently created to address the bail system, the Sheriff's activities related to bail, and the “Sheriff's interest” in bail decisions and the outcome of this proceeding.

         B. The Scope of Discovery

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), the scope of discovery, unless further limited by court order, is this:

Parties 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, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

         C. The Sheriff as the Respondent in ...


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