Judge slams city with default sanction in wrongful arrest case

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A federal judge threw the gavel at the city of Gary for ignoring court orders to respond to discovery in a social worker’s wrongful arrest suit against the city, Gary Community School Corp, and two Gary police officers who worked for the schools.

Social worker Dara Grimes was arrested when she intervened on behalf of a disabled client who was being expelled from school, according to the record. She sued the schools and the city, naming two police officers whose personnel records she unsuccessfully sought in discovery.

Chief Judge Philip P. Simon of the U.S. Court for the Northern District of Indiana issued a blistering order entering default against the city in Dara M. Grimes v. Gary Community School Corp, City of Gary, D. Goshay and A. Bradshaw, 2:13-cv-36.

“Gary has been granted one chance after another, has promised the Court that it would comply, then has utterly failed to do what it promised and what it was ordered to do,” Simon wrote. He noted some orders to compel have been ignored for more than year, and that the city failed to respond to a magistrate judge’s recommendation more than five months ago that a default order be issued. Simon took up the magistrate’s recommendation Tuesday, calling out Gary for failing to defend the suit.

“The bottom line is this: Gary has failed to comply with nearly every court order in this case. The Court has had to spend time reviewing briefing on motions to compel, holding hearings on discovery issues, considering and granting discovery extensions, and researching and drafting special Orders aimed at Gary’s recalcitrance. Plaintiff Grimes filed her case and deserves to get her day in court in a timely fashion, so she is prejudiced. I don’t think anybody really has any idea of the merits of Gary’s position because Gary won’t participate in the case or gather or share any information about its position, so that factor is moot,” Simon wrote.

“Although the amount of damages remains to be determined, I find that entry of default against Gary is proper. The default here is not the result of a mere technicality, but the result of a repeated, long-term refusal to participate in the case in a meaningful way that at this point must be described as willful,” Simon wrote. “A defendant cannot be allowed to completely ignore a lawsuit against it and, for practical purposes, that is what Gary has done and continues to do to this day. Gary’s attorneys have participated in court hearings and opposed sanctions (notably when the sanctions recommendation included the possibility of sanctions against the attorney personally).”

A status hearing is set for July 23.

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