Judge tells Belfast man to respond to discovery requests or risk having lawsuit tossed

By Ben Holbrook | Mar 16, 2017

A U.S. District Court Judge ordered a Belfast man who is suing the city, county and local police to respond to repeated requests for information regarding the lawsuit or his case could be dismissed.

Last month, lawyers for the city of Belfast and Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden filed a motion seeking sanctions against Bradley Williams because he failed to provide responses to discovery requests. Attorneys representing the county and Waldo County Sheriff's Office Deputy Merl Reed also requested sanctions.

According to court documents, the city served Williams Dec. 6, 2016, with its first discovery request. Williams then had until Jan. 9, 2017, to respond to the request. He did not do so, according to the motion. Furthermore, the city states Williams did not attempt to contact the city's attorneys to discuss the discovery request or request more time to respond.

After not receiving any response from Williams, the attorneys mailed him a letter requesting a response. The attorneys then requested a telephone conference to resolve the issue. At that time, Williams requested and was granted a one-week extension to respond to the discovery requests, court documents state.

Despite the time extension and attorneys providing Williams with second copies of the discovery requests, he still has not provided responses to those requests. That prompted the attorneys to petition the court for sanctions up to and including dismissing the case.

Presiding U.S. Magistrate Judge John C. Nivison notes in his order that lesser sanctions, such as contempt, fines or conditional orders of dismissal, should be considered first before dismissing a case.

“Dismissal is only one of the authorized forms of sanctions, and the district court 'should consider the totality of events and then choose from the broad universe of available sanctions in an effort to fit the punishment to the severity and circumstances of the violation,'” court documents state.

Instead of dismissing the case, Nivison ordered Williams to respond to the discovery requests on or before March 21, and prohibited him from serving any discovery requests on the defendants. Also, the defendants are not required to respond to any discovery requests served by Williams until he has complied with the court order.

The case could be dismissed, Nivison warns, if Williams fails to respond by the deadline.

Williams is suing Reed, McFadden, the city and the county on grounds they violated his First, Fourth, Sixth, Ninth and Fourteenth amendment rights when he was arrested for mailing a court motion to Phish drummer Jon Fishman. The suit was first filed in April 2016.

As a result of the arrest, Williams said he suffered a visible scar on his right wrist from being placed in handcuffs, and also suffered emotional and psychological trauma from having his name in the newspaper. His business reputation and his community standing have been destroyed, he stated in his lawsuit.

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