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City Hall has question about judge’s order to turn over records

Attorney Jeffrey Granich is accusing city attorneys of trying to avoid turning over documents that a judge has told them to provide in a police misconduct lawsuit. | Sun-Times file photo

A federal judge last week gave City Hall seven days to find “all materials relating to” a Chicago cop with an alleged history of violence and turn them over to a woman who is suing him.

Now the city has asked for more time — and clarity.

Meanwhile, the woman’s attorneys have accused City Hall lawyers of playing “word games” while the threat of sanctions hangs over their head.

“Instead of working to get out of this problem, you seem to be intent on digging the hole deeper,” the woman’s attorneys wrote in an email to city lawyers last week.

Both sides are due back in court again Friday. Last time they were there, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox said the odds were “slim to none” that the city would avoid sanctions if it had improperly withheld records related to Officer Patrick Kelly, as has been alleged.

“The City is complying with the judge’s order to certify that we have produced all materials regarding Officer Kelly that plaintiffs requested in discovery,” Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city’s law department, said in an email. “We asked for clarification from the court since we believe producing every single police report, investigation material, email or other document that simply contains the name of Officer Kelly, but does not pertain to this case, would be extraordinarily burdensome and provide no benefit.”

The lawsuit against the city and three officers was filed by Elaina Turner, who allegedly suffered a miscarriage after being tasered by a Chicago police officer three times in 2013. Jeffrey Granich, one of her lawyers, said he received multiple assurances from the Independent Police Review Authority that he had received all records related to Kelly. But when he tried to depose Kelly last month, he said he learned Kelly had been involved in the fatal shooting of a suspect in April 2014.

Granich wants a judge to order the city to pay attorney fees and hand down other “punitive sanctions” against the city and IPRA for not revealing that shooting. During last week’s court appearance, Cox asked the city to “certify within seven days that all materials regarding Officer Kelly that have been requested in discovery have been produced,” according to a transcript.

Afterward, Cox said in an order that City Hall had seven days to certify it had turned over “all materials relating to Officer Kelly” or explain why certain documents have been withheld.

On Thursday, the judge made a lengthy entry on the court docket indicating that the requests from Turner’s lawyers “include the full panoply of ‘documents'” as defined by federal rules, regarding complaints against the officer, and the city is obligated to turn over all relevant, non-privileged records “in any medium from which information can be obtained.”

In a motion filed Wednesday, city lawyers had indicated they thought Cox’s order referred to all material Turner’s lawyer’s “have requested.” They said as much in a July 1 email to Turner’s legal team, and they filed a copy of the email exchange — including the response from Turner’s lawyers — with their motion.

“We simply cannot understand that you spent the last 24 hours since appearing before Judge Cox attempting to figure out ways to not disclose material,” Turner’s lawyers replied.

They told the city that Cox was “painfully clear,” and they said they were demanding “every piece of paper with Officer Patrick Kelly’s name on it” ever produced or handled by various city departments, agencies and outside law firms.

Since last week’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin granted a motion for sanctions against the city in a separate case brought by a woman who alleges she was assaulted by a police officer at the McDonald’s that used to be across the street from Wrigley Field. Despite indications from the city that there was no “known” investigation of the incident by IPRA, the woman’s lawyer later purportedly learned that IPRA “was present the night of the events.”

Durkin said in court that “somebody messed up,” and a spokesman for the city’s law department agreed that “a mistake was made here.”