Attorney for county in jail lawsuit asks for speedy discovery process

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   The attorney representing Carter County and Sheriff John Henson in the federal lawsuit filed citing "inhumane" conditions at the Carter County Jail filed a motion asking that attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case to comply with discovery requests as well as asking the judge assigned to the case to shorten the time limit the plaintiffs have to produce documents, depositions and other evidence they plan to use in the upcoming hearing for a preliminary injunction.
   Knoxville-based attorney John Duffy, who was appointed to represent the county and Henson, states in his motion that attorneys Scott Pratt and John Eldridge, who are representing three former inmates of the Carter County Jail, have submitted "extensive discovery requests" from the defendants.
   "Such requests included the production of a large number of documents; the inspection of other documents by Plaintiff's expert witness on April 1 and April 2, 2004; a tour of the facility with attorney Eldridge on February 11, 2004; a tour of the jail facility by Plaintiff's expert and attorney Scott Pratt on April 1, 2004; a further tour of the facility with attorneys Pratt, Eldridge and Plaintiff's jail expert on April 2, 2004; and the deposition of Jail Administrator, Sgt. Wendell Treadway, on April 2, 2004," states Duffy in the motion.
   Duffy also states in the motion that he, Eldridge and Pratt had agreed that an "abbreviated deposition" of the plaintiffs Tony Berry, Michael Davis and Donna Wells would occur on the same day as Treadway's deposition. "However, Plaintiff Berry chose to go out of town rather than attend the deposition, Plaintiff Wells was whereabouts unknown, and, therefore, unavailable, and the time of Plaintiff's depositions and tour of the facility on April 2 precluded deposing Plaintiff Davis, who is in the Washington County Jail," the motion states. "The (attorneys for the) Plaintiffs have agreed to make Mr. Berry and Ms. Wells available for deposition by April 20, 2004, or that such persons will not testify at the hearing on the Motion for Preliminary Injunction."
   Due to the absence of two of the three named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Duffy states in the motion that he assumes that Pratt and Eldridge will call other inmates not yet identified to the defendant to testify at the preliminary hearing.
   Duffy alleges that "both employees with the Carter County Sheriff's Department and counsel for Defendant have spent the entirety of the time spent on the case to date answering the complaint and responding to Plaintiff's discovery requests." In addition to that statement, Duffy further adds in the motion that the "defendant has not received any discovery from the Plaintiffs to prepare for the hearing on Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Accordingly, in order for Defendant to prepare for said hearing, Defendant requests that the time for which Plaintiffs be required to answer interrogatories and requests for production be shortened to two weeks, making their responses due on April 20, 2004."
   Johnson City-based attorney Pratt stated on Friday that he has seen the motion filed by Duffy and that he has no objection to the shortened time limit for discovery by the attorney for the defense. "We have the motion hearing on the 26th (of April) and he has gotten a little behind so he is asking us for discovery in two weeks," Pratt said. "We just kept him real busy. There was a large amount of information we needed and we needed it fairly quickly."
   Included with the motion filed in the U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Duffy also filed a copy of interrogatories, or questions, which he is asking that the attorneys for the plaintiffs answer as part of the discovery process. Included in the interrogatories are requests listing the names of inmates who will testify, how long they were incarcerated, whether any inmates who will testify have ever submitted grievances to the state or the Tennessee Corrections Institute and the names of expert witnesses who will testify.