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Cranston Police Retirees Action Committee v. City of Cranston,

Superior Court of Rhode Island

September 15, 2015

CRANSTON POLICE RETIREES ACTION COMMITTEE, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF CRANSTON, by and through its Finance Director ROBERT STROM and its City Treasurer DAVID CAPUANO, ALLAN FUNG, in his capacity as Mayor of the City of Cranston, Members of the Cranston City Council JOHN LANNI, JR., DONALD BOTTS, JR., MARIO ACETO, MICHAEL J. FARINA, MICHAEL W. FAVICCHIO, PAUL H. ARCHETTO, RICHARD D. SANTAMARIA, JR., SARAH KALES LEE, and STEVEN A. STYCOAS, in their capacity as members of the Cranston City Council, Defendants.

Kent County Superior Court

For Plaintiff: Marisa A. Desautel, Esq. Patrick J. Sullivan, Esq.

For Defendant: William M. Dolan, III, Esq. William K. Wray, Jr., Esq.

DECISION

TAFT-CARTER, J.

Before the Court for decision is Defendant City of Cranston's (the City) Motion for a Protective Order and Plaintiffs Cranston Police Retirees Action Committee's (the Committee) objection. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-14.

I Facts and Travel

The instant Motion arises out of a suit brought by the Committee against the City alleging that the City has breached contracts which were previously negotiated with the City's Police Union, Local 301 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers. In particular, the Committee alleges certain Cranston City Ordinances violated the U.S. Constitution.

During discovery, the Committee filed a Notice of Deposition seeking to depose City Council President John E. Lanni, Jr. (Mr. Lanni). The Committee sought to gather information from Mr. Lanni relating to certain ordinances, including police and firefighter Collective Bargaining Agreements, financial conditions and spending of the City, and actuarial reports, as well as statements found on a website promoting the reelection of Mr. Lanni relating to his past accomplishments and future goals.[1]

The City objected to this deposition and, after the parties could not resolve the dispute, the City's Motion for a Protective Order soon followed pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 26(c). The City argues that the Notice of Deposition would impermissibly intrude upon the constitutional legislative immunity granted to Mr. Lanni in his role as Cranston City Council President. The City additionally asserts the testimony of any Cranston City Council member is not relevant to the matter at hand. The Committee retorts that the topics on which they seek to question Mr.

Lanni do not fall within the protections afforded by legislative immunity. The Committee contends that these topics are non-legislative or political in nature and thus are not barred areas of inquiry.

The Court heard oral argument on September 10, 2015 and now issues its Decision.

II Standard of Review

Rule 26(b)(1) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure permits discovery on "any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action . . . ." Super. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). A party seeking a deposition must give "reasonable notice in writing to every other party to the action." Super. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(1). Upon timely motion and a good faith effort to "resolve the dispute without court action, " the party opposing the deposition may move for a protective order to limit the scope of discovery. Super. R. Civ. P. 26(c). A court may then "make any order which justice requires to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense . . . ." Id.; see also Dowd v. Rayner, 655 ...


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