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Washington v. Folin

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 23, 2015

Wilhelmina Washington, Plaintiff,
v.
John E. Folin, III, in his individual capacity as Special Agent with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Defendants.

ORDER

KAYMANI D. WEST, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel, ECF No. 68, filed on December 19, 2014. Plaintiff moves for an order compelling production of documents by the South Carolina Attorney General's Office ("SCAG"), a previous defendant in this case, pursuant to Rule 45(d)(2)(B)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id. On January 8, 2015, SCAG filed a Response objecting to compliance with the subpoena in question, ECF No. 71, and Plaintiff filed a Reply on January 14, 2015, ECF No. 72. The undersigned granted SCAG's Motion for leave to file a Sur-Response, ECF Nos. 73, 74, and the Sur-Response is also before the court for consideration, ECF No. 75. On February 4, 2015, the court held a status conference with Plaintiff and SCAG concerning the subpoena and requested additional briefing. ECF No. 78. Following briefing, the court held a hearing on March 18, 2015, concerning the scope of the subpoena. ECF No. 88. After the hearing SCAG filed a supplemental memorandum. ECF No. 89. This order follows.

Procedural Background

Plaintiff Washington originally filed suit against the above-captioned Defendants as well as against Alan Wilson, in his individual capacity and as the Attorney General of South Carolina; Wayne Allen Myrick, in his individual capacity and as Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General; Megan Wines Burchstead, in her individual capacity and as Assistant Attorney General; and the South Carolina Attorney General's Office. The SCAG Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seeking absolute immunity from liability. ECF No. 8. On July 15, 2014, the undersigned issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") recommending that the District Court grant SCAG's Motion and further finding that such an action would render Plaintiff's pending Motion to Amend moot. ECF No. 35. The District Court issued an order adopting in part and denying in part the R&R. ECF No. 44 at 6-9. The District Court granted the SCAG Defendants absolute immunity and dismissed them as defendants. See id. However, the court allowed Plaintiff leave to amend her Complaint as to her claims against the SLED Defendants. Id. at 9-10. Specifically the court found and instructed the following:

After a review of Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint, the Court takes note of the several claims remaining against the SLED Defendants, who neither joined in the SCAG motion to dismiss nor opposed Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend her complaint. The Court, therefore, finds that leave for Plaintiff to amend her complaint is appropriate; however, only for Plaintiff to amend her claims against the SLED Defendants. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2) ("The court should freely give leave when justice so requires."). But as a result of this order and the Magistrate Judge's R&R, the portions of Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint relating to the SCAG Defendants are moot.

Id. at 10.

The court issued an order denying Plaintiff's motion to reconsider and/or alter or amend its order ruling on the R&R. ECF No. 59. On October 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint against the remaining Defendants. ECF No. 50. There, Plaintiff alleged that "all [D]efendants acted in concert and conspiracy and were jointly and severally responsible for the harms caused her." Id. at ¶4. Additionally, Plaintiff alleged that "Defendant SLED, through its acts and omissions, .... combined and joined with, but not limited to SCAG, BURCHSTEAD, MYRICK, WILSON and FOLLIN for the purpose of injuring and causing special damage to WASHINGTON." Id. at ¶34. Based on the alleged civil conspiracy between SLED and SCAG, Plaintiff served SCAG with a subpoena.

After service of the subpoena on SCAG's office, SCAG sent Plaintiff's attorney written objections to it and refused to produce requested documents. ECF No. 67. In an email to the court, Plaintiff's counsel represented that SCAG is no longer a party to the suit and has "filed no motion to quash the subpoena/for protective order." Id. Additionally, Plaintiff's counsel indicated that the existing scheduling order requires the parties have a telephone conference with the court prior to filing motions. Id. The undersigned found that a teleconference was not necessary because SCAG properly objected to the subpoena pursuant to Rule 45(d)(2)(B) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This Motion to Compel compliance with the subpoena followed.

Scope of Discovery

"Discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is broad in scope and freely permitted." Carefirst of Maryland, Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Centers, Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 402 (4th Cir. 2003). "[T]he scope of discovery for a nonparty litigant under a subpoena duces tecum [is] the same as the scope of a discovery request made upon a party to the action, " and "a party is entitled to information that is relevant to a claim or defense in the matter" at issue. Smith v. United Salt Corp., No. 1:08-cv-00053, 2009 WL 2929343, at *5 (W.D.Va. Sept. 9, 2009). "It is well-settled that district courts are allowed broad discretion in resolving discovery disputes." Id. (citing Carefirst, 334 F.3d at 402). In other words, though Rule 45 does not list irrelevance or overbreadth as reasons for quashing a subpoena, the scope of discovery allowed under a subpoena is the same as the scope of discovery allowed under Rule 26. HDSherer LLC v. Natural Molecular Testing Corp., 292 F.R.D. 305, 308 (D.S.C. 2013). Rule 26(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure instructs the following regarding the scope of discovery:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense-including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. All discovery is subject to the limitations imposed by Rule 26(b)(2)(C).

In the case of Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, the Supreme Court recognized that discovery of a "matter not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence is not within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1)." 437 U.S. 340, 351-52 (1978)(internal citations omitted). "Thus, it is proper to deny discovery of matter that is relevant only to claims or defenses that have been stricken, or to events that occurred before an applicable limitations period, unless the information sought is otherwise relevant to issues in the case." Id. at 352. "[T]he burden of proof is with the party objecting to the discovery to establish that the challenged production should not be permitted." HDSherer, 292 F.R.D. at 308.

Motion to Compel Compliance with Subpoena

Plaintiff's subpoena includes six numbered requests for documents. ECF No. 68-1 at 6-7. The undersigned will ...


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