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W.S. v. Daniels

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division

July 11, 2017

W.S., Plaintiff,
v.
CASSANDRA DANIELS; URSULA BEST; and SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Defendants. W.S., Plaintiff,
v.
CASSANDRA DANIELS; URSULA BEST; and SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Defendants.

          AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO QUASH SUBPOENA

          MARY GEIGER LEWIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff W.S. (Plaintiff) filed this lawsuit as a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. He also asserts state law claims against Defendants Cassandra Daniels, Ursula Best, and South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) (collectively, Defendants) under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act. The Court has jurisdiction over the matter under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to quash the January 31, 2017, subpoena issued to Boys Home of the South (BHOTS), which was served on February 13, 2017, under Rule 45(d)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Having carefully considered the motion, the response, the reply, the sur-reply, the record, and the applicable law, it is the judgment of the Court Defendants' motion will be denied.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In Plaintiff's Complaint, he alleges he was involved in various sexual activities with other minors while residing at BHOTS and in the custody of SCDSS. On February 13, 2017, Plaintiff served a subpoena-issued on January 31, 2017-on BHOTS, a former defendant in this action. The subpoena seeks, in relevant part, documents for all minor children and all staff at BHOTS which involve abuse or neglect or serious or critical incidents concerning any child resident or staff at BHOTS from 2000 until April 19, 2011. See ECF No. 57-1.

         BHOTS has neglected to object to Plaintiff's subpoena. According to Plaintiff, BHOTS has gathered the relevant materials and stands ready to produce them upon order of the Court. Defendants object to the subpoena, however, and initially filed a motion to quash on April 26, 2017. ECF No. 42. Because Defendants failed to abide by the Court's direction in the scheduling order requiring consultation with opposing counsel and, if necessary, a conference with the Court, the Court dismissed without prejudice Defendants' motion. ECF No. 44.

         Plaintiff and Defendants subsequently engaged in extensive consultation and resolved many of the issues underlying Defendants' objections to the subpoena. For example, the parties agree the scope of the subpoena shall be limited to the following individuals specifically identified in Plaintiff's affidavit: D.H., K.W., J.F., D.A., D.S., B.P., A.V., D.C., and B.S. ECF No. 57 at 1. Plaintiff has also agreed not to pursue further discovery on three of the individuals listed in his affidavit who are identified as: W.A., W.B., and W.H. Id. The parties have further agreed to limit the subpoena from 2003 until April 19, 2011, which is the date Plaintiff left the custody of BHOTS. Id.

         Nevertheless, the parties were unable to resolve the entire dispute. The primary contested issue involves Defendants' desire for the Court to conduct an in-camera review prior to the disclosure of the records involving alleged sexual activities of other children and Plaintiff's opposition to the same.

         Pursuant to the Court's direction, Defendants filed their instant motion to quash on June 15, 2017. ECF No. 57. Plaintiff filed his response in opposition on June 20, 2017, Defendants filed their reply on June 27, 2017, and Plaintiff filed a sur-reply on June 28, 2017. The Court, having been fully briefed on the relevant issues, is now prepared to make a determination on the merits of the motion.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Courts are given broad discretion to manage discovery and make discovery rulings. See United States ex rel. Becker v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 305 F.3d 284, 290 (4th Cir. 2002) (“We afford substantial discretion to a district court in managing discovery and review discovery rulings only for abuse of that discretion.” (citing Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc. v. Alpha of Va., Inc., 43 F.3d 922, 929 (4th Cir. 1995))). Further, a district court has discretion to order discovery of any relevant matters. See Watson v. Lowcountry Red Cross, 974 F.2d 482, 488-89 (4th Cir. 1992). Under Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, upon “timely motion, the court for the district where compliance [with a subpoena] is required must quash or modify a subpoena that . . . requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or waiver applies.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(A).

         IV. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

         In Defendants' motion to quash, they maintain the Court should conduct an in-camera review prior to disclosure of records involving alleged sexual activities of other children. Defendants cite S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-1990 (the Children's Code) for this proposition and appear to allege these documents are protected by a third-party privacy privilege purportedly established by the Children's Code. Defendants also aver an in-camera review of these documents is warranted because, among other things, these other children are not parties to this action, and the requested records are extraordinarily sensitive in nature. Defendants urge the Court to apply the scheme for in-camera review set forth in N.G. ex rel. Gaymon v. South Carolina Department of Social Services, No. 0:10-cv-02973-CMC, 2011 WL 1642331 (D.S.C. May 2, 2011), in which the ...


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