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Sinclair v. Lauderdale County

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

March 24, 2015

CHERYL D. SINCLAIR, Plaintiff,
v.
LAUDERDALE COUNTY, TN, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO QUASH SUBPOENA

CHARMIANE G. CLAXTON, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is Non-Party Assistant District Attorney Julie Pillow's Motion to Quash Subpoena. (Docket Entry "D.E." #15). The instant motion was referred to the United States Magistrate Judge for determination. (D.E. #16). For the reasons set forth herein, the instant Motion to Quash Subpoena is DENIED.

I. Introduction

On November 21, 2014, Plaintiff Cheryl Sinclair filed a Complaint against Lauderdale County, Tennessee pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). The claims asserted therein arise from Plaintiff's August 12, 2014 arrest for Accessory After the Fact to Escape[1] for allegedly assisting her son, Stephen Sinclair, in escaping from a court-ordered "bible-based" drug treatment program administered by the Rose of Sharon Rehabilitation Program in Burlison, Tipton County, Tennessee. ( Id. at 1-2 & ¶¶ 9-10, 27-28).[2] Mr. Sinclair elected to serve his suspended sentence at this facility in lieu of serving it in the Lauderdale County Jail. ( Id. ¶ 9). Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Sinclair entered the Rose of Sharon Recovery Center on June 27, 2014 and "walked out of the program on or about June 28, 2014." ( Id. ¶ 11).

With respect to the August 12, 2014 charges against Plaintiff, Pillow prepared the Affidavit of Complaint, which was signed by Investigator Clay Newman of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office. ( Id. ¶¶ 14-15). Plaintiff alleges that Newman only signed the Affidavit of Complaint after Pillow unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Lauderdale Correctional County Officer Christina Turner to do so, after Pillow and Lieutenant Elizabeth Kiestler presented the Affidavit to Lauderdale County Sheriff Steve Sanders, and after Sheriff Sanders instructed Newman to do so. ( Id. ¶¶ 14-15).

Plaintiff alleges that she was arrested on August 12, 2014 and was informed by a jailer on August 14, 2014 "that her bond had been set at $250, 000 and her first court appearance would be September 18, 2014." ( Id. ¶ 29). Plaintiff alleges that she was not brought promptly before a magistrate as required by law, was not informed of the charges against her, and was not informed of her general right to counsel or her right to have counsel provided to her due to her indigency. ( Id. ¶ 30). Plaintiff also alleges that she was not provided a preliminary hearing within ten days of her arrest pursuant to Rule 5(d)(3) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure.

In addition, Plaintiff alleges that the charges were improper under Tennessee law for several reasons: (1) the Rose of Sharon Recovery Center is not a "penal institution" from which a person can commit the offense of Escape; (2) pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-16-601(3), a violation of conditions of probation or parole does not qualify as an Escape; (3) any alleged Escape from the Rose of Sharon Recovery Center would have to be brought in Tipton County rather than Lauderdale County; (4) the offense of Accessory After the Fact "presupposes the underlying offense has been committed as one of its elements, " which Plaintiff asserts it could not have been; and, (5) there was no probable cause to believe Plaintiff committed the offense of Accessory After the Fact. ( Id. ¶¶ 19-24, 26).

At Plaintiff's first court appearance on September 18, 2014, Pillow announced that the charges against her would be dismissed, and Plaintiff was released from custody at approximately 9:30 a.m. on that date. Ultimately, Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Lauderdale County Jail from the date of her arrest until the charges were dropped-a period of approximately thirty-eight days.

On February 18, 2015, Pillow was served with a Subpoena to Testify at a Deposition in a Civil Action ("Subpoena"), which also required her to produce certain documents. (Mot. to Quash Subpoena, Exh. 1, filed at D.E. #15-1). On February 20, 2015, Pillow filed the instant Motion to Quash Subpoena pursuant to Rule 45(d)(3)(A)(iii)-(iv) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Pillow states in the Motion that she "will provide the documents requested, with any relevant objections and/or privilege log" by March 4, 2015, which was the date originally set for her deposition; however, Pillow's Motion seeks that the Court quash the request that she be required to testify at the deposition. ( Id. at 1). Specifically, Pillow argues as follows: (1) there are other means to obtain the information; (2) the information sought is privileged and not crucial to the preparation of Plaintiff's case; and, (3) the Subpoena is an attempt to circumvent the protections afforded a party to a lawsuit by subjecting Pillow to a deposition "without the benefit of raising immunity, participating in the discovery conference, or attending and reviewing all depositions."[3] ( Id. at 1).

On February 25, 2015, Plaintiff and Defendant filed a Joint Response asserting that Pillow's Motion to Quash Subpoena should be denied for the following reasons: (1) Rule 26(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits broad discovery; (2) state prosecutors are not absolutely immune from discovery; and, (3) Pillow's argument that the Subpoena is an attempt to circumvent the protections afforded a party to a lawsuit is specious and without merit. (Resp. to Mot. to Quash Subpoena at 2-5). The Joint Response notes that, while the Subpoena was issued by Plaintiff, Defendant joins in the request to depose Pillow because it also believes she is a "fact witness with first hand knowledge of facts related to the underlying claims in this lawsuit." ( Id. at 5).

II. Analysis

A. General Discovery under Rules 26, 34, and 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

First, Pillow asserts that the Subpoena is not permitted under Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the general scope of discovery is as follows:

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 ...

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