United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
KERRY YOUNG, on behalf of himself and all similarly situated persons, Plaintiff,
WH ADMINISTRATORS, INC., Defendant.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS MOTIONS TO QUASH
THOMAS ANDERSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are Defendant WH Administrators, Inc.'s Motions
to Quash (ECF Nos. 67 & 70). Defendant asks the Court to
quash three subpoenas issued by Plaintiffs before any party
was permitted to seek discovery under the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. Plaintiff Kerry Young argues, however, that
Defendant lacks standing to seek such relief. Defendant's
Motions therefore raise issues surrounding the nature of
standing, the Court's role in enforcing the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure, and the interplay of these distinct legal
concepts. But the precise question presented is whether a
party that lacks standing to challenge a subpoena may
nonetheless do so when the subpoena at issue is improper
under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court holds
that the party may not. Standing is derived from the
Constitution's limitations of this Court's very power
to resolve a dispute, and therefore the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure and the Court itself must both yield.
Pursuant to this holding and the Court's finding that
Defendant lacks standing, Defendant's Motions are
DENIED. The Court does not reach any issue
as to the subpoenas themselves.
Court has recently had occasion to summarize the underlying
facts and increasingly convoluted procedural posture of this
case. Order Deny'g Def.'s Mot. for Stay Without
Prejudice, at 1-2, May 25, 2018, ECF No. 68. It will not take
the opportunity to do so again here. Instead, the Court will
state the few facts of immediate relevance to the instant
Tennessee Tractor, LLC, (“Tennessee Tractor”) and
Plaintiff Kerry Young (“Plaintiff”), on behalf of
himself and a class of Tennessee Tractor employees,
(collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed suit against
Defendant under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(ECF Nos. 1 & 22). But the Court has since compelled
Tennessee Tractor's claims to arbitration (ECF No. 44). A
Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 10) and a Motion
to Dismiss (ECF No. 60) are currently pending, and therefore
the Parties have not yet conferred pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 26(f).
first Motion to Quash filed on May 23, 2018, Defendant states
that on May 11, 2018, Tennessee Tractor issued two subpoenas,
one to Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company and one to
Wilmington Trust Company. And in the second Motion to Quash
filed on June 4, 2018, Defendant states that on May 29, 2018,
Tennessee Tractor issued an additional subpoena to Cypress
Benefit Administrators, LLC. Plaintiffs do not deny or
otherwise contest these assertions as stated by Defendant.
asks the Court to quash three subpoenas issued by Plaintiffs
to three entities that are not parties to this action.
Referring to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Defendant
notes that prior to the Rule 26(f) conference, the parties,
with some exceptions, “may not seek discovery from any
source.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(d)(1). Plaintiff does not
invoke an exception to this Rule. Instead, Plaintiff argues
that Defendant lacks standing to bring the instant Motions
because Plaintiff issued the subpoenas to third parties
rather than Defendant itself. Defendant has not asserted that
it has standing in either of its Motions. The Court thus
finds itself torn between Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
26(d)(1) and the legal principle of standing in addressing
the question presented.
Constitution confines the Court “to adjudicating actual
cases and controversies.” Allen v. Wright, 468
U.S. 737, 750 (1984) (internal quotation marks omitted);
see also U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1
(“The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases . . .
and . . . Controversies . . . .”). “In essence
the question of standing is whether the litigant is entitled
to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of
particular issues. . . . [I]t is founded in concern about the
proper-and properly limited-role of the courts in a
democratic society.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S.
490, 498 (1975) (citing Schlesinger v. Reservists to Stop
the War, 418 U.S. 208, 221-27 (1974); United States
v. Richardson, 418 U.S. 166, 188-97 (1974) (Powell, J.,
concurring)). Constitutional standing requires, at a minimum,
three elements: (1) an injury in fact; (2) a causal
connection between the injury and the conduct complained of;
and (3) the injury must be capable of being “redressed
by a favorable decision.” Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992) (quoting
Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 155 (1990);
Simon v. E. Ky. Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26,
38, 41-42, 43 (1976)) (citing Allen, 468 U.S. at
756; Warth, 422 U.S. at 508; Sierra Club v.
Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 740 n.16 (1972)).
specific context of subpoenas, standing “is a threshold
issue which the Court must consider before addressing the
merits of [any] challenges to . . . subpoenas issued to . . .
non-parties.” Waite v. Davis, 2013 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 5253, at *14 (S.D. Ohio Jan. 14, 2013); see
also Mann v. Univ. of Cincinnati, 114 F.3d 1188
(table), 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 19625, at *14-15 (6th Cir. May
27, 1997) (citing 9A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R.
Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2459
(2d ed. 1995)); cf. United States v. Llanez-Garcia,
735 F.3d 483, 498-99 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing Langford v.
Chrysler Motors Corp., 513 F.2d 1121 (2d Cir. 1975);
Ponsford v. United States, 771 F.2d 1305, 1308 (9th
Cir. 1985)) (“[A] party may lack standing to file a
motion to quash a subpoena to a third party.”). In
fact, “[o]rdinarily a party has no standing to seek to
quash a subpoena issued to someone who is not a party to the
action, unless the objecting party claims some personal right
or privilege with regard to the documents sought.” 9A
Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 2459 (3d ed. 2008);
see also Langford, 513 F.2d at 1126 (citation
omitted) (stating the same).
the Supreme Court of Tennessee does not derive its authority
from the federal Constitution's dispensation of the
judicial power of the United States as this Court does, the
Court finds the discussion of standing in the context of
subpoenas from Tennessee's high court
The doctrine of standing is used to determine whether a
particular plaintiff is entitled to judicial relief. It is
the principle that courts use to determine whether a party
has a sufficiently personal stake in a matter at issue to
warrant a judicial resolution of the dispute. Persons whose
rights or interests have not been affected have no standing
and are, therefore, not entitled to judicial relief.
State v. Harrison, 270 S.W.3d 21, 27-28 (Tenn. 2008)
(citing Lynch v. City of Jellico, 205 S.W.3d 384,
395 (Tenn. 2006); Knierim v. Leatherwood, 542 S.W.2d
806, 808 (Tenn. 1976); SunTrust Bank, Nashville v.
Johnson, 46 S.W.3d 216, 222 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000)). For
a party that lacks standing, the Harrison court cuts
no distinction between standing to sue and standing to move
to quash a subpoena. See id.; cf. United States
v. Tomison, 969 F.Supp. 587, 595-96 (E.D. Cal. 1997)
(“Even if Rule 17(c) did not permit defendants to apply
for the subpoenas duces tecum ex-parte, the government has
not demonstrated standing to move to quash them. Since
standing goes to the jurisdiction of the court, the
government, as the party attempting to invoke the court's
jurisdiction, has the burden of demonstrating that it has
standing.”). This notion is also present in criminal
proceedings when a defendant seeks to suppress unlawfully
obtained evidence: “evidence is excluded to provide a
remedy for a wrong done to the defendant, and . . .
accordingly, if the defendant has not been wronged he is
entitled to no remedy.” People v. Martin, 290
P.2d 855, 857 (Cal. 1955); see also United States v.
Wright, 635 Fed.Appx. 162, 170 (6th Cir. 2015) (noting
that the defendant could not challenge particular
applications for wiretaps because he lacked standing);
United States v. Sangineto-Miranda, 859 F.2d 1501,
1511 n.5 (6th Cir. 1988) (noting that the defendant could not
move to suppress certain evidence because he lacked standing
to do so). Standing to seek relief for an injury
suffered-whether compensation for one's injuries,
suppression of unlawfully obtained evidence, or the annulment
of a subpoena-is not prudential but
constitutional. The Court cannot ignore a deficiency in
standing regardless of the merits of the movant's
Defendant has not claimed “a personal right or
privilege” concerning the information sought by
Plaintiff. Nor has Defendant otherwise laid claim to standing
in these Motions. Nonetheless, the Court has identified a
source of potentially persuasive authority in Defendant's
favor. United States Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay of
the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
New York ...