This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Continue Enforcement of Protective Order filed by the Defendants, Wellpoint Health Networks, Inc. and UniCare Illinois Services, Inc., on September 22, 2005 (Doc. 36), the Combined Motion to Enforce the Protective Order and Lift the Seal on Documents Designated Confidential and Vacate the State Court TRO filed by the Plaintiffs on October 26, 2005 (Doc. 48), the Motion for Scheduling and Discovery Conference filed by the Plaintiffs on March 17, 2006 (Doc. 61), the Motion to Preserve all Documents filed by the Plaintiff on March 17, 2006 (Doc. 62), and the Motion for Protective Order and to Stay Discovery filed by the Defendants on March 21, 2006 (Doc. 66).
For the reasons set forth below the Motion to Continue Enforcement of Protective Order is GRANTED IN PART, the Combined Motion to Enforce the Protective Order and Lift the Seal on Documents Designated Confidential and Vacate the State Court TRO is DENIED WITH PREJUDICE IN PART and DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE IN PART, the Motion for Scheduling and Discovery Conference is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, Motion to Preserve all Documents is DENIED, and the Motion for Protective Order and to Stay Discovery is GRANTED.
This proposed class-action was removed from Jefferson County Circuit Court on June 28, 2005. The allegations in the complaint, which is filed under seal, are not relevant to the pending motions and will not be repeated here.
Prior to filing this lawsuit in state court, the parties entered into a June 29, 2004 confidentiality agreement (attached as Exhibit B to Motion #36) related to settlement negotiations. The Defendants contend that the Plaintiffs breached this agreement by filing certain documents covered by the confidentiality agreement with their complaint filed in state court (Doc. 2 -- which was filed under seal originally by the Plaintiffs in state court and by the Defendants upon removal) and by failing to return or destroy confidential material. In light of this perceived breach, the Defendants filed a complaint in state court, on September 21, 2005, for breach of contract and conversion and petitioned the state courts for injunctive relief (Mtn #36, Ex. C). On September 29, 2005, Circuit Judge Terry H. Gamber entered a temporary restraining order which ordered, among other things, that the Plaintiffs return or destroy documents covered by the confidentiality agreement. Apparently dismayed by the state court's ruling, the Plaintiffs attempted to remove the proceedings before Judge Gamber to the District Court on October 14, 2005. This case was docketed as Unicare Illinois Services, Inc., et al. v. Krislov & Associates, Ltd., et al., 4:05-cv-4195-JPG. However, on February 24, 2006, the case was remanded back to state court by District Judge J. Phil Gilbert. Judge Gilbert held, among other things, that the Court lacked original jurisdiction of any of the claims asserted by the Plaintiff (who is a Defendant in this case) even though they may, ultimately, effect discovery in this case.
In addition to the confidentiality agreement, the parties also are subject to a protective order. This ten page protective order was entered on August 26, 2004 by Circuit Judge George W. Timberlake in the Jefferson County Circuit Court case Greg Cima, et al. v. Unicare Illinois Service, Inc. and Wellpoint Health Networks, Inc., 03-L-20 (Mtn #36 Ex. E) (hereinafter "state court case"). Thereafter, the Plaintiffs' claims in the state court case were dismissed (on May 23, 2005) and the Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on June 3, 2005 which has been removed to this Court (Notice of Removal, Doc. #1, p. 2).
In addition to the pending motions discussed herein, there are pending motions to dismiss to which the Plaintiffs recently, on March 30, 2006, filed responses. No track has been set in this case and no scheduling order has been entered. Each motion will be dealt with in turn.
Motion to Continue Enforcement of Protective Order (Doc. 36)
In this motion, the Defendants appear to seek a stay of any ruling by the Court on any issue that may arise regarding documents that may be covered by the protective order. The Defendants indicate that any potential issues may be resolved by state court litigation concerning the confidentiality agreement.
As the parties agree, "the state court orders issued prior to removal are not conclusive but remain binding until they are set aside." Payne for Hicks v. Churchich, 161 F.3d 1030, 1037-1038 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing 28 U.S.C. §1450 and Granny Goose Foods, Inc. v. Brotherhood of Teamsters & Auto Truck Drivers Local No. 70, 415 U.S. 423, 436 (1974)). No order has been entered by this Court that would vacate the protective order; therefore, it remains in full force and effect. As such, the parties are obligated to comply with the terms of the protective order in discovery and in filing documents with the Court. Therefore, to the extent that the Defendant seeks confirmation that the protective order remains in force, this motion is GRANTED.
However, the Defendants also seek an abeyance of a ruling on any issue that may arise as a result of the protective order or, in the alternative, permission to confer. This issue will be addressed below.
Combined Motion to Enforce the Protective Order and Lift the Seal on Documents Designated Confidential and Vacate the State Court TRO (Doc. 48)
In this motion, the Plaintiffs seek to unseal the complaint (and documents attached thereto) and seek an order that would vacate the state court's temporary restraining order. As to the second request, the Plaintiffs offer no case authority that would grant this Court jurisdiction to interfere in a state court matter. Pursuant to Judge Gilbert's order, this Court has no jurisdiction to grant the relief that the Plaintiff requests. In addition, notwithstanding the Plaintiffs' reference to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60, the state court order is ...