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Patterson v. Burge

August 10, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown

Judge Joan B. Gottschall


Before the court are motions filed by former Illinois Governor George Ryan ("Ryan") and the Illinois Prisoner Review Board ("PRB") to quash subpoenas requesting information about Ryan's decision to pardon Madison Hobley ("Hobley"), Leroy Orange ("Orange"), Aaron Patterson ("Patterson"), and Stanley Howard ("Howard") (collectively, "Plaintiffs").*fn1 For the reasons set out below, those motions to quash are denied. Also, Plaintiffs' motion for a protective order and motion to quash, which relate to the subpoenas to Ryan and the PRB, are likewise denied.


Ryan's Decision to Pardon Plaintiffs

Prior to January 10, 2003, Plaintiffs Hobley, Orange, Patterson, and Howard were incarcerated in Illinois prisons and sentenced to be executed. Each claimed that he had been tortured by Chicago Police officers and wrongly convicted. On January 10, 2003, then-Governor Ryan pardoned all four of them on the basis of innocence. (Ryan Mot. Quash ¶ 1 [Hobley dkt 538]*fn2 ; Certain Defs.' Resp., Ex. B at 7-8 [Patterson dkt 370]*fn3 .) At that time, Ryan also made a lengthy public statement about the facts in each Plaintiff's criminal case. (Id. at 3-8.)

Prior to Ryan's decision, the PRB had provided Ryan a clemency recommendation to use in deciding whether to pardon the Plaintiffs. (PRB Mot. Quash at 1 [Hobley dkt 535].) The PRB is the board of review and recommendation for the exercise of executive clemency by the Governor. 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3-3-1(a)(3) (2004). One of the duties of the PRB is to decide all requests for pardon, reprieve or commutation, and make a confidential recommendation to the Governor. Id. at 5/3-3-2(a)(6). However, the Governor has the exclusive power to grant a pardon.

On January 15, 2003, after concluding his term as Governor, Ryan appeared on the Oprah Winfrey television show with Hobley, Orange and Patterson, and discussed his decision to pardon the four Plaintiffs and to commute the death sentences of all other Illinois prisoners. (Certain Defs.' Resp., Ex. C, Winfrey Tr.) During that interview, Ryan also discussed his decision to create a Commission on Capital Punishment to study each case individually and the state's system of dealing with capital cases as a whole. (Winfrey Tr. at 8-9.) Ryan told Oprah Winfrey that his decision to pardon the Plaintiffs and commute all death sentences resulted in large part from a three year study done by the Commission. (Id. at 7-9, 19.) Ryan talked about his decision to pardon the Plaintiffs based on innocence, stating that the facts and DNA evidence showed them to be innocent. (Id. at 7-8.) Ryan stated that he had examined each of the four cases and determined that the Plaintiffs were innocent. (Id. at 8.) During that interview, Oprah Winfrey told Ryan that the victims' families wanted to know what evidence he used in granting the pardons. (Id. at 15.) Ryan responded that the only evidence against the Plaintiffs was obtained through brutal beating, electrocution, and suffocation. (Id. at 15-16.)

Defendants' Subpoenas to the PRB and to Ryan

After being released from prison, Plaintiffs each filed lawsuits against Jon Burge and others, asserting claims under federal law for civil rights violations and under state law for, inter alia, malicious prosecution. Plaintiffs' attorneys intend to introduce the pardons, including the fact that the pardons were on the basis of innocence, as substantive evidence in support of their claims that the Plaintiffs were wrongly accused, prosecuted and convicted. (Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Prot. Or. at 3 [Hobley dkt 547].)

Certain Defendants served a subpoena on the PRB for the documents related to the Plaintiffs' requests for executive clemency. (PRB Mot. Quash, Ex. 1.) The PRB has moved to quash the subpoenas, arguing that the information requested is protected by the deliberative process privilege. (PRB Mot. Quash at 1.) Plaintiffs have also moved to quash the subpoena to the PRB and moved for a protective order. (Pl.'s Mot. Prot. Or. at 1 [Hobley dkt 546].)*fn4 Subsequently, the PRB agreed to produce all of the documents sought in the subpoena, including the PRB's reports to Ryan for each Plaintiff, except for the last paragraph of the report (titled "Findings and Recommendation") that contains the PRB's recommendation to Ryan. (Dec. 2, 2005 Tr. at 26-31.) The remaining issue on the PRB's motion is whether the PRB must produce the Findings and Recommendation.

Certain Defendants in the Hobley case served Ryan with a subpoena to appear for a deposition and produce "[a]ny and all notes, memoranda, correspondence, notices, orders, directives, medical records, medical bills or other writings in your possession or the possession of your attorney relating to the claim herein." (Ryan [First] Mot. Quash, Ex. 1 [Hobley dkt 476].) Subsequently, Ryan received subpoenas in the Orange, Patterson and Howard cases to appear for a deposition and produce all documents within his possession related to his decision to grant executive clemency to Orange, Patterson, and Howard. (Ryan Mot. Quash, Exs. 1, 3 [Patterson dkt 350].) Ryan has moved to quash all of those subpoenas, arguing that the information sought under the subpoenas is irrelevant to the claims in the pending lawsuits, and that the subpoenas are overly broad, designed to harass him, and call for information that is protected by the "executive privilege." (See Ryan Mot. Quash ¶¶ 2, 4, 10, 11.) At the court's direction, Defendants' attorneys have attempted to obtain information and documents from sources other than Ryan. (See Certain Defs.' Resp. at 13 n. 8.) At argument on the motions, the parties advised the court that the issue with respect to the subpoenas to Ryan has been narrowed to whether he must testify at a deposition and produce any documents in his personal possession relating to his decision to pardon Plaintiffs. (April 28, 2006 Tr. at 31-32, 35.)

The court suggested that the parties attempt to reach a stipulation that would avoid the need to address the issues on the motions. (Id. at 37-38, 42-46.) No stipulation could be reached. (Pl.'s Resp. Defs.' Suppl. Submission at 1-2 [Hobley dkt 629].)


Ryan and the PRB request that the court quash the subpoenas served upon them. A court may quash or modify a subpoena if it "requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter and no exception or waiver applies, or subjects a person to undue burden." Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(3)(A)(iii), (iv). Plaintiffs seek a protective order under the authority of Rule 26(c): "Upon motion by a party or by the person from whom discovery is sought, . . . and for good cause shown, the court in which the action is pending . . . may make any order which justice requires to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c).

It is important to clarify what is not at issue on these motions. First, the power of a Governor under Illinois law to pardon any convicted individual is not at issue. Pursuant to the Illinois Constitution, "[t]he Governor may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, after conviction, for all offenses on such terms as he thinks proper." Ill. Const. art. V, § 12. The Governor's "clemency powers . . . 'cannot be controlled by either the courts or the legislature. His acts in the exercise of the power can be controlled only by his conscience and his sense of public duty.'" People ex rel. Madigan v. Snyder, 208 Ill.2d 457, 473 (2004) (quoting People ex rel. Smith v. Jenkins, 325 Ill. 372, 374 (1927)). Defendants do not challenge that power. Defendants are not seeking to challenge, overturn or attack the validity of the pardons Ryan granted to the Plaintiffs.

Second, the motions concern only the discoverability of the information sought in the subpoenas, not the issue of whether any of that information will be admitted as evidence at trial. Decisions about the admissibility ...

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