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Walden v. City of Chicago

November 3, 2009

OSCAR WALDEN JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen United States District Judge

Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM, OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court are objections filed by former Illinois Governor George Ryan and the Illinois Prison Review Board ("PRB") to Magistrate Judge Mason's October 18, 2006 order denying Governor Ryan and the PRB's motions to quash subpoenas. For all of the reasons set forth below, the objections [112, 114] are denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Oscar Walden Jr. has sued the City of Chicago, among other defendants, alleging multiple claims of police misconduct relating to his arrest and prosecution for rape in 1952. After a jury trial, Walden was convicted of rape, and his conviction was affirmed on appeal. Walden served almost fourteen years of his 75-year sentence and was released on parole in 1965. Walden received a general pardon in 1978 from Governor James Thompson. Then in 2003, Governor Ryan granted Walden a pardon for innocence. Prior to issuing the pardon, the PRB had provided Governor Ryan a clemency recommendation to use in deciding whether to pardon Walden.

Over the passage of time, all of the witnesses with knowledge of the facts underlying Walden's allegations in this case, including the victim who identified Walden as her assailant both prior to and during the criminal trial and all of the police officers involved in his arrest and prosecution have died. Consequently, other than Walden himself, there is no one alive with personal knowledge of the relevant facts. Walden has stated his intention to offer his 2003 pardon for innocence as proof of his innocence in support of his claims in this case.

The City of Chicago issued subpoenas to both Governor Ryan and the PRB seeking information relating to the PRB's findings and recommendations to Governor Ryan and the reasons behind Governor Ryan's decision to grant a pardon to Walden. Both Governor Ryan and the PRB argued that the discovery sought by the City is not relevant, and even if it were relevant, it is privileged. The City claimed that the information is relevant because Walden has stated his intention to offer his 2003 pardon as proof of his innocence in support of his claims in this case. The City also argued that in order to defend itself it needs to know what information Governor Ryan considered and relied on to grant the pardon and that the Governor is the only source of that information.

On October 18, 2006, Judge Mason denied Governor Ryan's motion to quash the City's subpoena seeking discovery related to his decision as Illinois governor to grant a pardon to Walden. Judge Mason also denied the PRB's motion to quash the City's subpoena seeking discovery of the PRB's findings and recommendations to Governor Ryan concerning Walden's pardon and granted the City's motion to compel. Governor Ryan and the PRB have filed objections to Judge Mason's order and request that this court overturn Judge Mason's ruling and quash the subpoenas served upon them.

DISCUSSION

The standard of review of a magistrate judge's ruling on pretrial discovery issues is whether the order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. FED. R. CIV. P. 72(a). A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. United States v. U.S. Gypsom Co., 33 U.S. 364, 395 (1948).

I. The Subpoenas Issued by the City of Chicago Seek to Discover Relevant Information

Discovery must be "relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(1). The scope of relevant discovery is not limited to evidence admissible at trial but extends to "discovery [that] appears reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence." Id. However, 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).

This court has no doubt that the information sought under the subpoenas is relevant to the claims at issue in this lawsuit. Clearly, there is relevant information contained in the PRB's findings and recommendations pertinent to Governor Ryan's decision to pardon Walden, and the reasoning and information behind Governor Ryan's decision to pardon Walden bear directly on the weight that his pardon should be given in this case.

Under the broad scope allowed for discovery, the City of Chicago is entitled to inquire about such information since Walden has stated that he intends to present it at trial. However, it is important to clarify what is not at issue in these subpoenas. First, the City is not questioning the power of the governor of Illinois to pardon, nor does the City seek to challenge or attack the validity of the pardon Governor Ryan granted to Walden. These subpoenas and subsequent motions concern only the discoverability of the information sought in the subpoenas not ...


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