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Magalis v. Adams

November 5, 2009

MATT MAGALIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROL ADAMS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Byron G. Cudmore United State Magistrate Judge

OPINION

BYRON G. CUDMORE, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Matt Magalis' Motion to Strike Defendants' Discovery Objections (d/e 37) (Motion to Strike). Magalis asks the Court to strike objections made by the Defendants to Plaintiff's First Request for Production of Documents, which was served on May 18, 2009. Defendants have filed a Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Discovery Objections (d/e 39) (Response) and Plaintiff has filed a court-ordered Reply in Support of Motion to Strike Discovery Objections (d/e 40) (Reply). The matter is ripe for determination, and this Court has jurisdiction to consider these matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Strike is allowed.

BACKGROUND

Magalis was an employee of the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) until he was discharged on October 15, 2007. Magalis appealed his discharge administratively to the Illinois Civil Service Commission, which upheld his dismissal. Magalis then filed a two-count complaint in Illinois state court, seeking judicial review of the Commission's decision (Count I) and alleging a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II). Notice of Removal (d/e 1), Exhibit A, Complaint. Defendants removed the matter to this Court. Upon Objection (d/e 6) by Magalis, United States District Judge Jeanne E. Scott remanded Count I of the Complaint to state court. Opinion (d/e 12), dated September 10, 2008. Judge Scott also allowed a motion to dismiss, dismissing Magalis' Count II claims against the five individual members of the Commission. Id. Thus, only Magalis' Count II claims against Defendants Carol Adams, DHS, the Illinois Civil Service Commission, Jerome Butler, Elizabeth Gil, and Matt Ryan remain pending in this Court.

In Count II, Magalis contends that he was discharged in violation of his First Amendment rights. Specifically, Magalis alleges that a scheme existed among the Defendants and former Governor Rod Blagojevich to terminate state employees perceived to be political opponents of the Blagojevich administration to create employment opportunities for Blagojevich's political supporters. Complaint, Count II, ¶¶ 16-17. According to Magalis, his employment with DHS was terminated in furtherance of this scheme and in retaliation for disclosing to the press an investigation by the Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General (OEIG) that concluded that Kahlil Shalabi, a Blagojevich campaign worker, was hired by DHS, but spent much of his work day doing political campaign work using DHS offices, computers, and facilities. Id., ¶ 18.

On May 18, 2009, Magalis served Defendants with a Request for Production of Documents. At that time, Defendants were represented by attorneys Douglas Quivey and James Potter of the firm Londrigan, Potter and Randle. Mr. Quivey contacted counsel for Plaintiff in mid-June 2009 to explain that the responsive documents were at his office, but that he wanted to obtain a protective order before allowing Plaintiff's counsel to review the documents. According to Magalis, Mr. Quivey stated that once the protective order was in place, the documents would be available for review. Plaintiff's counsel agreed to terms of a protective order. Mr. Quivey filed a proposed stipulated protective order (d/e 24) on June 26, 2009. The Court entered the Stipulated Protective Order (d/e 26) on July 1, 2009.

After the Protective Order was entered, Plaintiff's counsel called Mr. Quivey to arrange for production of the documents. Mr. Quivey informed Plaintiff's counsel that Londrigan, Potter and Randle would no longer be representing Defendants. Mr. Quivey stated that he had been directed to cease work on the case and to return the documents to the Defendants, which he had done.

On July 24, 2009, Magalis filed a Motion to Compel Discovery (d/e 28), asking the Court to order the Defendants to respond to the outstanding document requests immediately, noting that the response had already been prepared by counsel. On August 4, 2009, attorneys from Laner, Muchin, Dombrow, Becker, Levin & Tominberg entered appearances (d/e 29, 30 & 31) on behalf of Defendants. On August 5, 2009, attorneys Quivey and Potter moved to withdraw as counsel of record for Defendants, a request which the Court allowed that same day. See Motion to Withdraw as Attorney (d/e 32); Text Order, dated August 5, 2009. Also on August 5, 2009, new defense counsel contacted Plaintiff's counsel and requested additional time to review Plaintiff's Request for Production of Documents and the related documents. According to Plaintiff, Plaintiff's counsel pointed out that time for objections had long passed and that the documents should be presented in the exact form as they had been offered by previous defense counsel. Motion to Strike, ¶ 9.

On August 10, 2009, Defendants' new counsel filed a Motion to Stay Briefing on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (d/e 34), which represented that new counsel "offered to respond to Plaintiff's outstanding discovery requests that were the subject of the Motion to Compel within 14 days, on or before August 19, 2009." Motion to Stay Briefing on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (d/e 34), ¶ 5. The Motion to Stay suggested that "[i]n light of this commitment by Defendants to answer promptly the discovery requests that are the subject of Plaintiff's Motion to Compel, the Motion to Compel is mooted." Id. The Motion to Stay further represented that defense counsel "suggested to Plaintiff's counsel that Plaintiff's Motion to Compel be entered and continued pending Plaintiff's receipt and review of Defendants' discovery responses." Id. In a text order, dated August 11, 2009, this Court allowed the Motion to Stay and took the Motion to Compel under advisement.

The parties subsequently sought an amended scheduling order. Agreed Motion to Amend Scheduling Order (d/e 35). The Motion to Amend the Scheduling Order represented that defense counsel Gregory James contacted Plaintiff's counsel Carl Draper on August 5, 2009 to discuss Defendants' response to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel and a revised scheduling order. According to the Motion to Amend, the parties agreed that the scheduling order "should be revised to allow the parties to properly complete discovery." Id., ¶ 4. The agreed, proposed amended scheduling order provided as follows: "August 19, 2009 for defendants to answer Plaintiffs [sic] outstanding requests to produce. Plaintiffs [sic] Motion to Compel is entered and continued pending defendants' answer." Id., Ex. 1, ¶ 2. This Court allowed in part that Agreed Motion to Amend Scheduling Order, by text order, dated August 19, 2009. In relevant part, the Court denied the Motion to Compel as moot.

On August 18, 2009, Defendants served their Response to Request for Production of Documents. See Motion to Strike, Ex. A. The response contained objections to ten of the twelve requests contained in the Request for Production of Documents, specifically Requests No. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12.*fn1 The grounds for the various objections included the following: response would violate the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, 5 ILCS 430/20-95(d); the information sought is not relevant nor designed to lead to the discovery of relevant information; the request seeks documents protected by the attorney-client privilege or attorney work product doctrine; and the request is overly broad and unduly burdensome.*fn2 The instant Motion to Strike followed.

ANALYSIS

The Motion to Strike asks the Court to strike Defendants' objections to the Request for Production of Documents and order Defendants to respond to the outstanding requests. Thus, it falls within the scope of Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a). The Court notes that Plaintiff's ...


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