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Rubloff Development Group, Inc. and Rubloff Mundelein LLC v. the Saint Consulting Group

June 30, 2011

RUBLOFF DEVELOPMENT GROUP, INC. AND RUBLOFF MUNDELEIN LLC, PLAINTIFFS/COUNTERDEFENDANTS, AND MCVICKERS DEVELOPMENT LLC, MCVICKERS NEW LENOX LLC, MCVICKERS COOPER LLC, MCVICKERS HICKORY CREEK LLC,MCVICKERS
TONNELL LLC, AND MCVICKERS WILLIAMS LLC, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE SAINT CONSULTING GROUP, INC., DEFENDANT/COUNTERPLAINTIFF.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harry D.Leinenweber, Judge United States District Court

Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment on Count 1 of Plaintiffs Rubloff Development Group, Inc, Rubloff Mundelein LLC, McVickers Development LLC, McVickers New Lenox LLC, McVickers Cooper LLC, McVickers Hickory Creek LLC, McVickers Tonnell LLC, and McVickers Williams LLC's (hereinafter, the "Plaintiffs") First Amended Complaint against Defendant The Saint Consulting Group, Inc. (hereinafter, the "Defendant"), as well as Defendant's Motion for a Protective Order regarding certain documents. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary is granted in part and denied in part, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part, and Defendant's Motion for a Protective Order is denied.

I. INTRODUCTION

This case involves documents that Defendant claims Plaintiffs do not have the right to possess, or that should be under a protective order during this litigation. Plaintiffs had plans to build retail developments in Mundelein and New Lenox, Illinois (hereinafter, the "Developments"). Supervalu, Inc. ("Supervalu"), is a national grocery store chain that operates Jewel-Osco stores in the Chicago area. Defendant is a political consulting group that specializes in land use issues. Defendant's work includes generating and supporting community movements that oppose developments which include large-box retailers, such as Walmart stores.

In March 2007, Supervalu hired Defendant to cultivate and lead local community efforts to oppose Plaintiffs' Developments, which were planned to include Walmart stores. Defendant assigned its employee Leigh Mayo ("Mayo") to oversee its efforts with the Developments. For this assignment, Mayo assumed the pseudonym Greg Olson ("Olson"). As part of its consulting efforts, Defendant alleges that it retained attorney William Graft ("Graft") to represent it and local community members to support their opposition to the Developments. Plaintiffs deny this allegation, and claim that Graft was retained to represent only the community members. Supervalu authorized and paid for Graft's legal services, which included Graft representing Lake County community members before the Mundelein Plan Commission and Village Board, and filing lawsuits against the Village of Mundelein that related to the Mundelein development on behalf of the community members. Neither Defendant nor Supervalu was a party to the Mundelein development litigation, which settled in January 2011.

Mayo stopped working for Defendant in April 2009. In August 2009, Mayo started to provide information to Robert Brownson ("Brownson"), co-founder of Plaintiff Rubloff Development Group, about Defendant's work on the Developments. Besides verbal descriptions of this activity, Mayo provided Brownson almost 3,000 pages of documents. In May 2010, Brownson sent a letter to Supervalu CEO Craig Heckert and Steven Rogers of Supervalu's Board of Directors that addressed Defendant's activities in relation to the Mundelein development. On May 10, 2010, counsel for Defendant sent Brownson a letter that, in part, stated: "It has come to [Defendant's] recent attention that your companies are in wrongful possession of hundreds of pages of [Defendant's] confidential, proprietary business information." The letter demanded the return of all the documents.

Plaintiffs subsequently filed a three-count Complaint against Defendant and Supervalu on June 23, 2010, seeking a declaratory judgment that the documents they received from Mayo are not covered by any privilege, trade secret, or other protection, as well as claiming spoliation of evidence and seeking an injunction. Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaint on June 24. The Court dismissed all counts in the First Amended Complaint against Supervalu, and the spoliation and injunctive relief claims against Defendant. Defendant has dismissed with prejudice its Third Party Complaint against Mayo. Plaintiffs and Defendant now both move for summary judgment on the sole remaining claim for declaratory relief, with Defendant also moving for a protective order regarding certain documents Plaintiffs currently possess.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper if "the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit, and a dispute is genuine where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In ruling on summary judgment, the Court does not weigh the evidence or determine the truth of the matter, but determines whether a genuine issue of material fact exists that warrants trial. See id. at 249. In making this determination, the Court must view all the evidence and draw any reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Miller v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 997, 1003 (7th Cir. 2000).

The moving party bears the burden of establishing the basis for its motion, together with evidence demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party may not rest on mere allegations, but must present specific facts showing that a genuine issue exists for trial. See Big O Tire Dealers, Inc. v. Big O Warehouse, 741 F.2d 160, 163 (7th Cir. 1984). To support their position that a genuine issue of material fact does or does not exist, the parties may cite to materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, and interrogatory answers, or show that the materials in the record do or do not establish a genuine dispute. FED. R. CIV. P.56(c).

III. ANALYSIS

While each party has identified five categories of documents in the contested material, their categorization systems vary. Both parties have offered a cogent and logical breakdown of the documents. The Court adopts Plaintiffs' categorization of the material for the purpose of this analysis, as they filed their Motion first. Plaintiffs divide the material into (1) publicly disseminated or publicly available materials; (2) Defendant's monthly reports concerning the Developments; (3) communications between Mayo and Brownson; (4) Defendant's project list; and (5) legal bills and communications involving attorneys. The documents at issue in this case are Bates stamped RUBLOFF000001 through RUBLOFF002990. Defendant does not seek any protection for 000040--42, ...


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