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People v. Illinois High School Association

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 10, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, ex rel. LISA MADIGAN, Attorney General, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS HIGH SCHOOL ASSOCIATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JEFFREY T. GILBERT, Magistrate Judge.

The parties dispute an assertion of privilege by Plaintiff People of the State of Illinois ex rel. Lisa Madigan, Attorney General ("Plaintiff" or "the State") in response to a number of Defendant Illinois High School Association's ("Defendant" or "IHSA") document requests and interrogatories. IHSA has moved to compel responses to its written discovery that Plaintiff is refusing to answer under the attorney-client privilege, attorney work product doctrine, and the common interest doctrine. The requested discovery deals with the State's communications with its one-time co-Plaintiff in this case (who has settled her dispute with the IHSA) and her counsel. Specifically, in support of its Motion to Compel [Dkt.#138], IHSA argues that, contrary to Plaintiff's assertion, the common interest doctrine is wholly inapplicable in this case, and, furthermore, even if Plaintiff wants to invoke the common interest doctrine-or any other privilege-Plaintiff is required to produce a privilege log so that the Court and the IHSA can evaluate Plaintiff's privilege claims with more information than Plaintiff has provided. For reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to Compel is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On May 16, 2012, the State, along with co-Plaintiff Mary Kate Callahan ("Callahan"), filed a complaint alleging that IHSA unlawfully discriminates against high school athletes with disabilities in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and Titles II and III of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12132, 12182. The State seeks an injunction ordering IHSA to provide student athletes with disabilities full and equal opportunities to compete under IHSA rules and in all IHSA-sponsored and sanctioned events. Id. at 1-2. Although Callahan reached a settlement with IHSA and is no longer a party, the State continues to bring suit on behalf of other student athletes with disabilities who allege similar discrimination.

On August 2, 2012, IHSA served its first set of Requests for Production of Documents and its first set of Interrogatories on Plaintiff. Def.'s Mot. To Compel Disc. Resp. [Dkt.#138] at 2. Among other things, IHSA asked the State to produce "[a]ll documents, letters, emails, records, statements, recorded statements, or other correspondence between Mary Kate, Joanne, and/or Jack Callahan, or someone acting on their behalf." Def.'s First Request for Produc. of Docs. [Dkt.#139-4] at 2. IHSA also requested the identities of and communications with the other unidentified student athletes with disabilities referenced in the State's Complaint. Id. at 2-3.

In response to IHSA's written discovery requests, the State made a number of general objections, including: "Plaintiff objects to Defendant's Document Requests to the extent that they call for information protected from discovery by the attorney-client privilege, attorney work product doctrine, common interest doctrine or any other applicable privilege or protection from discovery." Pl.'s Resp. and Objections to Def.'s First Request for Produc. of Docs. [Dkt.#139-5] at 2. The State also raised this objection in response to Request Nos. 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 15, and 16 and Interrogatory Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, and 12. ( Id. and Dkt.#139-8.)

Defendant now seeks an order overruling the State's objections and compelling production of all documents responsive to its written discovery requests. Although Plaintiff has asserted the attorney-client privilege, work product doctrine, and the common interest doctrine, Defendant's motion focuses exclusively on the applicability of the common interest doctrine, "though the IHSA believes none of the privileges asserted apply." Def.'s Mot. to Compel Disc. Resp. [Dkt.#138] at 7. Defendant argues that, contrary to Plaintiff's assertion, the common interest doctrine is wholly inapplicable to this case. Specifically, IHSA contends that the State has failed to show that (1) the documents and communications withheld were otherwise privileged before the common interest arose; (2) the documents or communications were made in a joint-defense effort; and (3) the interests of the parties were legal and identical. Id. at 7-8. IHSA also moves for the production of a privilege log. Id. at 9. Further, IHSA argues that it is entitled to know the identities of the student athletes on whose behalf the State has asserted standing-and, it moves this Court to overrule the State's objections as it pertains to communications with these students because "there is no attorney-client privilege... [when] a governmental agency brings an action on behalf of a private citizen." Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Resp. [Dkt.#143] at 5.

II. APPLICABLE LAW: COMMON INTEREST DOCTRINE

Although sometimes characterized as a stand-alone privilege, "the common interest doctrine is really an exception to the rule that no privilege attaches to communications between a client and an attorney in the presence of a third person." United States v. BDO Seidman, LLP, 492 F.3d 806, 815 (7th Cir. 2007). As applied by the Seventh Circuit, the common interest doctrine extends the attorney-client privilege to situations "where the parties undertake a joint effort with respect to a common legal interest" and is strictly limited to "communications made to further an ongoing enterprise." Id. at 816. In such limited situations, the common interest doctrine permits parties who share a common legal interest to exchange what would otherwise qualify as privileged material without waiving privilege. The communications need not be made in anticipation of litigation to fall within the scope of the doctrine. Id. at 816. Further, the "common interest doctrine cannot be waived without the consent of all of the parties." Id. at 817.

In terms of the "common legal interest, " the doctrine is not restricted to situations where "the positions of the parties are compatible in all respects." Pampered Chef v. Alexanian, 737 F.Supp.2d 958, 967 (N.D. Ill. 2010). However, the party asserting the privilege must "demonstrate actual cooperation toward a common legal goal with respect to the documents they seek to withhold." Dexia Credit Local v. Rogan, 231 F.R.D. 268, 273 (N.D.Ill.2004). "In some cases, this common goal includes pursuit of litigation against a common adversary." Id. (internal citations omitted) The common interest doctrine also can be applicable to communications between a party and a non-party, including communications between a government agency and aggrieved individuals on whose behalf the government brings suit. For example, courts have applied the common interest doctrine in cases involving the Fair Housing Act and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, despite the fact that the aggrieved persons were not represented by counsel nor were the individuals parties to the lawsuits in question. See United States v. Gumbaytay, 276 F.R.D. 671, 674-76 (M.D. Ala. 2011) (internal citations omitted) ("[The] common interest rule protects communications between a governmental agency and persons on whose behalf the governmental agency brings suit, where counsel for the government has filed suit to enforce the rights of aggrieved persons under the Fair Housing Act.").

In addition to demonstrating a common legal interest, a party must establish that the underlying communications were otherwise privileged before the common interest arose. Grochocinski v. Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw LLP, 251 F.R.D. 316, 327 (N.D. Ill. 2008). If the documents or communications are not otherwise privileged, either by the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine, the common interest doctrine is not applicable. Therefore, a party cannot simply rely on a blanket claim of privilege to shield communications from discovery-it must instead assert the common interest doctrine on a document-by-document basis. Dexia, 231 F.R.D. at 273. See also United States v. White, 970 F.2d 328, 334 (7th Cir.1992) ("Furthermore, the [attorney-client] privilege must be made and sustained on a document-by-document basis. A blanket claim of privilege that does not specify what information is protected will not suffice."). Specifically, "Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(5) requires that: the party shall make the claim expressly and shall describe the nature of the documents, communications, or other things not produced or disclosed in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, will enable other parties to assess the applicability of the privilege or protection." In re Sulfuric Acid Antitrust Litig., 235 F.R.D. 407, 432-33 supplemented, 432 F.Supp.2d 794 (N.D. Ill. 2006).

III. ANALYSIS

IHSA argues that the State has failed to establish that the common interest doctrine is applicable in this case. Specifically, IHSA contends that the State has failed to show that (1) the documents and communications withheld were otherwise privileged before the common interest arose; (2) the documents or communications were ...


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