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Stallings v. City of Johnston City

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 19, 2014

CITY OF JOHNSTON CITY, municipal corporation, and JIM MITCHELL, in his individual and official capacity, and GREG YELENCICH, in his individual and official capacity, Defendants. Case


DAVID R. HERNDON, Chief District Judge.

Pending before the Court is plaintiff Jayne Stallings' (Stallings) appeal of magistrate judge's order [Doc. 40] (Doc. 43). Stallings appeals Magistrate Judge Williams' findings and rulings made at a discovery dispute conference held on April 4, 2014, memorialized in the Order entered on April 7, 2014 at Doc. 40. Stallings filed her appeal on April 21, 2014. This Court granted Stallings' motion to stay Judge Williams' above-mentioned findings and rulings pending the outcome of this appeal. The discovery dispute conference was held in regard to financial records received for in camera review from MidCountry Bank. Judge Williams also took up two other discovery disputes involving redacted Facebook pages and access to Stallings' medical records. Relevant to this appeal, Judge Williams' Order memorializing his findings and rulings states,

The Court first took up the issue of the production of financial records from MidCountry Bank. The Court received these records for in-camera review from a previously issued subpoena. Plaintiff objects to the production of the documents as Johnston City has failed to identify the amount of funds missing from their accounts and believes that seeking the financial records is a fishing expedition on the city's part. The Court, however, ORDERS the production of the bank records. After reviewing the bank records, the Court noticed several cash deposits which the Court found to be potentially relevant. The Court DIRECTED Plaintiff to produce the records to Defendants by April 9, 2014. The Court directed that the production of the documents would be subject to a protective order and defense counsel was directed to use the documents only for purposes of this litigation and to share the documents with no one except her clients or experts for propose of this litigation. The Court also noted that the mayor of Johnston City is also subject to the same protective order and is not to disclose the information or share the information with anyone other than defense counsel.

(Doc. 40, p. 1). And further,

The Court next took up a new discovery issue involving the production of pages from Plaintiff's Facebook account. Defense counsel noted that she received approximately 466 pages from Plaintiff's account but that the names in the documents were redacted. Plaintiff's counsel indicated that in order to produce the documents, they had to print the documents out, rearrange the pages, and then redact the material and that they did not have a hard copy of the pages in an unredacted format. The Court DIRECTED Plaintiff to provide defense counsel with either an electronic version or a hard copy of the unredacted pages. The Court noted that due to the technical difficulties, Plaintiff's counsel could produce the entire unredacted file containing documents from 2007 to the present. These documents are also subject to the protective order.

( Id. at p. 2).[1]

As to the bank records, Stallings argues defendants have presented no basis to override her right to privacy in her bank records afforded under the Illinois Constitution. As for the Facebook data, Stallings argues Judge Williams' Order violates her privacy, as well as the privacy of minors and other individuals not involved in this litigation.

Pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 72(a), this Court must consider Stallings' timely objections and either modify or set aside any part of Judge Williams findings and rulings of April 4, 2014, memorialized on April 7, 2014, if "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). The Court has reviewed Stallings' appeal (Doc. 43), defendants' response in opposition (Doc. 44), the relevant underlying requests, the summary order at Doc. 40, as well as an uncertified "rough" copy of the transcript of the discovery dispute conference. Upon consideration of all of the above, the Court finds as follows:

With the understanding that not all discoverable evidence will necessarily be deemed admissible, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), the Court finds Judge Williams' findings and rulings of April 4, 2014, are essentially legal and just. However, the Court agrees with Stallings, to a certain extent, that Judge Williams' announcement of his rulings at the hearing was not abundantly clear. And further, the Court finds the memorialization of his findings and rulings entered on April 7, 2014 (Doc. 40), is too broad. Thus, Judge Williams' findings and rulings are modified as follows:

1. MidCountry Financial Records

Stallings describes defendants' request concerning her bank records as an "unwarranted fishing expedition." As Judge Posner has noted, "of course pretrial discovery is a fishing expedition and one can't know what one has caught until one fishes. But Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(c) allows the fish to object." Northwestern Memorial Hosp. v. Ashcroft, 362 F.3d 923, 931 (7th Cir. 2004). In this instance, the Court shares Stallings' concerns that defendants cast too wide a net as they do not sufficiently justify the breadth of their request.

Defendants state the subpoenas at issue request, "Any and all Bank Statements including not limited to copies of all deposit slips and cancelled checks from January 2011 to November 2011 for any and all checking and/or savings accounts held by Jayne A. Stallings, individually or jointly for Account Number xxxxx."

Article 1, Section 6 of the Illinois State Constitution "assures citizens a right of privacy in their bank records." In re May 1991 Will County Grand Jury, 604 N.E.2d 929, 937 (Ill. 1992). In this case, there is evidence that money was found missing from the water department by Johnston City. Stallings argues in part that because Johnston City has not identified any specific amount of alleged missing money, her bank records are not discoverable. Similarly to Judge Williams, this Court finds that evidence of cash deposits made by Stallings during the time period at issue is relevant to defendants' defense to Stallings' complaint and to defendants' affirmative defenses. However, in light of Stallings' right to privacy in her bank records under the Illinois Constitution, defendants will only be allowed to discover evidence of deposits that were made in cash, demonstrating that they were made in cash and on what date. No other bank records of Stallings will be discovered. The Court again reiterates that it does not comment at this time as to whether any of ...

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