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Doe v. Purdue University

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

September 19, 2019

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
PURDUE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSHUA P. KOLAR, MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on a Verified Motion for Issuance of a Subpoena [DE 45], filed by Defendants Purdue University (“Purdue”), et al., on August 15, 2019. Plaintiff John Doe filed a response on September 3, 2019, and Defendants filed their reply on September 4, 2019. In the instant motion, Defendants request that the Court issue a subpoena directing non-parties the United States Navy (“Navy”), Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC), and Purdue Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (“Purdue NROTC”) to produce certain documents that may be in their possession. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 15, 2017, Magistrate Judge Paul R. Cherry granted Defendants' previous motion to dismiss and dismissed the case without prejudice. On June 28, 2019, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded this matter for further proceedings. Defendants represent that, following the Court of Appeals' decision, they contacted the Navy General Counsel's office to determine whether the Navy, NROTC, or Purdue NROTC was the custodian of any records pertaining to Plaintiff, and further whether those parties would comply with a request for production and subpoena duces tecum issued by defense counsel. (Mot. Subpoena 3, ECF No. 45).[1] The Navy General Counsel's office informed defense counsel that Purdue NROTC had responsive documents, but that either a release from Plaintiff or a judge-executed subpoena would be necessary before documents could be produced. Id. Following several communications, Plaintiff informed Defendants that he would not execute such a release, and thus Defendants filed the instant motion. Id. at 3-4.

         ANALYSIS

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(a)(1)(A)(iii), a party may serve a subpoena commanding a non-party to testify at a deposition and produce designated documents. Rule 45(d)(3)(A)(iv) requires a court to quash or modify a subpoena based on a timely motion if the subpoena subjects a person to an undue burden. Factors considered in determining whether a subpoena is unduly burdensome include non-party status, relevance, the issuing party's need for the discovery, and the breadth of the request. Uppal v. Rosalind Franklin Univ. of Med. & Sci., 124 F.Supp.3d 811, 813 (N.D. Ill. 2015). The party seeking to quash the subpoena bears the burden of proving that it is unduly burdensome or that the information sought is privileged. Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-14, 287 F.R.D. 513, 516 (N.D. Ind. 2012).

         The broad scope of discovery, which applies to discovery requests sent to non-parties as well as parties, permits a party to seek information

regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “The limits and breadth of discovery expressed in Rule 26 are applicable to non-party discovery under Rule 45.” Noble Roman's, Inc. v. Hattenhauer Distrib. Co., 314 F.R.D. 304, 307 (S.D. Ind. 2016). When a party seeks discovery that is “unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive” or is outside of the scope of discovery, the Court must limit discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C).

         The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has stated that “there is a strong public policy in favor of disclosure of relevant materials.” Patterson v. Avery Dennison Corp., 281 F.3d 676, 681 (7th Cir. 2002). The Court of Appeals has further instructed that “[b]efore restricting discovery, the court should consider ‘the totality of the circumstances, weighing the value of the material sought against the burden of providing it,' and taking into account society's interest in furthering ‘the truthseeking function' in the particular case before the court.” Id. (internal citations omitted).

         The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals remanded this matter for consideration of whether, inter alia, Defendants violated the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving Plaintiff of a liberty interest: the freedom to pursue naval service, his career of choice. Doe v. Purdue Univ., 928 F.3d 652, 661-63 (7th Cir. 2019). Defendants argue that the documents at issue are relevant to this question. Specifically, Defendants represent that, in their belief, the Navy, NROTC, or Purdue NROTC has documents pertaining to the following: (1) an investigation of Plaintiff, regarding his alleged sexual assault of Jane Doe, (2) Plaintiff's service record with Purdue NROTC, (3) Plaintiff's student file, (4) a “disenrollment package, ” and (5) emails and statements from Plaintiff and Jane Doe. (Mot. Subpoena 4, ECF No. 45). As discussed below, Plaintiff disputes this, most notably by asserting that there is no such “disenrollment package.”

         Defendants note that the Complaint alleges that Plaintiff lost a scholarship and future career opportunities due to Purdue's investigation. Id. at 5. Accordingly, documents pertaining to the value and terms of this scholarship, such as those that may be in Plaintiff's “disenrollment package” and related emails, and the extent and nature of any career opportunities with the Navy are relevant to proving or defending against the allegations in the Complaint. Id. at 5-6. Defendants assert that Purdue NROTC's student file and service record are also likely to contain information regarding the dates Plaintiff entered the program and his official status when he left, and that such documents are germane to the question of whether Plaintiff's resignation from the program was voluntary. Id. at 6. Further, Defendants explain that the documents sought will confirm whether Purdue NROTC or the Navy has any additional facts concerning Plaintiff's interactions with Jane Doe. Id.

         Defendants contend that the relevant factors in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 justify the Court's execution of the requested subpoena. Defendants explain that the Navy is the primary and potentially only entity with access to all the documents sought by the subpoena, and in their absence Defendants will have only Plaintiff's characterizations of his relationship and past dealings with the Navy and Purdue NROTC. Id. Defendants argue that these documents are necessary to ensure the parties are equally placed to present and defend claims. Id.

         In response, Plaintiff argues that Defendants are attempting to “engage in a fishing expedition in an effort to come up with something to avoid the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rul[ing] in this case recognizing Plaintiff John Doe's constitutionally protected ‘stigma-plus' liberty interest and rejecting Defendants' attack upon that interest.” (Mem. Opp'n 1, ECF No. 53). Plaintiff contends that none of the five categories of documents noted by Defendants justify the authorization of the “proposed broad subpoena, ” stating: (1) the only investigation into Plaintiff's alleged misconduct was conducted by Purdue; there was no separate Navy investigation or proceeding, (2) NROTC has no documents material to this case that were not sent to it by Purdue, (3) Plaintiff's student file is with Purdue, not NROTC, (4) there is no “disenrollment package, ” and (5) emails and statements from Plaintiff and Jane Doe were collected by Purdue investigators, not NROTC. Id. at 17-18. Plaintiff asserts that “[t]he statement of these categories make ...


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