Windsor v. The United States Of America

Filing 43

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: For the reasons listed herein, the plaintiff's letter motion to compel is granted to the extent that BLAG shall answer Interrogatories 1 and 3 and RFA no. 1 by August 1, 2011. In all other respects, the motion is denied. (Signed by Magistrate Judge James C. Francis on 7/28/2011) Copies Mailed By Chambers. (mro)

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK (ECF) EDITH SCHLAIN WINDSOR, in her capacity as Executor of the Estate of THEA CLARA SPYER, 10 Civ. 8435 (BSJ) (JCF) MEMORANDUM AND ORDER Plaintiff, - against ­ USDSSDNY DOCUMENT ELECTRONICALLY FILED THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant. DOC#: ______________ DATE FILED: JAMES C. FRANCIS IV UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE Edith Schlain Windsor brings this action r/ l.~ /20\ \ challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), 1 U. S. C. § 7, on the ground that it discriminates against her on the basis of her sexual orientation in violation equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. the Ms. Windsor's claim arises from the fact that, upon the death of her spouse, Thea Spyer, the government refused to apply the estate tax marital deduction on the basis of DOMA. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives ("BLAG") has intervened as a party defendant in order to present arguments for upholding DOMA. plaintiff admission. served Accordingly, during the course of discovery, the BLAG with interrogatories and requests for BLAG objected to all of the interrogatories and most of the requests for admission. The plaintiff has now submitted a 1 letter motion pursuant to Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seeking an order compelling BLAG to respond. For the reasons that follow, the plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part. Discussion On May 11, 2011, I issued a scheduling order providing in part that the part would exchange written discovery requests by June 3, 2011 and that all discovery would be completed by July 11, 2011. In accordance with that schedule, the plaintiff served BLAG with requests for admission and interrogatories on June 3, served its responses and objections on July 8. and BLAG After the parties met and conferred and were unable to resolve the disputes over BLAG's objections, the plaintiff submitted the instant motion. A. Interrogatories The two interrogatories pressed by the plaintiff ask "What, if anything, do you contend are the compelling justifications for section 3 of DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 77" (Interrogatory no. 1) and "What, if anything, do you assert are the legitimate government interests rationally advanced (Interrogatory no. 3). by section 3 of DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7?" BLAG objects to both on the ground that, to the extent they are construed as contention interrogatories, they are premature. responded, That argument is disingenuous; at the time BLAG the discovery deadline was three days away, and it is 2 now closed. BLAG also objects to Interrogatory no. 1 because" the legal conclusion justification to that enact Congress Section 3 of assumes required a compelling DOMA." In fact, interrogatory assumes only that, if the Court finds st the ct scrutiny to be the appropriate standard of review, BLAG may wish to proffer compelling justifications for DOMA. The plaintiff is entitled to know what those justifications are, and BLAG is there directed to answer Interrogatory 1. In response to Interrogatory no. 3, BLAG sets forth authority for the proposition that under rational basis analysis, there is no need to demonstrate the basis on which the legislature actually chose to create classifications. That may be an accurate summary of the law, but it misses the point. BLAG will presumably suggest to the Court potentially rational grounds for the enactment of DOMA, and it must disclose those to the plaintiff in response to a proper contention interrogatory. Accordingly, BLAG shall answer Interrogatory no. 3 as well. Requests for Admission Fourteen requests for admission ("RFAs") are in dispute. first asks BLAG to [a]dmit that if, at the time of her death, Thea Spyer had been married to a man instead of a woman, who was a U.S. citizen and who survived Thea Spyer's death, her estate 3 The would have qualified for the estate tax marital deduction, 26 U.S.C. § 2056(a), and would not have been liable for any federal estate tax. (RFAno.l). Although BLAG acknowledges that opposite-sex spouses may for qualify the estate tax marital deduction, it denies knowledge or information sufficient to admit or deny the specific request for admission. It is not conceivable that BLAG lacks the wherewithal to make a determination based on the tax forms that Ms. Windsor has produced in discovery whether the estate tax marital deduction would apply if she and Ms. Spyer had been opposite sex spouses. The BLAG shall either admit or deny RFA no. 1. balance of the RFAs at issue seek sweeping historical and sociological phenomena. admissions about For example, RFA no. 3 requests that BLAG "[a] dmit that in the twentieth century and continuing to the present, lesbians and gay men have experienced a history of unequal treatment in the United States because of the sexual orientation. Similarly, RFA no. 10 seeks an admission that II "sexual orientation is unrelated to an individual's ability to perform in society. II And RFA no. 14 asks BLAG to "[a] dmit that lesbians and gay men are generally no less capable of loving, nurturing, and supporting their children than heterosexual men and women. II Requests admission are ill-suited to such complex issues. Any complete answer to the questions posed here could fill volumes 4 ~_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _',"1I,!' Had the RFAs and would not serve to streamline this litigation. been framed as contention interrogatories - - for example, BLAG contend that "Does lesbians and gay men have not experienced a history of unequal treatment in the United States because of their sexual they have served litigation position. But orientation?" flushing out appropriate BLAG's requests for might admission, a purpose they and BLAG need not are in not respond further to them. Conclusion For the reasons discussed above, the plaintiff's letter motion to compel is granted to the extent that BLAG shall Interrogatories 1 and 3 and RFA no. 1 by August 1, 2011. other respects, the motion is denied. SO ORDERED. ~r'~~E JAMES C. FRANCIS IV UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE Dated: New York, New York July 28, 2011 Copies mailed this date: Roberta A. Kaplan, Esq. Andrew J. Ehrlich, Esq. Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP 1285 Avenue of the Americas New York, New York 10019 5 answer In all Al s B. Karteron, Esq. Arthur N. senberg, Esq. Melissa Goodman, Esq. New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation 125 Broad Street, 19th Floor New York, New York 10004 James D. Esseks, Esq. Rose A. Saxe, Esq. American Civil Liberties Union Foundation Lesbian and Gay Rights Project 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor New York, New York 10004 Paul D. Clement, Esq. H. Christopher Bartolomucci, Esq. Bancroft PLLC 1919 M Street, NW Suite 470 Washington, DC 20036 Jean Lin, Esq. U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division 20 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., 7th Fl. Washington, DC 20530 6