Snyder v. Phelps et al

Filing 133

Correspondence re: Conference call (Katz, Jonathan)

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Snyder v. Phelps et al Doc. 133 MARKS & KATZ, LLC ATTORNEYS AT LAW 1400 SPRING STREET, SUITE 410 SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND 20910 (301) 495-4300 September 11, 2007 Honorable Richard D. Bennett United States District Court Dear Judge Bennett: This letter is respectfully submitted before the parties' September 11, 2007, 10:00 a.m. discovery conference call with your Honor in Snyder v. Phelps, et al., Civ. No. RDB 06-1389. I sincerely apologize to the Court and the parties for not submitting this letter by the 5:00 p.m. time called for in your Honor's November 26, 2007, letter in this civil action. The delay was not intended. On April 27, 2007, Plaintiff delivered to Defendants Westboro Baptist Church ("WBC")1 a "Second Request for Production of Documents." On May 30, 2007, WBC timely delivered a reply thereto, which is attached hereto, without attachments, as Exhibit 1. WBC is taken by unfair surprise by any efforts by Plaintiff to seek to compel the information sought in Plaintiff's September 10, 2007, letter to the Court. First, discovery closed around four weeks ago. Second, Plaintiff's efforts to compel discovery at this juncture contravene L.R. 104.8(a)'s clear mandate to file such a motion to compel "within thirty days of the party's receipt of the response." Id. (emphasis added). In other words, Plaintiff was obligated to file a motion to compel evidence by early July 2007, at the very latest, but did not do so. Instead, Plaintiff's counsel waited until August 27, 2007 to ask WBC to provide unredacted responses to the attached discovery requests, and to seek a phone conference on the matter with the Court. Of course, WBC recognizes its obligations to supplement its document production responses as WBC obtains new documents, and, in that regard, WBC plans shortly to provide recently-obtained redacted bank statements to Plaintiff, and to provide documents 1 Plaintiff's September 10 letter leaves the misimpression that Defendant Fred Phelps, Sr., was sent a document production request, which is not true. 1 Dockets.Justia.com reflecting recent WBC financial liability in excess of $500 (see document production request number one). Plaintiff's September 10 letter raises conspiracy and punitive damages to support receiving WBC's unredacted bank statements. It is curious that Plaintiff's letter, inter alia, claims to seek such unredacted statements to show that "defendants paid for each other's travel." Plaintiff has already deposed all defendants to this civil action, and received sworn testimony that the individual defendants picketed in concert with each other under the WBC umbrella, and that each adult defendant paid for his or her own travel expenses to picket at the funeral of Plaintiff's son, Matthew Snyder. An in camera review of the unredacted statements, if it comes to that, should confirm this. Moreover, Plaintiff has no evidence to date showing any conspiracy, particularly not with WBC, which received the attached document production requests. As to punitive damages, Plaintiff has no evidence that any defendant's actions make Plaintiff eligible for punitive damages. WBC's Summary Judgment Motion Memorandum of Law at 17. Additionally, unredacted bank statements should not be expected to show WBC's net worth in relation to punitive damages. Plaintiff could have asked more detailed deposition questions about WBC's assets and liabilities - which go to the heart of net worth -- but explored this in limited fashion. Furthermore, in Plaintiff's seeking WBC's unredacted bank statements, the First Amendment's free exercise of religion clause comes into play. Bryce v. Episcopal Church 289 F.3d 648, 655 (10th Cir. 2002) (e.g., addressing the church autonomy doctrine). Finally, WBC reincorporates by reference its attached answers to document production requests. In camera review, if it comes to that, will demonstrate that the unredacted documents sought by Plaintiff should not be discoverable. In any event, as discussed above, Plaintiff seeks to compel discovery too late, in contravention of L.R. 104.8(a). . Respectfully, /s/ Jonathan L. Katz 2 EXHIBIT 1 General Objection: Defendant objects to this second set of document production requests, in that the information they seek is not reasonably calculated to obtain any admissible evidence other than for seeking punitive damages. The information provided by Plaintiff in discovery, even if accepted as true, is insufficient to send a punitive damages claim to the jury. Only for purposes of this response to Plaintiff's document production request, Defendant's chances of dismissing Plaintiff's punitive damages function has not been considered in making this response. 1. All statements for the period January 1, 2006, to date, for all bank accounts held by Westboro Baptist Church, Inc. Response: Objection as overbroad, and, therefore, not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admisible evidence. Further objection for seeking private financial information that is not relevant to pursuing a punitive damages claim. Defendant plans to provide Plaintiff with redacted bank statements confirming Defendant's monthly total balances. 2. All statements for the period January 1, 2006, to date, for all investment or brokerage accounts or other financial accounts held by Westboro Baptist Church, Inc. Response: Objection as overbroad, and, therefore, not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admisible evidence. Further objection for seeking private financial information that is not relevant to pursuing a punitive damages claim. Without waiving said objection, Defendant has no such accounts. 3. The check register for Westboro Baptist Church, inc. for the period January 1, 2006, to date. 3 Response: Objection as overbroad, and, therefore, not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admisible evidence. Further objection for seeking private financial information that is not relevant to pursuing a punitive damages claim. Defendant will provide the redacted bank statements detailed in response 1, and herein incorporates Defendant's response 1 by reference. 4. Any and all financial statements, both audited and unaudited, prepared by or on your behalf since January 1, 2006. Response: Objection as overbroad, and, therefore, not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admisible evidence. Further objection for seeking private financial information that is not relevant to pursuing a punitive damages claim. Without waiving said objection, Defendant has no such documents. 5. The federal and state income tax return Westboro Baptist Church, inc., for the year 2006. for Response: Objection as overbroad, and, therefore, not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admisible evidence. Further objection for seeking private financial information that is not relevant to pursuing a punitive damages claim. Without waiving said objection, Defendant has no such documents, and is is not required to file income tax returns. 6. Any and all documents reflecting a Westboro Baptist Church, Inc., financial liability in excess of $500. Response: Objection as overbroad, and, therefore, not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admisible evidence. Further objection for seeking private financial information that is not relevant to pursuing a punitive damages claim. Without waiving said objection, Defendant has no such documents. 4

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