Stallworth v. Bryant et al
ORDER re 337 Notice of Application for Writ filed by Dewey Phillip "Phil" Bryant, 261 MOTION for Protective Order filed by Dewey Phillip "Phil" Bryant, 339 Order Signed by Magistrate Judge F. Keith Ball on 10/10/2019 (Ball, F.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
JACKSON MUNICIPAL AIRPORT
AUTHORITY, ET AL.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-cv-246-CWR-FKB
GOVERNOR PHIL BRYANT, ET AL.
This case comes before the undersigned to follow the directives set forth in the Opinion
 issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit issued
the Opinion in response to a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus (Petition) filed by Governor Phil
Bryant, a defendant in this case. In his Petition, Governor Bryant requested that the Fifth Circuit
issue a writ of mandamus ordering this Court to vacate, in part, a previously-issued Order 
and grant his Motion for Protective Order  seeking to prohibit the deposition of Joey Songy,
the Governor's Chief of Staff. The Fifth Circuit denied the Petition without prejudice, but made
findings and ordered further consideration by the undersigned.
In its Opinion, the Fifth Circuit instructed the undersigned to address the following in
relation to whether Plaintiffs should be allowed to depose Songy:
a) whether the information desired can be sought from alternative witnesses or
must exclusively come from the Chief of Staff;
b) whether the legislators involved in the communications can be deposed;
c) whether the information desired can be obtained in another form; and
d) if it cannot be obtained in another form, whether the scope of the inquiry can
be more closely tailored to target only the specific questions raised at the Rule
 at 7.
a) whether the information desired can be sought from alternative witnesses
or must exclusively come from the Chief of Staff.
As the Fifth Circuit stated, this case involves "a dispute over control of the
governance of the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport."  at 1. From
the initial filing of their Motion to Compel, Plaintiffs have made clear that they wish to
depose Songy because he was "the first person in the Governor's office to conceive the idea
of the state taking control of Jackson Medgar Evers International."  at 7. And the
30(b)(6) designee for Governor Bryant's Office testified that Songy was the person in the
Governor's Office who came up with the concept. [259-4] at 21-25. Plaintiffs explain that
they want to "ask Mr. Songy about his concept for changing the governing structure of the
Airport and any communications he may have had related to that concept, as well as Mr.
Songy's actions and non-privileged communications with others regarding the management
or operation of the Airport."  at 2. Plaintiffs state that "no one other than Mr. Songy
himself can fully explain where his idea came from or what considerations informed its
development." Id. at 6.
In sum, the "information desired" by Plaintiffs includes how, why, and when Songy
came up with his concept and what he did to promote it toward legislation. Plaintiffs want
to know what role Songy, as the Governor's representative, played, if any, in the
conception, formulation, and support of S.B. 2162, the legislation at issue which transfers
control of the airport from the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) to a newlycreated governing body. Since only Songy can answer these questions about his own
concept of transferring control of the airport or what all he did to promote it, the
information must exclusively come from Songy and cannot be provided by alternative
In this Court's original Order , the undersigned addressed Governor Bryant's
argument that "Plaintiffs could depose the individuals Songy met with rather than Songy
himself."  at 7. The undersigned stated, "[t]his argument . . . misses the point," and
that as "Governor Bryant is a party to this lawsuit, . . . Plaintiffs are entitled to discover the
factual position of a party opponent." Id. As this holding was not particularly well-received
by the Fifth Circuit, the undersigned would respectfully like to explain the point in more
detail. As the Fifth Circuit correctly observed, Governor Bryant "identified Chief of Staff
Songy" in his disclosures under Rule 26(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 
at 2. Rule 26(a) explicitly provides that such initial disclosures are of persons "the
disclosing party may use to support its claims or defenses[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1)(A)(i)
(emphasis added). If Plaintiffs were relegated to deposing only the non-party individuals
to whom Songy communicated, Governor Bryant would be free to "use" Songy at trial to
rebut the testimony of those individuals. The undersigned respectfully submits that a party
should not be allowed to identify a person whom they may "use" to support their case,
while at the same time prohibiting an opposing party from deposing that person. Allowing
such a prohibition would risk the very unfair surprise that discovery is intended to prevent.
b) whether the legislators involved in the communications can be deposed.
The answer to this question is - maybe, maybe not. As the Fifth Circuit correctly
noted, "[t]he legislators objected, invoking legislative privilege," to document subpoenas
served on them by Plaintiffs.  at 10. The Fifth Circuit also stated that "the magistrate
judge already overruled that objection multiple times." Id. In a prior Order , the
undersigned held that the legislative privilege had been waived (or did not apply), as to
subpoenaed documents that had been shared with third parties, but as to all other documents
withheld under a claim of privilege, the undersigned simply ordered the legislators to
produce a privilege log. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this Court's local rules
require such a privilege log, when a party withholds documents under a claim of privilege.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5); L.U.Civ.R. 26(e). These rules require a privilege log in order
for the parties and the Court to assess the claim of privilege. The undersigned has not,
however, overruled the legislative privilege as to those documents.
Further, in this Court's prior Order , the undersigned acknowledged authorities
that make a distinction between the applicability of the legislative privilege to deposition
subpoenas, as opposed to document subpoenas. See  at 8. “While a few such cases
have held that state and local government legislators are immune from providing testimony
in most civil cases, the evidentiary legislative privilege has not been extended to all
document production.” Id. (citing Small v. Hunt, 152 F.R.D. 509, 513 (E.D.N.C. 1994);
Marylanders for Fair Representation, Inc. v. Schaefer, 144 F.R.D. 292, 302 n. 20 (D. Md.
1992)). “That is, state and local officials may be protected from testifying, but are not
necessarily exempted from producing documents.” Id. Accordingly, even if the legislative
privilege does not protect certain documents of a legislator from production, it may protect
the legislator from being deposed.
Based on the legislators having raised the legislative privilege in response to prior
document subpoenas, the undersigned expects that if served with deposition subpoenas, the
legislators will move to quash them based on legislative privilege. The undersigned would
then be faced with ruling on the legislators' motions. But, at this time, the undersigned is
not in a position to rule on whether the legislators can or cannot be deposed, since the
legislators are not before the Court on the instant motion and have not been afforded an
opportunity to be heard on this issue. Regardless, even if the legislators could be deposed
about their communications with Songy, they could not provide all of the information
Plaintiffs are seeking about Songy's concept for transferring control from JMAA.
c) whether the information desired can be obtained in another form; and
d) if it cannot be obtained in another form, whether the scope of the inquiry
can be more closely tailored to target only the specific questions raised at the
Rule 30(b)(6) deposition.
Whereas questions (a) and (b) deal with whether the "information desired" by
Plaintiffs can be obtained from sources other than Songy, questions (c) and (d) appear to
deal with the form of obtaining discovery from Songy. The undersigned will address
questions (c) and (d) jointly.
In discussing question (c), the Fifth Circuit found that "it is likely that written
answers to questions, given under oath, would be sufficient." Id. When addressing question
(d), the Fifth Circuit ruled as follows:
The scope of any further questioning, written or otherwise, should expressly
remain within the ambit of the previously noticed Rule 30(b)(6) parameters,
. . . . To verify their pertinence to the 30(b)(6) inquiry, the list of written
inquiries may be pre-approved by the magistrate judge before submission
to Songy, all based on the existing [30(b)(6) deposition] transcript. The
questions posed likewise should specifically track those propounded to
[the 30(b)(6) designee], for which his responses are deemed
inadequate by the court.
 at 10.
The undersigned has considered the discovery tools afforded by the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. With the Fifth Circuit's mention of "written answers to questions," the
undersigned considered interrogatories being propounded to Songy. But Rule 33 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that interrogatories are to be propounded to
parties, and Songy is not a party. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a)(1) ("a party may serve on any
other party . . . interrogatories."). Next, given the Fifth Circuit's reference to "written
inquiries" and suggestion that they be submitted to the undersigned for approval, the
undersigned considered a deposition by written questions under Rule 31 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, which appears to best comply with the Fifth Circuit's directives.
Accordingly, following the specific directives from the Fifth Circuit, the
undersigned orders as follows:
Within ten days from entry of this Order, Plaintiffs may file a list of written
questions that they wish to pose to Joey Songy. The questions must specifically track those
propounded at the 30(b)(6) deposition of the Governor's Office, the answers to which
Plaintiffs contend were inadequate.
Within five days from Plaintiffs' filing of proposed written questions,
Governor Bryant may file a response stating any objections to Plaintiffs' proffered
Within three days from Governor Bryant filing his objections, Plaintiffs
may file a rebuttal stating any response to Governor Bryant's objections to their proffered
After receiving Plaintiff's proffered questions, Governor Bryant's response, and
Plaintiffs' rebuttal, the undersigned will determine the questions which may be posed to
Joey Songy. The questions will be posed to Joey Songy via a deposition by written
questions in accordance with Rule 31 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the
undersigned will set a deadline by which the deposition must be concluded.
SO ORDERED on the 10th day of October, 2019.
/s/ F. Keith Ball
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?