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Holick v. Burkhart

United States District Court, D. Kansas

August 29, 2017

MARK HOLICK, Plaintiff,
v.
JULIE A. BURKHART, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER ON MOTIONS RELATING TO THIRD-PARTY SUBPOENAS

          HON. KENNETH G. GALE, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Now before the Court is Plaintiff's “Motion to Quash Third Party Subpoenas” served upon Plaintiff's witnesses David Gittrich of Kansans for Life, Pastor Robert Rotola of Word of Life Church, John Pride, Bruce Garren of Personhood Kansas, and Spirit One Ministries. (Doc. 56.) Concurrently pending are Motions to Quash the subpoenas filed by individual witnesses/recipients of the subpoenas - Pastor Robert Rotola (Doc. 57), Word of Life Church (Doc. 58), John Pride (Doc. 67).[1] Plaintiff also has filed his Amended Motion for Protective Order to stay and deny the discovery as it relates to these witnesses. Having reviewed the submissions of the parties, the Court is prepared to rule.[2]

         FACTS

         In 2013, Defendant received a temporary order of protection from stalking against Plaintiff in Kansas state court (state court action). Plaintiff, who is a resident of Oklahoma, brings the present matter alleging malicious prosecution and abuse of process against Defendant, a Kansas resident, relating to the allegations levied against him in the state court action. (See generally, Doc. 84.)

         The elements of a claim for malicious prosecution under Kansas law are:

(a) That the defendant initiated, continued, or procured civil procedures against the plaintiff.
(b) That the defendant in so doing acted without probable cause.
(c) That the defendant acted with malice, that is he acted primarily for a purpose other than that of securing the proper adjudication of the claim upon which the proceedings are based.
(d) That the proceeding terminated in favor of the plaintiff.
(e) That the plaintiff sustained damages.

In re Landrith, 280 Kan. 619, 647, 124 P.3d 467 (2005). “There are two essential elements for the tort of abuse of process: the existence of an ulterior motive and an improper act in the regular prosecution of a proceeding.” Lindenman v. Umscheid, 255 Kan. 610, 621, 875 P.2d 964, 973 (1994) (citation omitted).

         In regard to the malicious prosecution claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant “lacked probable cause for the false allegations, did not take reasonable measures to ascertain the veracity of said allegations, and was reckless and intentional in filing the false stalking charges against [him].” (Doc. 84, at 6.) As for the abuse of process claim, Plaintiff contends that Defendant “acted in a false and improper manner in the prosecution of a regular proceeding under Kansas law for anti-stalking against” Defendant. (Id., at 7.) Plaintiff continues that “[t]he use of substantial falsehoods, speculation and mere suspicion, without probable cause, to obtain an anti-stalking order is improper, illegal, and unauthorized by law.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that over the course of two years, Defendant

continued the temporary order against [him] and did not make it a permanent injunction. As late as January 2015, defendant attempted to influence the Wichita police to arrest Mark Holick for violating the anti-stalking order. The filing of the petition and false accusations of ‘stalking' caused extensive negative media publicity about him.

(Id., at 5-6.) Plaintiff alleges that this “curtailed or reduced his First Amendment and religious expressive activities” and caused him to fear “for his safety.” (Id., at 5.) Plaintiff continues that “[u]ltimately, when faced with a motion for summary judgment by [Plaintiff], [Defendant] voluntarily dismissed her stalking case, leaving [Plaintiff] as the prevailing party.” (Id., at 6.) He contends that “[t]he initiation, continuation or procurement of the ‘anti-stalking' order, based on complete falsehoods, caused [him] to incur tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees.” (Id.)

         The time for Defendant to Answer the Amended Complaint has not yet expired. In the affirmative defenses contained in Defendants Answer to the original Complaint, however, Defendant contends the statements in her state court petition were true and “in good faith pursuant to a legitimate interest, which is her safety; the statements were limited to those necessary to uphold her interest; and the statements were made in a proper manner to a proper party, the state.” (Doc. 20, at 7.) Defendant contends that she feared for her safety given the allegedly threatening nature of Plaintiff's statements and actions. (Id.) For instance, Defendant alleges that the church where Plaintiff served as a pastor “publically celebrated the death” of Dr. George Tiller, the doctor who provided abortion services in Wichita prior to Plaintiff. (Id., at 7.) Defendant also alleges that “Plaintiff publicly admitted he was at Defendant's house” with a sign reading “‘Where's Your Church' . . . after pointing out that Dr. Tiller wasn't shot at his home but at his church.” (Id.)

         Defendant characterizes the third-party subpoenas at issue as seeking documents and information regarding the anti-abortion/pro-life activities of these individuals/entities as well as documents “referred to or considered in connection with” affidavits these individuals submitted in state court action. (See Doc. 56-1, 56-2.) Defendant categorizes the requested information as follows:

(1) documents prepared by the witness that relate to abortion; (2) communications between the witness and other anti-abortion activists concerning anti-abortion topics;[3] (3) documents and communications between the witness and another person concerning Ms. Burkhart, Dr. Tiller, or their respective clinics; (4) documents and communications regarding the underlying anti-abortion events in this case (November 2012 and January and February 2013); (5) documents and communications relating to anti-abortion events that the witness participated in and that were carried out at Ms. Burkhart's home or place of business; and (6) all documents that the witness referred to or relied on in preparing his affidavit in the State Action.

(Doc. 59, at 10; see also Doc. 56-2 (Rotola subpoena).)

         Motions to quash the subpoenas have been filed by Plaintiff as well as each of the witnesses. The motions generally argue that the information requested is overly broad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and not proportional to the needs of the case. (See e.g. Doc. 57, 58; Doc. 67, at 3-8). Other objections are that Defendant violated Rule 45(c) and failed to provide a reasonable time to comply with the subpoena. (Doc. 56, at 1-4; Doc. 67, at 11-12.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. Legal Standards.

         Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) states that

[p]arties may obtain discovery 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 state 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.

         As such, the requested information must be nonprivileged, relevant, and proportional to the needs of the case to be discoverable. “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c) confers broad discretion on the trial court to decide when a protective order is appropriate and what degree of protection is required.” Layne Christensen Co. v. Purolite Co., 271 F.R.D. 240, 244 (D. Kan. 2010) (quoting Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 36 (1984)).

         Fed.R.Civ.P. 45 governs subpoenas, with section (d) of that Rule relating to “protecting a person subject to a subpoena” as well as ...


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