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United States v. Vanskike

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 16, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MA LI VANSKIKE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER AND ORDER TO DEFENDANT TO SHOW CAUSE

          ANGEL D. MITCHELL U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on non-party YWCA Northeast Kansas, Center for Safety and Empowerment's (“YWCA”) Motion to Quash Defendant's Rule 17(c) Subpoena (ECF No. 28). For the reasons discussed below, the court denies the YWCA's motion, but directs the YWCA to hold its compliance with the subpoena in abeyance until further court order. Meanwhile, the court will order Ms. Vanskike to show cause as to whether compliance with Rule 17(c)(3) is required and, if so, an explanation as to how she has complied, or intends to comply, with Rule 17(c)(3).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ms. Vanskike is charged with operating a massage parlor as a front for illegal prostitution activity and laundering the proceeds from that activity at Harrah's Casino in North Kansas City, Missouri. On March 8, 2019, Ms. Vanskike filed an ex parte motion under seal requesting that the court issue a document subpoena to the YWCA pursuant to Rules 17(b) and 17(c)(1) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. (Sealed Ex Parte Mot. (ECF No. 24).) On March 11, 2019, the presiding U.S. District Judge Holly L. Teeter granted Ms. Vanskike's motion, finding her request for the subpoena met the relevance, materiality, and specificity thresholds required under Rule 17(c) and United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974). (Sealed Order (ECF No. 25).) A subpoena was issued, requiring the YWCA to produce:

1. Any reports or statements made regarding Hua Yang's contact with YWCA in June of 2018; and
2. Any records of services provided or offered to Hua Yang regarding her contact with YWCA in June of 2018.

         The YWCA filed a motion to quash the subpoena (ECF No. 28). The YWCA argues that Ms. Vanskike has not established that her requests for records are sufficiently specific and that the records she seeks are relevant and admissible. The YWCA also raises concerns about producing the subject documents in light of the confidential nature of the services YWCA provides to victims of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and human trafficking.

         II. SUBPOENAS IN CRIMINAL CASES

         Rule 17 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure governs subpoenas in criminal cases.

         It generally provides as follows:

[a] subpoena may order the witness to produce any books, papers, documents, data, or other objects the subpoena designates. The court may direct the witness to produce the designated items in court before trial or before they are to be offered in evidence. When the items arrive, the court may permit the parties and their attorneys to inspect all or part of them.

         Fed. R. Crim. P. 17(c)(1). Subpoenas issued under Rule 17(c) are “not intended to provide a means of discovery for criminal cases.” Nixon, 418 U.S. at 698. Instead, they are a tool to “to expedite the trial by providing a time and place before trial for the inspection of subpoenaed materials.” Id. at 698-99. Where a defendant is unable to pay witness fees, “[u]pon [the] defendant's ex parte application, the court must order that a subpoena be issued.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 17(b); see also United States v. Daniels, 194 F.R.D. 699, 700 (D. Kan. 2000) (noting that a defendant may make “an ex parte application for a subpoena duces tecum seeking pretrial production of documents”).

         The party seeking documents “must clear three hurdles: (1) relevancy; (2) admissibility; [and] (3) specificity.” Nixon, 418 U.S. at 700. The trial court has discretion to determine whether a party has overcome these hurdles. United States v. Jackson, 155 F.R.D. 664, 667 (D. Kan. 1994). The court may quash a subpoena for documents if “compliance would be unreasonable or oppressive.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 17(c)(2). To determine if the burden of compliance rises to this level, courts examine whether the party seeking documents has shown:

(1) that the documents are evidentiary and relevant; (2) that they are not otherwise procurable reasonably in advance of trial by exercise of due diligence; (3) that the party cannot properly prepare for trial without such production and inspection in advance of trial and that the failure to obtain such inspection may tend unreasonably to delay the trial; and (4) that the ...

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