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Alexander v. Federal Bureau of Investigation

April 16, 1999

CARA LESLIE ALEXANDER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion [631] to Compel Further Deposition Testimony and Documents from Linda Tripp and Plaintiffs' Motion [667] to Extend Time by One Day to Reply on Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel. Upon consideration of plaintiffs' motions; the oppositions of the government defendants, non-party Tripp, and the United States of America by the Office of the Independent Counsel; plaintiffs' reply; and an in camera review of the documents submitted under claim of privilege by non-party Tripp, the court will GRANT nunc pro tunc Plaintiffs' Motion [667] to Extend Time by One Day to Reply on Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel; and DENY Plaintiffs' Motion [631] to Compel Further Deposition Testimony and Documents from Linda Tripp, as discussed and ordered below.

I. Background

The underlying allegations in this case arise from what has become popularly known as "Filegate." Plaintiffs allege that their privacy interests were violated when the FBI improperly handed over to the White House hundreds of FBI files of former political appointees and government employees from the Reagan and Bush Administrations.

The motion now before the court is based upon the deposition of non-party Linda Tripp. Tripp's deposition has two potential avenues of relevancy for the present case. First, Tripp claims to have some knowledge of relevant facts pertaining directly to the misuse of plaintiffs' government files. Second, although she is not a plaintiff in this proceeding, the misuse of Tripp's government file, in the form of her background security information, is discoverable to the extent that it is linked to the defendants in the present case. *fn1

The court has already granted in part a motion for protective order brought by non-party Tripp. Specifically, the court precluded plaintiffs from questioning Tripp "on all matters not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence on the issues of the obtaining or misuse of Tripp's government files, the obtaining and misuse of the plaintiffs' government files, or matter subsumed by these subject areas." See Alexander v. FBI, Civ. No. 96-2123, Memorandum and Order at 10, ¶ 4(a) (D.D.C. Dec. 7, 1998). The court also stated that it was not granting plaintiffs "a `roving commission' to investigate the subject matter of other alleged scandals involving the White House, the deponent, or any other entity." Id. at 5. The court went on to specifically exclude the Lewinsky and White House Travel Office matters from the scope of discoverable material. *fn2 With these components of the protective order in mind, the court allowed the Tripp deposition to proceed, vacating the stay that had been put in place upon motion of the Office of the Independent Counsel.

Plaintiffs took non-party Tripp's deposition on December 14, 1998, and January 5, 13, and 22, 1999. According to the government defendants, Tripp testified for a total of approximately fourteen hours, eight of which were dedicated to questioning by plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs now move to compel further testimony and document production from non-party Tripp. First, plaintiffs move to compel Tripp to submit to further oral deposition testimony on five topics:

1. The databases in use at the White House Counsel's office while Tripp was employed there.

2. The identity of people who attended "Whitewater damage control" meetings in the White House Counsel's office.

3. The substance of a particular conversation between Tripp and Deputy White House Counsel Cheryl Mills.

4. The substance of a conversation between Tripp and Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsay regarding Kathleen Willey.

5. How Tripp came to see letters that Kathleen Willey later sent to President Clinton.

Plaintiffs also seek to compel further document production from Tripp on three requests:

6. Portions of audio tapes of telephone conversations between Tripp and Monica Lewinsky.

7. Portions of notes of a telephone call between Lindsay and Tripp.

8. Portions of a book proposal prepared on Tripp's behalf.

II. Analysis

A. Applicable Law

Plaintiffs move to compel the testimonial and documentary items enumerated above based on Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As the court has stated on previous occasions in this case, it is the plaintiffs' duty to first show that the matter they seek to compel is discoverable. This rule comes from the definition of the scope of relevant discovery under Rule 26(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which states that "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action. . . . The information sought need not ...


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