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Alexander v. Federal Bureau of Investigation

March 29, 2000

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



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth United States District Court

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the court on Plaintiffs' Motion [827] to Compel Answers to Plaintiffs' First Set of Interrogatories to the Executive Office of the President Pursuant to Court Order of April 13, 1998. Upon consideration of this motion, and the opposition and reply thereto, the court will GRANT the plaintiffs' motion.

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.

This particular dispute revolves around interrogatories pertaining to Mike McCurry, Ann Lewis, Rahm Emanuel, Sidney Blumenthal and Bruce Lindsey. Plaintiffs served these interrogatories pertaining to these five current or former officials on May 13, 1999. The EOP responded on July 16, 1999. Plaintiffs now seek to compel further answers to the following lines of questioning:

1. Any and all knowledge these officials have, including any meetings held or other communications made, about the obtaining of the FBI files of former White House Travel Office employees Billy Ray Dale, John Dreylinger, Barney Brasseux, Ralph Maughan, Robert Van Eimerren, and John McSweeney (Interrogatories 11, 35, 40 and 47).

2. Any and all knowledge these officials have, including any meetings held or other communications made, about the release or use of any documents between Kathleen Willey and President Clinton or his aides, or documents relating to telephone calls or visits between Willey and the President or his aides (Interrogatories 15, 37, and 42).

3. All meetings held or other communications made, including all communications made to the media, related to the use or obtaining of FBI background investigation files, summary reports, or raw data on persons included on the FBI files list (Interrogatories 34, 39, and 46).

4. Any and all communications these officials have had relating to release or use of information from Linda Tripp's Department of Defense files (Interrogatory 41).

5. Any and all communications and/or meetings these officials have had with Cody Shearer (Interrogatory 52).

The EOP responded in its opposition to the plaintiffs' motion that the only information it withheld based on its objections was information regarding the release of Kathleen Willey's letters to the President. For this information, the EOP asserts the attorney-client, work-product, and deliberative process privileges. As to the remaining questions, the EOP states that they were answered fully and completely. Plaintiffs argue, however, that they are entitled to receive the EOP's assurances under oath that information has not been withheld. They further argue that they are entitled to the information regarding the release of the Willey letters.

II Analysis

"Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action." FED. R. CIV. P. 26 (b). The information sought by the plaintiffs is clearly relevant to the pending action. Once a showing of relevance has been made by the party seeking discovery, the party objecting to that discovery bears the burden of "show[ing] why discovery should not be permitted." Corrigan v. Methodist Hosp., 158 F.R.D. 54, 56 (E.D. Penn. 1994) (citing Amcast Indus. Corp. v. Detrex Corp., 138 F.R.D. 115, 118 (N.D. Ind. 1991)); see also Ellsworth Assocs., Inc. v. United States, 917 F.Supp. 841, 844 (D.D.C. 1996) ("A party opposing discovery bears the burden of showing why discovery should be denied.") With this in mind, the court will first address those interrogatories that the EOP claims were answered fully.

A. Interrogatories the EOP claims were answered fully

For the great majority of the questions, the EOP has not even attempted to establish why discovery should not be granted. Instead, the EOP states in its opposition that no information was withheld for these questions. They assert that the objections made were for protective purposes only, and the five individuals in fact responded fully to the interrogatories, without regard to the EOP's objections. Therefore, the EOP argues, the plaintiffs' motion is moot with respect to these questions.

Plaintiffs, however, request that the EOP's assertions that no information has been withheld be submitted to them under oath. *fn1 Rule 33(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that "[e]ach interrogatory shall be answered separately and fully in writing and under oath." Plaintiffs are clearly entitled to have the complete answers to their interrogatories made under oath. Thus, the assertions made by the EOP, which modify their original answers to state in effect that their objections are withdrawn and that the information given was in fact complete, must also be made under oath. Accordingly, for those questions for which the EOP now asserts that no information was withheld, the EOP must provide the plaintiffs with ...


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