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State of Wyoming v. United States Department of Agriculture

July 9, 2002

STATE OF WYOMING, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ET AL., DEFENDANTS, AND WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL ET AL., INTERVENORS.



Document Nos.: 1, 8, 10, 11

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS; GRANTING THE NON-PARTY WITNESSES' MOTIONS TO QUASH THE PLAINTIFF'S SUBPOENAS

I. INTRODUCTION

This motion arises from pending litigation in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming ("the Wyoming proceeding"). In that case, the State of Wyoming ("the plaintiff" or "Wyoming") filed suit against the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA") and its subdivision, the United States Forest Service ("Forest Service") (collectively, "the defendants"), challenging the forest-management actions known collectively as the "Roadless Regulations." In the underlying suit, Wyoming claims that the USDA violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act ("FACA"), 5 U.S.C. App. 2 § 1 et seq., in issuing the Roadless Regulations and seeks to block their implementation.

The matter comes before this court on Wyoming's motion to compel production of documents pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45 against non-party witnesses United States Public Interest Research Group ("USPIRG"), Heritage Forest Campaign ("HFC"), and Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund ("Earthjustice") (collectively, "non-party witnesses"). Wyoming seeks these documents because it believes the documents will help it prove that the USDA violated the FACA. The non-party witnesses object to the subpoenas, contending that: (1) the discovery requests are overbroad, unduly burdensome, and unduly invasive of their privacy rights; (2) the information sought is neither relevant nor likely to lead to evidence relevant to the Wyoming proceeding; (3) the documents are cumulative and duplicative of those available from the parties in the Wyoming proceeding; and (4) compliance would result in infringement of the non-party witnesses' First Amendment rights to free association and to petition the government.

The court agrees with the non-party witnesses' arguments. Accordingly, the court denies the plaintiff's motion to compel the production of documents and grants the non-party witnesses' motions to quash the subpoenas.

II. BACKGROUND

In May 2001, Wyoming filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming (Dkt. No. 01cv0086-B) challenging the Roadless Regulations, a group of interrelated roadless and forest-management actions issued by the USDA during the last year of the Clinton Administration. *fn1 Pl.'s Mot. to Compel at 2. For example, one of the challenged regulations, the Road Management Rule, shifts the Forest Service's emphasis away from development and construction of new roads within the National Forest System to maintaining needed roads and decommissioning unneeded ones. 36 C.F.R. § 312 et seq. Wyoming challenges these regulations based on the belief that they impair forest health, deny access to large parts of the National Forest System, deny access to lands owned by the State of Wyoming, deny access to privately owned land, and violate numerous laws and regulations. Pl.'s Mot. to Compel at 3.

In its complaint in the Wyoming proceeding, the plaintiff alleges that the USDA conceived, developed, and adopted the Roadless Regulations in violation of the FACA. Pl.'s Mot. to Compel at 4. Specifically, in Count VI, Wyoming claims that the USDA established an "advisory committee" - which represented only the interests of the national environmental organizations, including the non-party witnesses - to assist the defendants in formulating the Roadless Regulations. Id. at 4. Wyoming alleges that the USDA violated the FACA by failing to (1) file a formal charter, (2) publish notice of meetings in the Federal Register, (3) ensure the meetings were open to the public, (4) keep minutes of each meeting, (5) designate a federal officer to be present at each meeting, and (6) ensure that membership of the committee represented a cross-section of groups interested in the subject. Id. at 5. Furthermore, Wyoming charges that the non-party witnesses subject to this motion provided critical research data, legal memoranda, advice, and recommendations to the USDA regarding the development of the Roadless Regulations. Id.

In its discovery request, Wyoming seeks a broad range of documents from each of the non-party witnesses. Pl.'s Mot. to Compel Ex. G. The requested information includes copies of all documents the non-party witnesses possess involving the Roadless Regulations; all documents the non-party witnesses sent or received about the Roadless Regulations to or from any member of the USDA, the Forest Service, the Council on Environmental Quality, the HFC, the Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, USPIRG, Earthjustice, the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Biodiversity Associates, the Pacific Rivers Council, the Defenders of Wildlife, and/or any other conservation or environmental group; all documents related to meetings or conversations held with a member or agent of any of these groups with regard to the Roadless Regulations; reports, documents, notes, memoranda, or letters that relate in any way to any of these groups; and all "daytimers," calendars, and/or diaries from January 1999 to January 2001 that relate to the non-party witnesses' activities undertaken on behalf of the USDA. Id.

On May 15, 2002, the plaintiff served subpoenas on the non-party witnesses. Id. at 9. The non-party witnesses refused to produce the requested documents. Id. at 10-12. On June 3, 2002, Wyoming filed a motion to compel the non-party witnesses' production of documents in this court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45. *fn2 The court now turns to that motion.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard on Scope of ...


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