United States District Court, District of Columbia
States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois,
P. MEHTA UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Respondent Nicholas Schmidle (“Respondent”) is a
journalist. He moves to quash two deposition subpoenas issued
by the defendants in a civil rights case pending in the
Northern District of Illinois, titled Tyrone Hood v. City
of Chicago, et al. No. 16-cv-1970 (N.D. Ill. filed Feb.
5, 2016). The defendants in that action are the Chicago
Police Department and the City of Chicago
(“Defendants”). Defendants seek transfer of this
dispute to the Northern District of Illinois and, absent such
transfer, they ask the court to reject Respondent's
request to avoid testimony.
reasons set forth below, the court denies Defendants'
Motion to Transfer and grants Respondent's Motion to
summer of 2014, Respondent wrote and published an article
entitled “Crime Fiction” in The New
Yorker magazine about the 1996 murder conviction of a
Chicago man named Tyrone Hood. Resp't Mot. to Quash
Subpoenas or for a Protective Order, ECF No. 1, 1-1
[hereinafter Mot. to Quash], Ex. A, ECF No. 1-2 [hereinafter
Article]. The Article described the circumstances surrounding
the murder, Hood's activities on the day of the crime,
the investigation that followed, Hood's conviction, the
actions of an alternate suspect, and Hood's lawyers'
attempts to exonerate him. See generally Article.
The Article identified as evidence of Hood's wrongful
conviction allegations of police misconduct, recantations by
witnesses, and evidence suggesting another perpetrator.
Id. At the time the Article was published, Hood had
served approximately twenty years in prison. Id.
January 2015, Illinois Governor Patrick J. Quinn commuted the
remainder of Hood's sentence. Id., Ex. D, ECF
No. 6-7 [hereinafter Ex. D], at 6-7. The commutation of
Hood's sentence was motivated, at least in part, by
investigative reporting, including Respondent's Article.
See Defs.' Opp'n, Ex. B, The Exoneration
Project Panel Discussion, ECF No. 6-5, at 8 (Governor Quinn
noting that The New Yorker and Respondent “deserved a
lot of credit” for raising attention about the issues
in Hood's case.); see also Ex. D at 12-30
(showing that Respondent's Article was part of Hood's
Clemency File, which was sent to Governor Quinn). Shortly
after the Governor's grant of clemency, the Cook County
State's Attorney Office, following a two-year
investigation by its Conviction Integrity Unit, successfully
asked a Cook County court to vacate Hood's
following year, on February 5, 2016, Hood filed a lawsuit
against employees of the Chicago Police Department and the
City of Chicago in the Northern District of Illinois. See
Hood v. City of Chicago, No. 1:16-cv-01970 (N.D. Ill.
filed Feb. 5, 2016) [hereinafter Illinois Docket]. Hood
brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as a
number of state law claims. Compl., Illinois Docket, ECF No.
dispute Hood's innocence. They believe that
Respondent's Article was part of a carefully coordinated
media campaign by Hood's post-conviction counsel designed
to garner attention and support for Hood's case.
Individual Officers' Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to
Transfer and in Opp'n to Mot. to Quash, ECF No. 7
[hereinafter Defs.' Opp'n], at 1, 5. To obtain
support for this theory, Defendants issued three subpoenas to
Respondent. On March 7, 2019, Defendants issued to Respondent
a document subpoena, calling on him to produce records
relating to his three The New Yorker articles,
well as fifty named individuals and entities. See
Mot. to Quash, Decl. of Nicholas Schmidle, ECF No. 1-9
[hereinafter Schmidle Decl.], ¶ 7; Mot. to Quash, Ex. C,
ECF No. 1-4 [hereinafter Ex. C]. The parties agree that the
document subpoena is not at issue before this court. Mot. to
Quash at 9; Defs.' Opp'n at 10.
then directed two deposition subpoenas to Respondent, one on
June 18, 2019, and a second on June 27, 2019. Schmidle Decl.
¶¶ 9, 10; Mot. to Quash, Ex. E, ECF No. 1-6. On
July 19, 2019, Respondent filed in this court a Motion to
Quash these subpoenas, arguing that they are unenforceable on
multiple grounds, including: (1) they were not served in
accordance with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil of
Procedure 45; (2) they seek discovery that is unnecessary,
cumulative, and burdensome; and (3) they demand testimony
protected by the reporter's privilege, which Defendants
cannot overcome. See generally Mot. to Quash.
thereafter, Defendants moved to transfer Respondent's
challenge to the Northern District of Illinois, arguing that
the Illinois court is better suited to resolve the dispute.
See generally Individual Officers' Motion to
Transfer Motion to Quash or for Protective Order, ECF No. 6.
Defendants also opposed the relief sought by Respondent, and
thus seek to compel Respondent's testimony. See
generally Defs.' Opp'n.
court first addresses Defendants' Motion to Transfer,
before turning to the merits of ...