State court litigants have witnessed their share of discovery abuses, where opposing parties indiscriminately (and sometimes improperly) serve subpoenas on federal agencies in the hopes of finding information, or just causing trouble.
The Appellate Division delivered some good news in Ouritski v. Richard Catena Auto Wholesalers, A-2209-09T3 (Oct. 20, 2010), holding that a state court has no authority to enforce a subpoena issued to a federal agency. After a judgment was entered against it, Richard Catena Auto Wholesalers tried to enforce a subpoena served on the Customs and Border Protection unit of the United States Department of Homeland Security. Catena maintained that Customs had evidence bearing on the merits of its defense. The trial court determined that it lacked the authority to compel Customs to produce documents.
When the Appellate Division reviewed the matter, it determined two things. First, the court held that the subpoena was procedurally flawed. Federal agencies are entitled to regulate the manner in which they respond to requests for information. Catena was out of luck, because it had not complied with Customs' requirements for obtaining information in conjunction with third-party civil actions.
Second, and most important, the court held that the doctrine of sovereign immunity relieved Customs of any obligation to respond to the subpoena. Simply stated, a state court cannot tell a federal agency what do to. The doctrine applies to a subpoena because it is considered "process," just like a summons and complaint. The Appellate Division found that the United States never waived its immunity from state court suits and can be sued only in federal court. Accordingly, state courts lack authority to issue orders or process against federal agencies and employees.
The ruling is important because it is one of few bright-line limitations that New Jersey courts have imposed on conducting discovery.
Mark Salah Morgan, Maureen C. Pavely and Michael L. Fialkoff authored an article, "Authenticating Social Media Evidence in NJ Courts," which was published by the New Jersey Law Journal.
John Cerreta wrote an article, "Design Defects at the Connecticut Supreme Court: A Doctrine in Flux," for The Connecticut Law Tribune.
Erick Sandler wrote an article, "Court Sets Standard for Application of Attorney-Client Privilege to Mixed-Purpose Communications," for The Connecticut Law Tribune.
Katharine Coffey and Christopher John Stracco wrote an article, "Discovery Rule Resurrects Fraud Claim On NJ Property Sale," for Law360. The article is about the Superior Court, Appellate Division’s precedential decision in Catena v. Raytheon Company, et al., Docket No.: A-4636-13T4.
Day Pitney Alert
John Cerreta was quoted in an article, "John Cerreta Talks Clerking for Alito, Commercial Litigation Changes" in the Connecticut Law Tribune.
On January 5, Day Pitney hosted a speech by Robert L. Capers, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to the White Collar Crime Committee of the American Bar Association's Business Law Section (WCCC) at the firm's New York City office.
Erick Sandler was elected to the board of directors of the Connecticut Supreme Court Historical Society at its annual meeting on May 12. The Connecticut Supreme Court Historical Society promotes and preserves the state’s judicial and constitutional tradition through scholarship, memorials, publications and education. Erick is the chair of Day Pitney's Appellate Practice group.
Howard Fetner was quoted in an article, "Judge Allows Company to Withhold Benefits From Departing Employee," in The Connecticut Law Tribune. Fetner represented Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC), a statewide company that provides health care services to low-income patients, in a case in which a former CHC employee sought to recover compensation for unused paid time off. Following a trial, the court ruled in favor of CHC, reinforcing an employer's right to condition the payment of compensation for accrued fringe benefits upon an employee's giving a specified amount of advance notice of termination.
Parsippany, NJ, January 28, 2016 – Day Pitney announced attorneys Benjamin Nissim, Thomas Farrish, Michael Fitzpatrick, and Andraya Pulaski as the 2016 Coleman Award winners in recognition of their exceptional commitment to pro bono work. This year's Coleman Award winners dedicated a total of more than 840 hours of their time to pro bono service.