Acting as his own attorney, Woodstock Advocate blogger Gus Philpott prevailed Wednesday in Magistrate P. Michael Mahoney against McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren lawyer.
James Sotos, Nygren’s attorney in former Deputy Sheriff Zane Seipler’s wrongful termination suit, sent his associate Elizabeth Barton to try to get the judge to enforce a February 24th subpoena seeking emails over a 27-month period to and from present and former Sheriff’s Department employees, among other, Zane Seipler, yours truly, etc. The time period pretty much covered the entire sheriff’s campaign.
Philpott, who did not received the subpoena until three days before it was due argued in a motion filed March 9th that
- the three day period was inadequate,
- he was not a party to the case,
- what was requested was irrelevant to the case
Judge Mahoney immediately asked the contents of the subpoena.
It became clear quite quickly that Nygren’s defenders were seeking the names of deputies who may have provided information to Philpott which the Sheriff would rather have been kept secret, information that Sotos associate Elizabeth Barton said was “confidential to the Sheriff’s Department.”
How would the information be used, Magistrate Mahoney wanted to know.
“During depositions” was all I got down before Mahoney asked, “To impeach witnesses. I’m not quite sure (I understand).
“You understand that he’s not a party?” he continued before asking about the 27-month period.
Barton said they were looking for “anything relevant to the (case) about what certain deputies may have said during roll call.”
Addressing Philpott, the judge said,
“If you had done a blog and you had put in the blog, ‘I know who robed a bank,’ obviously they could (subpoena that information)?”
After making that point, Mahoney said, “This seems to me awfully broad. You’re going to have to get more surgical in this. What do you want and why you’re after it.”
So, the Motion to Quash was granted because the scope of the information (emails) sought was overbroad– covering a 27-month period and thereby unduly burdensome on a non-party to the case.
“I’ll give you one more try. If you found information that was relevant…has to be relevant to this law suit.”
At this stage, Philpott started writing down what Barton said.
According to him, Barton said, “(Seipler) was terminated for complaining about racial profiling.”
If that’s what she said, it seems to me that’s what Seipler’s wrongful termination case is all about.
“But couldn’t you ask Mr. Seipler?” Mahoney asked.
“We’re looking for the identification of the deputies (who made the information public and so far we haven’t found them),” Barton replied.
Philpott was given an opportunity to talk at this point.
As soon as he mentioned that the subpoena was overly broad, the judge said, “I’ve got that.”
Philpott continued that “certain screen names are unfamiliar to me” (some commenters emails had been requested) and complained about the volume of emails over the 27-month period.
He didn’t get to say much before Mahoney ruled,
“I’m going to quash this subpoena and give you a second chance.”
He warned that it had to be “reasonable.” He also commented on the burden that it wold place on “a third party.”