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United States v. Wecht

February 4, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CYRIL H. WECHT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

Electronically Filed

ADDITIONAL ORDER RE: "ORDER OF COURT ON GOVERNMENT'S MOTION TO QUASH DEFENDANT'S TRIAL SUBPOENAS DUCES TECUM (DOC. NO. 688)"

On January 31, 2008, this Court entered an Order (doc. no. 710) granting the government's motion to quash defendant's trial subpoenas duces tecum. In most salient part, said Order provides as follows:

Defendant plainly is attempting to use the Rule 17(c) subpoenas directed to custodians of records from various entities as a general discovery device to locate documents from third party entities about a witness that might possibly be useful for cross examination. This should have been done by formal motion prior to trial, but that would have required defendant to make a showing of relevance, admissibility and specificity.

Had defendant filed a motion pretrial, so that these issues could have been dealt with in an orderly and effective fashion at the final pretrial conference or earlier, defendant would have had the burden of showing that (1) the requested documents were evidentiary and relevant; (2) the documents were not otherwise procurable reasonably in advance of trial by exercise of due diligence; (3) defendant could not properly prepare for trial without such production and inspection in advance of trial, and that the failure to obtain such inspection might unreasonably delay the trial; and (4) the application is made in good faith and is not a general "fishing expedition." By waiting until trial to have thirteen "witnesses" appear with documents, defendant is not relieved of all of these obligations nor is he given carte blanche to have witnesses (and third party non witnesses) produce documents for whatever reason. [footnote omitted]

Even if the fishing expedition would have made a catch, the documents about Mr. Strimlan in the hands of records custodians regarding his applications for employments, income, academic credentials, etc, are simply not proper impeachment material subject to a Rule 17(c) subpoena, Cuthberston (II), 630 F.2d at 144-45, nor has defendant made a showing that they are admissible and relevant, nor has he identified the documents subject to the subpoena with requisite specificity.

For the foregoing reasons, the subpoenas directed to the Custodians of Records from Point Park University and from LaRoche College are QUASHED. Defense counsel shall inform these custodians of the Court's ruling and direct said custodians to contact the Court on or before 2:00 p.m. on February 6, 2008, to retrieve any documents produced, which are currently in the Court's possession. If the Court is not contacted by that date, the Court will discard such documents.

V. Remaining Subpoenas

Including Strimlan, five subpoenas are for individuals who appear on witness lists, and the rest of the subpoenas are for custodians of records of various public and private entities, some of whom are listed on defendant's witness list. Many of these remaining subpoenas seem to be of the fishing expedition variety, i.e., designed to obtain information that might be helpful to the defendant in examining other witnesses. See for example, Subpoenas for Custodian of Records of Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and many of the document requests in the Subpoena for Bennet I. Omalu, M.D. (docs. no. 702-5, 702-06 and 702-13and 704). Others are more focused and request production of specific documents. See for example Subpoena for Custodian of Records of MCS Group, Inc. (doc. no. 702-10).

Defendant could have filed a motion pretrial to produce documents in advance of trial, and the Court would have ordered responses and ruled on them at the final pretrial conference, according to the governing standards. Even now, defendant may request the Court to exercise its discretion to "direct the witness to produce the designated items in court . . . before they are to be offered in evidence," as is provided by Rule 17(c), but at this point in the proceedings, in the midst of trial, the Court is not going to wade in the waters to get caught up in defendant's tangled fishing lines.

Under all of the circumstances, and in light of defendant's questionable use of Rule 17(c) to date, if he wishes to obtain documents pursuant to this Court's Rule 17(c) subpoenas, defendant will be required to file an appropriate motion setting forth, with requisite particularity, the specific documents or categories of documents to be produced by witnesses, with proffers as to relevancy and admissibility, and showing that the application is made in good faith and is not intended as a general fishing expedition. The government will be ordered to respond promptly, in writing to the extent feasible, and this Court will make rulings based on the motion and response, rather than have people show up in the halls with boxes of documents for this Court's staff to secure and maintain custody over in chambers until we figure out what to do with them.

Having had the opportunity to review these subpoenas, the Court will GRANT the government's Motion to Quash Defendant's Trial Subpoenas Duces Tecum (doc. no. 688), but without prejudice to defendant to file appropriate motions for issuance of Rule 17(c) subpoenas duces tecum pertaining to listed witnesses, setting forth specific proffers as to relevancy, admissibility and other matters described above. For all of the foregoing reasons, defendant's remaining subpoenas (docs. no. 702 and 704) are QUASHED, without prejudice, as set forth more fully above. Defense counsel is directed to notify any subpoenaed person who brought documents to Court on January 29 and 30, 2008, to retrieve them on or before February 6, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.. Otherwise, the Court will dispose of any such documents.

Order of Court (doc. no. 710) on Government's Motion to Quash Defendant's Trial Subpoenas Duces Tecum (doc. no. 688), at 10-12.

The following day, February 1, 2008, the fourth day of testimony in the trial, defense counsel orally objected to the Court's order as infringing defendant's constitutional rights to compulsory process at trial, due process and possibly his right to counsel, by requiring him to file motions to obtain subpoenas for production of documents setting forth proffers as to relevancy, admissibility and ...


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