Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lurking in Marc Dann's Anxiety Closet: Civil Rule 26.

Yesterday we discussed the legal procedures at work in the AG's office sexual harassment case -- a scandal your blogger will heretofore refer to as Marc's Mess.

As alluded to before, the big step on the horizon is discovery. Assuming the plaintiffs move the case out of the OCRC, they have the right to ask the uncomfortable questions. It may be a stretch to say that whether Jessica Utovitch was wearing PJs in the frat house condo is relevant to whether Anthony Gutierrez harassed his subordinates, but that's not the standard. Here's the standard from Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26:

    Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense . . . For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. All discovery is subject to the limitations imposed by Rule 26(b)(2)(C).
This is why the allegation that Utovitch was rocking sleep clothes in the AG condo. As a practical matter it's nearly impossible to prevent the other side from asking a question tht has at least some connection to the allegations in the case. In this case, part of the allegation may well be that the office permitted a culture of licenstiousness that led to a hostile work environment. The big question -- whether Dann and Utovitch have an other-than-professional relationship is either relevant or likely to lead to relevant information about that.

So there will be a deposition and the big questions will be asked. At that point we have several possible scenarios. If the truth is that nothing untoward is going on, Dann and Utovitch will say so and either be believed or not. If something is going on and they tell the truth, Dann goes on but probably is mortally wounded poltically.

And if the don't come clean, then it's a matter of whether the other side -- either the other legal side or the other political side gets the evidence to break the stories. If that happens, game over.

No doubt Dann is concerned about losing the case and about his friend. But I bet what keeps him up nights is imagining himself in that deposition chair.


Anonymous said...

Pho, it turns out that the Report initially issued by the Dispatch turned out to be a bit of hatchet job. The witness did not indicate that Dann's assitant was wearing PJ's. The witness indicated that the assitant was wearing sweat pants or loose fitting clothes while working on a lap top. The investigator wrote down "PJS"

Daniel Jack Williamson said...

OK, so maybe she wasn't wearing PJ's, but rumors of a relationship have swirled for some time. Dann hasn't put those rumors to rest, either.

So, if there's a deposition, I want Marc Dann to think earnestly about this:

Kwame Kilpatrick

Anonymous said...

You're right that it will come down to discovery, especially now that Dann is stonewalling on the public records request. I wonder if they're shredding data before the lawsuit starts, especially if they say it's part of the regular ongoing purge process. Every day, more e-mails pass the six-month point, which Dann self-declared as the time for saving e-mails, before he decided last week that they're not public at all.

That timing is critical if something was up in summer to fall but cooled on its own before it hit the blogs in November or December.