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Young v. Glanz

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

March 31, 2018

DEBORAH YOUNG, et al., Plaintiffs,
STANLEY GLANZ, et al., Defendants.



         Before Court are Non-Party Commissioners' Appeal Of, Or, in the Alternative, Objection to the Magistrate's Orders Allowing Intervention, Substitution and Modification of the Protective Order (ECF No. 227); Commissioners' Motion to Strike (ECF No. 200); and Frontier's Motion to Modify Protective Order (ECF No. 194). All motions were referred by United States District Judge John Dowdell.

         I. Factual Background

         Judge Dowdell is presiding over this ongoing litigation, in which Plaintiffs allege they received inadequate medical care at the Tulsa County jail and assert violations of their state and federal constitutional rights. Judge Dowdell has stayed all deadlines pending his resolution of dispositive motions.

         Prior to his resignation, United States Magistrate Judge T. Lane Wilson was presiding over a peripheral dispute, in which a member of the local media seeks modification of a Stipulated Protective Order (“SPO”). The media seeks public access to transcripts (“Transcripts”) of depositions given by Tulsa County Commissioners John Smaligo, Karen Keith, and Joe Peters (“Commissioners”) and Defendant former Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz (“Glanz”). The Transcripts dispute has a lengthy procedural history, and the Court sets forth only the procedural history relevant to its ruling.

         On May 16, 2014, upon joint motion of the parties, Judge Wilson entered the SPO. The SPO prohibits use of “documents and other materials produced in this litigation” for any purpose other than the litigation, whether or not the materials are designated as confidential. ECF No. 65 ¶ 1(f). It also permits the parties to designate materials as “confidential” or “highly confidential, ” and specifies procedures for such materials. Id. ¶¶ 2-5. During the course of discovery, on June 5, 2015, Plaintiffs subpoenaed non-party Commissioners for depositions. Commissioners moved to quash the subpoenas, arguing that Plaintiffs' counsel intended to ask Commissioners personal questions unrelated to this case. Judge Wilson denied the motion to quash but permitted Commissioners to “take advantage of the provisions of the” SPO. ECF No. 121.

         On September 20, 2016, The Frontier (“Frontier”), an online newspaper, filed a Motion to Intervene for the Limited Purpose of Seeking Modification of Protective Order (“Motion to Intervene”) (ECF No. 177). As grounds for intervention and modification of the SPO, Frontier argued:

The lawsuit alleges that members of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office [], including [Glanz], knew the medical care that was being provided was inadequate but still failed to monitor or exercise control or authority over [Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc.]. His testimony on these issues should be open to the public so that the public can make informed decisions and offer meaningful input regarding the medical contract process and jail medical standards. County Commissioner Karen Keith is running for re-election this November and her statements regarding the jail medical system, including the large sums of county money she has, during her tenure, approved for jail medical care and the TCSO is an important issue to voters. The statements of Commissioners Peters and Smaligo are equally important even though they are not running for re-election this cycle. These matters of public concern outweigh any expectation of privacy the County Commissioners, Sheriff Glanz, or the TCSO might have. The requested relief is consistent with the openness inherent in the judicial system, as well as the express policies of this Court.

ECF No. 177 at 5-6. The referenced election was scheduled to occur on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Defendants Glanz and current Sheriff Vic Regalado (“Defendants”) filed a response raising several objections, including that Frontier lacked standing to intervene. Commissioners filed a motion for leave to respond to the Motion to Intervene. Judge Dowdell referred Frontier's Motion to Intervene and Commissioners' motion for leave to respond.

         On October 25, 2016, Judge Wilson entered an Order that essentially divided the Motion to Intervene into two parts: (1) the Motion to Intervene (ECF No. 177); and (2) a motion to modify the SPO (“Motion to Modify”) (docketed as ECF No. 194). See ECF No. 196. In the same Order, Judge Wilson granted Frontier's Motion to Intervene, implicitly rejecting Defendants' standing argument. Judge Wilson construed Commissioners' motion for leave to respond as a motion to intervene for the purpose of objecting to modification of the SPO and granted Commissioners intervenor status.

         In the October 25, 2016 Order, Judge Wilson ordered the parties and intervening parties to meet and confer on October 30, 2016 in attempt to resolve the Motion to Modify. Judge Wilson granted Frontier's counsel access to the Transcripts for purposes of the meet and confer and ordered the parties to file a joint statement no later than November 1, 2016, informing him of remaining disputes and attaching disputed portions of the Transcripts. Judge Wilson later clarified that this review by Frontier's counsel was an “attorneys' eyes only” review. He also granted Frontier's motion to substitute Lorton Media Group (“LMG”) in place of Frontier, over objections by Commissioners and Defendants.

         On November 4, 2016, the same day as a scheduled hearing before Judge Wilson on the Motion to Modify, Commissioners filed an Appeal/Objection to the Magistrate's Orders Allowing Intervention, Substitution, and Modification of the Protective Order (“Commissioners' Objection”) (ECF No. 227). Commissioners objected to the following orders by Judge Wilson: (1) Order granting Frontier's Motion to Intervene (ECF No. 196); (2) Order granting Frontier's counsel limited access during the meet and confer (ECF No. 196); and (3) Orders permitting substitution of LMG and adding LMG as a party (ECF Nos. 218, 224).

         During the November 4, 2016 hearing (“11/4/16 Hearing”), Judge Wilson primarily heard substantive argument on the Motion to Modify. At the conclusion of the hearing, he addressed Commissioners' Objection filed that date, which was then pending before Judge Dowdell:

[I]t will be Judge Dowdell's decision - I think what will happen is he'll have me address all these issues and then whichever party is unhappy can then appeal my decision. And when I enter either my order or R&R . . . I'll make it clear that it's either an order or it's an R&R. . . . I'm going to give [LMG] a chance to respond and give [Defendants] and [Plaintiffs] a chance to respond and then give you [Commissioners] a reply on what we have pending, and then I can issue either an order or an R&R on that . . . and then Judge Dowdell can consider either the objection if I do an R&R; an appeal; if I do an order. [I]s that procedurally acceptable to everyone here?

11/4/16 Tr. at 58. Counsel for Commissioners responded:

I think that would be acceptable, Judge, for you to consider the issues as to whether your rulings have been in the form of orders or whether they should be characterized as reports and recommendations. In fact, one of the cases that we ...

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