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Schaumleffel v. Muskingum University

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

July 15, 2019

MUSKINGUM UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.

          George C. Smith, Judge

          OPINION & ORDER


         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Quash Subpoena Duces Tecum. (Doc. 81). For the reasons that follow, that Motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court, elsewhere, has provided a detailed review of the allegations in this case. (See, e.g., Doc. 43). Briefly, Plaintiff Jason Schaumleffel attended Muskingum University (“Muskingum”) before being expelled for allegations of sexual misconduct. (Doc. 1, ¶ 3). Plaintiff also served on the Board of Education for Tri-Valley Local Schools (the “Local School Board”) but alleges that he was “forced” to resign after board members became aware of the allegations against him. (Id., ¶ 5). On May 29, 2017, following his expulsion and board resignation, Plaintiff sued Muskingum; the superintendent of the Local School Board, Mark Neal;[1] Macey Zambori, a current Muskingum student; Mackenzie Dickerson, a former Muskingum student; and five unnamed Defendants (“Does 1-5”). (Id., ¶¶ 19-20). Muskingum was later dismissed as a Defendant in this lawsuit. (Doc. 77).

         Relevant here, Plaintiff's claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress remain pending against Ms. Zambori and Ms. Dickerson. (Doc. 1 at 71-89). The Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress on March 6, 2018. (Doc. 43). Plaintiff seeks money damages against Ms. Zambori and Ms. Dickerson, alleging that they “made false allegations of sexual misconduct” against Plaintiff after each engaging in “consensual sexual activity” with him. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 1, 2).

         In turn, Ms. Zambori and Ms. Dickerson brought counterclaims against Plaintiff. (Docs. 45, 46). Ms. Zambori alleges abuse of process and intentional infliction of emotional distress, (Doc. 45); and Ms. Dickerson alleges, among other things, battery/sexual assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 46 at 65-70). Relevant here, Ms. Zambori asserts that Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in an effort to embarrass her and pressure her to withdraw her claims against him. (See, e.g., Doc. 45 at 2-3).

         Discovery regarding Plaintiff's claims and Ms. Zambori's and Ms. Dickerson's counterclaims is underway. As part of her case, Ms. Zambori subpoenaed Muskingum on May 3, 2019. Roughly two weeks later, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Quash. (Doc. 81). Muskingum has not objected to the subpoena but rather has stated its intent to comply. (See Doc. 82 (requesting only that the Court stay Muskingum's response to the subpoena pending resolution of the Motion to Quash, explaining that it “is presenting no further argument for or against its response to the subpoena and will leave the ruling in the Court's discretion.”)). The Motion to Quash is fully briefed and ripe for resolution. (See Docs. 81, 87, 89, 90).[2]


         Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs subpoenas and provides that the court must, upon motion, quash or modify a subpoena if it fails to allow a reasonable time to comply, requires a nonparty to travel more than 100 miles, requires disclosure of privileged or protected material, or subjects a person to undue burden. Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(A).

         When a subpoena is directed at a nonparty, like the one here, the court must first decide whether the party moving to quash the subpoena has standing. Generally, a party has no standing to quash a subpoena directed at a nonparty, but an exception exists where the party seeking to quash claims a “personal right or privilege with regard to the documents sought.” Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley Co. L.P.A. v. Davis, No. 1:11-cv-0851, 2013 WL 146362, at *5 (S.D. Ohio Jan. 14, 2013). (quotation marks and citation omitted). But a mere claim of personal right or privilege does not automatically confer standing. Indeed, “[t]he party seeking to quash a subpoena bears a heavy burden of proof.” Ajuba Int'l, LLC v. Saharia, No. 1:11-CV-12936, 2014 WL 4793846, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 25, 2014). To meet that heavy burden, the movant must make more than “conclusory” assertions of an interest or privilege. See Hamm v. Cunningham, No. 1:12CV124, 2012 WL 13027079, at *1 (N.D. Ohio May 16, 2012) (finding that “conclusory” assertions of confidentiality failed to satisfy heavy burden of proof). Without standing, a party may not challenge the subpoena on any ground, including undue burden or relevance. See Riding Films, Inc. v. John Does 129-193, No. 2:13-CV-46, 2013 WL 3322221, at *6 (S.D. Ohio July 1, 2013) (collecting cases).


         The basis for Ms. Zambori's subpoena is a document titled, “Response to Official Report, ” that Plaintiff filed as an exhibit to his Complaint. (Doc. 1-37). In this document, Plaintiff alleges that he was physically assaulted by two individuals associated with Muskingum-Jessica Edge, a Muskingum student-activities director, as well as a Muskingum professor. (Doc. 81-1 at 12). He explains that, following the allegations of sexual misconduct against him, he contacted Ms. Edge, whom he once considered a “trusted advisor.” (Doc. 1-37 at 12). However, according to Plaintiff's account, the relationship between the two soured following a confrontation in December 2016. (Id.). This confrontation, according to Plaintiff, is why he did not tell investigators about his conversation with Ms. Edge:

During the hearing Stacey (Jess's boss) asked me why I didn't tell the investigators about my conversation with Jess, I brought up how I didn't feel like she would be truthful because of, ‘the situation that has occurred in December.' Stacey quickly dropped the issue knowing what that referred to. On Thursday December 8th 2016 there was an incident involving Jess Edge and myself [that] caused me many issues. Every Thursday night during the semester Student Senate (whom I was President of) would have a campus organization host ‘Brewed Awakenings' this is an event from 9-11 pm. However, this was the last brewed of the semester so Senate was hosting it . . . When I showed up that Thursday the 8th of December, Jess was in a really bad mood and normally when she is like that, students know just to simply leave her alone and let her calm down. However, she kept barking orders at me to take the trash out and wash ...

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