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IBM litigation explores executive privilege issue

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A Marion Superior judge has ordered Indiana state officials to turn over thousands of documents relating to the state’s cancellation of a welfare system modernization, ruling on an issue of first impression about whether a “deliberative processes” executive privilege exists in Indiana.

Two rulings by Judge David Dreyer since early February open the door for the state’s highest appellate courts to tackle an issue they have not considered and ruled on before, and the state’s legal team is deciding in the next 10 days whether an appeal will be filed to have that question resolved.

The ruling Tuesday outlines what Indiana must turn over in the suit and countersuits of State of Indiana v. IBM and IBM v. State of Indiana, No. 49D10-1005-PL-021451, which centers on the cancellation of IBM's $1.37 billion contract to modernize the state's welfare system. The state sued IBM in May to try and recoup $437 million it had paid to the company before cancelling the 10-year contract in 2009, as a result of what the governor described as three years of complaints about the automated system. The computer giant countersued, claiming breach of contract and saying the state still owes about $100 million.

As the discovery has progressed, both sides are disputing what materials should be available and are also arguing about whether Gov. Mitch Daniels and his chief of staff Earl Goode should have to appear for depositions in the lawsuits. The state’s legal team requested a protective order during a March 18 hearing to keep the two executive branch leaders from providing “unnecessary and burdensome depositions,” while IBM’s attorney argued that Daniels was a key player in the project and can provide insight into what happened.

Ruling on the “deliberative processes" issue in February, Judge Dreyer determined that this type of executive privilege does apply in Indiana but that it may not apply to the materials in this particular state-initiated litigation. That ruling relied on federal law and other state statutes and court rulings addressing the qualified executive privilege, and the judge found guidance in Indiana statutes and legislative discussion about maintaining a “clear and deliberate regard” for executive privilege involving decision-making material.

Judge Dreyer also determined that this type of privilege should be allowed in civil litigation, citing an Ohio case from 2006 as a key guidance on that.

“Although not provided by statute, or directly found in Indiana common law, it is simply untenable to find an executive privilege can not apply to Indiana civil discovery,” he wrote. “Otherwise, there is no executive communication that is not discoverable – any lawsuit with minimally adequate allegations may suffice. As Indiana law generally endorses the public interest policy and application of executive privilege, civil discovery is at least analogous to, if not directly bound by, the weight of this surrounding authority.”

After that initial ruling, the state in early March turned over the documents in question for Judge Dreyer to review privately in order to make his decision.

The second order came Tuesday, when Judge Dreyer detailed specifically what should be produced by the state. Prior to making his ruling, he reviewed more than 11,000 documents that involved state employee e-mails, some from Daniels, as well as many more relating to the IBM contract and system. He wrote that more than half of the substantive materials involving e-mail strings are non-deliberative and include procedural manuals, public articles, charts and data graphs, and technical materials; and that some of the e-mails are more informative and functional rather than deliberative.

The items determined not to be deliberative will be turned over to IBM, but they will not be available for public review. That order may be appealed, in conjunction with the legal analysis outlined in the Feb. 5 ruling.

No ruling has been issued about whether Daniels and Goode will have to participate in depositions.


 

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  1. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  2. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  3. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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