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Letter not covered by attorney-client privilege

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A Southern District magistrate judge has decided a letter between the city of Madison's mayor and city attorney isn't protected by attorney-client privilege in a civil action seeking damages over strip searches of three women.

Magistrate Judge William Hussmann Jr. ruled today that a cover letter from city attorney Robert Barlow II to Madison Mayor Albert G. Huntington isn't protected because it doesn't contain information covered under attorney-client privilege. The ruling came from an order granting plaintiffs' third motion to compel discovery. The plaintiffs, Kristy L. Lessley, Kara J. Rhodehamel, and Kayla M. Messer, filed suit against the city of Madison, Board of Public Works and Safety, the police department, and fire department in Lessley, et al. v. City of Madison, et al., No. 4:07-CV-136, claiming they were improperly strip searched following a traffic stop in January 2007.

The plaintiffs' motion sought a July 2007 cover letter written by Barlow, who also is a member of the city's Board of Public Works and Safety, which operates and manages the police and fire departments.

The issue facing the magistrate was whether Barlow could protect his communications to the mayor concerning the Board of Public Works' business by virtue of the attorney-client privilege. Although the scenario presents a difficult and interesting case for analysis, Magistrate Hussmann declined to make the analysis because this particular letter doesn't have information in it protected by the privilege.

The cover letter doesn't discuss any facts underlying the claims of the instant case, doesn't have any type of legal analysis of cases or statutes, and doesn't give advice to the mayor. The only opinion found in the letter deals with Barlow's opinion about the "tenor" of the letter and his impressions about the plaintiffs' attorney's motive in filing the claims.

As a result, the magistrate ordered the letter be produced within 15 days.

In November 2008, Magistrate Hussmann ordered sanctions against Madison, its Board of Public Works, and police and fire departments following their lack of response to court orders and obstructing discovery in the civil action. The defendants were required to respond to all outstanding discovery requests by Dec. 5, 2008, and pay a $1,000 fine, as well as attorney's fees to plaintiffs' counsel for filing the motions to compel.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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