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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 sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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