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Ledford v. Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 4, 2014

RHONDA LEDFORD, an individual; RAYMON GREGSTON, an individual; JO MCKINNEY, an individual; SHANE PENROD, an individual; KIM MCCORMICK, an individual; BOB ROBINSON, an individual; and GRACIE REYNA, an individual; LISA LITTLEFIELD, an individual; ADDISON FORDHAM, an individual; TOM DE KNIF, an individual, FRANK FARNWORTH, an individual, Plaintiffs,
v.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF JUVENILE CORRECTIONS, an executive department of the State of Idaho; IDJC DIRECTOR SHARON HARRIGFELD, in her individual and official capacities; IDJC JUVENILE CORRECTIONS CENTER-NAMPA SUPERINTENDENT BETTY GRIMM, in her individual and official capacities; and DOES 1-20, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

B. LYNN WINMILL, Chief District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Before the Court are the State's motion to stay and the plaintiffs' motion to modify the interim protective order. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant in part both motions.

BACKGROUND

This is a whistleblower action brought by seven employees of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections ("the Employees"). They allege that the department retaliated against them for reporting wrongful conduct.

During discovery, the State produced tens of thousands of documents. The Employees want to share this information with the public and press, while the State seeks to keep it sealed. Up until this point, the State has produced the documents under an agreement with the Employees that they would keep the documents confidential until the Court could rule on the issue. The Court entered an interim protective order consistent with this agreement. See Order (Dkt. No. 18).

On May 3, 2013, the Employees asked the Court to modify the stipulated protective order so they could share discovery with the public. The State responded by seeking to keep confidential five broadly defined categories of documents.

The Court largely rejected the State's arguments, deciding to allow disclosure of most of the material, and keeping confidential only a limited amount of material concerning juvenile names and transport schedules. See Memorandum Decision (Dkt. No. 26). Concerned, however, with the State's vague arguments in its briefing, the Court allowed the State an opportunity to file - within 28 days - a targeted motion specifically identifying confidential materials. The State never filed that motion. The Court also directed the State to meet and confer with opposing counsel within 14 days to discuss more specific objections. The State did not follow that direction.

The State's inaction prompted the Employees to renew their motion to modify the Interim Protective Order, a motion now before the Court for resolution in this decision. Meanwhile, the State filed a motion for summary judgment that the Court granted in part, leaving only the Employees' First Amendment and state whistleblower claims for a jury trial. On those remaining claims, the Court rejected the State's claim of qualified immunity.

The State appealed that rejection, and filed a motion to stay the remainder of the case in this Court. In the briefing on that motion to stay, the parties essentially agreed that the Court retained jurisdiction to resolve disputes over (1) the interim protective order; (2) plaintiffs' motion to compel further responses to written discovery; and (3) plaintiffs' petition to reinstate plaintiff Rhonda Ledford. Their agreement is in accord with Ninth Circuit case law that allows the Court to retain jurisdiction over such issues even during the pendency of an appeal. See Perry v. City and County of San Francisco, 2011 WL 2419868 (9th Cir. 2011) (holding that although an appeal passes jurisdiction to the Circuit Court, "the district court has not been divested of its jurisdiction over ancillary matters, such as protective orders").

Thus, the Court will grant in part the motion to stay, staying this case except for the three issues listed above. One of those issues is the subject of the Employees' motion to modify the interim protective order, and the Court will proceed to resolve that motion.

ANALYSIS

The Court has set forth in its prior decision the legal standard that continues to guide this Court. See Memorandum Decision (Dkt. No. 26). The State's failure to follow the Court's direction to file a motion within 28 days, and meet with opposing counsel within 14 days, is troubling. The State's inaction required the Employees to file a renewed motion to modify the interim protective order. Only then did the State respond. Typically, the conduct of State's counsel would warrant the Court ignoring the State's response. This issue, however, may affect innocent parties and third-parties, and hence requires that the Court consider all arguments of counsel, even those raised in an untimely manner.

All agree that any identifying information about the juveniles must be redacted. This includes the juvenile's name, birth date, physical description, address and information related to next of kin. ...


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