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Harris v. Jamaica Auto Repair Inc.

July 27, 2009

CHANTELLE HARRIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMAICA AUTO REPAIR INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Roanne L. Mann United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ROANNE L. MANN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Currently pending before this Court are objections interposed by defendant Dependable Credit Corp. ("Dependable" or "defendant") to certain trial exhibits that pro se plaintiff Chantelle Harris ("Harris" or "plaintiff") proposes to introduce at trial. Specifically, in a letter to the Court dated May 22, 2009, defendant argues that records subpoenaed from Somerset Tire Service, Inc. ("STS") should be excluded as "the fruit of improper and unauthorized discovery conducted" by the Court's law clerk, see Letter to the Court from Bernard D'Orazio, Counsel for Defendant (May 22, 2009) ("5/22/09 Def. Letter"), Docket Entry ("D.E.) #108, at 5, and have not been properly authenticated as business records. See id. at 6. Additionally, in the parties' Amended Joint Pre-Trial Order (April 30, 2009) ("JPTO"), defendant asserts grounds of "relevance, hearsay and authenticity" in challenging the admissibility of a series of invoices or receipts documenting repairs made to the Toyota Camry ("the Camry") that plaintiff purchased from Jamaica Auto Repair, Inc. See JPTO, D.E. #104, at 8. For the reasons that follow, defendant's objections to the STS documents are overruled, and its objections to the repair records are sustained in part and overruled in part; the repair records will be admitted for the limited purposes of corroborating that plaintiff took the Camry to be repaired and establishing the amounts that plaintiff was charged for those repairs; the invoices will not be admitted to establish the truth of their contents.

DISCUSSION

I. The STS Records

Defendant's complaint that the STS records were obtained through judicial misconduct and overreaching has already been disposed of in connection with defendant's demand that the Court recuse itself. See Memorandum and Order (July 24, 2009), D.E. #119. Suffice it to say, defendant's challenge is based on distortions of the record and a misunderstanding of the latitude afforded courts in dealing with pro se parties.

Equally unavailing are defendant's remaining challenges to the STS records.

A. Validity of the Subpoenas of Carfax and STS

Citing Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, defendant next complains that the Carfax subpoena that led to the identification of STS was unlawful as it was served outside the Court's territorial jurisdiction. See 5/22/09 Def. Letter at 5. However, the Court has ruled that the Carfax documents constitute inadmissible hearsay, see Transcript of Final Pretrial Conference on May 18, 2009 ("5/18/09 Tr."), D.E. #117, at 36; the STS subpoena, which was served in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey -- well within one hundred miles of the Brooklyn courthouse -- clearly satisfied Rule 45. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(b)(2) (providing, in relevant part, that a subpoena may be served "within the district of the issuing court" or "outside that district but within 100 miles of the place specified for the deposition, hearing, trial, production, or inspection.").

Defendant provides no legal basis for its contention that the STS records should be excluded as the "fruit of improper and unauthorized discovery." 5/22/09 Def. Letter at 5. The fruit-of-the-poisonous-tree (or "taint") doctrine is an outgrowth of the exclusionary rule for evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment; that rule does not apply in civil cases. See Pa. Bd. of Probation & Parole v. Scott, 524 U.S. 357, 363 (1998) ("[W]e have repeatedly declined to extend the exclusionary rule to proceedings other than criminal trials.") (collecting cases).

In any event, defendant lacks standing to challenge the Carfax subpoena as having exceeded Rule 45's geographic limits. Where, as here, a subpoena is issued to a non-party and the party challenging the subpoena does not assert or establish a personal right or privilege with regard to the information sought, that party has no standing to move to quash the subpoena. See, e.g., Ashkinazi v. Sapir, No. 02 CV 0002 (RCC), 2004 WL 1698446, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 28, 2004).

Even if defendant had standing, its belated challenge to the Carfax subpoena would fail. Defendant suggests that because the Court exceeded "its territorial jurisdiction," Rule 45(c)(3)(ii) required the Court to quash the Carfax subpoena. See 5/22/09 Def. Letter at 5. Defendant misreads Rule 45(c)(3)(ii), which requires the quashing of a subpoena on timely motion where the subpoena "requires a person who is neither a party nor a party's officer to travel more than 100 miles from where that person resides." Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(3)(ii). Defendant never moved to quash the Carfax subpoena on this or any other ground.*fn1

Moreover, the Carfax subpoena was for documents, and did not require any person to travel more than one hundred miles from his place of residence. See Civil Subpoena (July 6, 2005), D.E. #65. Accordingly, ...


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