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National Rifle Association of America v. Cuomo

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 6, 2020

NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW CUOMO, MARIA T. VULLO, THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES, Defendants.

          Brewer Attorneys & Counselors, SARAH ROGERS, ESQ, WILLIAM A. BREWER, III, ESQ., JOHN C. CANONI, ESQ., Attorneys for plaintiff.

          Office of Attorney General, ADRIENNE J. KERWIN, ESQ., WILLIAM A. SCOTT, ESQ., HELENA O. PEDERSON, ESQ., MICHAEL G. MCCARTIN, ESQ., Attorneys for defendant Andrew Cuomo, Maria T. Vullo, the New York State Dept. of Fin. Svcs.

          Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, DEBRA L. GREENBERGER, ESQ., ELIZABETH S. SAYLOR, ESQ., Attorneys for defendant Maria T. Vullo.

          New York State Dept. of Financial Svcs., NATHANIEL J. DORFMAN, ESQ., EAMON G. ROCK, ESQ., Attorneys for defendant New York State Dept. of Fin. Svcs.

          DECISION & ORDER

          CHRISTIAN F. HUMMEL U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Background

         On March 20, 2019, the Court issued a Memorandum-Decision & Order granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's “Order to Show Cause for Expedited Discovery.” Dkt. No. 89. In the underlying Order to Show Cause, as relevant here, plaintiff sought expedited discovery of defendant Maria T. Vullo. Dkt. Nos 21, 60. Defendants opposed, contending that the high-ranking official exception applied and that plaintiff failed to demonstrate the existence of extraordinary circumstances warranting the deposition. Dkt. No. 28 at 32-37. The Court found that the high-ranking official standard applies to Ms. Vullo as the former Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services (“DFS”). Dkt. No. 89 at 10. Next, the Court concluded that plaintiff demonstrated the existence of extraordinary circumstances warranting Ms. Vullo's deposition as there appeared to be information “uniquely within Ms. Vullo's personal knowledge.” Dkt. No. 89 at 10. More specifically, the Court determined that plaintiff had demonstrated that there was no less burdensome approach as interrogatories

defendants have failed to demonstrate that plaintiff must first proceed with interrogatories because, although interrogatories may be a less burdensome and adequate alternative to deposing a high-ranking official in some situations, here, it does not appear that interrogatories would be comparable to Ms. Vullo's deposition nor useful to obtain the information plaintiff seeks. As the parties are well aware, interrogatories are limited in scope and number. Were plaintiff to ask through interrogatories the kinds of questions it seeks to ask in a deposition setting, it likely would be met with several routine objections, ultimately resulting in parties returning to the Court again to address the matter of Ms. Vullo's deposition. Thus, it would seem, in the facts of this case, that ‘ordering a deposition at this time is a more efficient means' of resolving [plaintiff's] claims ‘than burdening the parties and the [official] with further rounds of interrogatories, and, possibly, further court rulings and appeals.'”

Dkt. No. 89 at 11-12 (internal citations and additional quotation marks omitted).

         Next, the Court, addressing defendants' argument that Ms. Vullo “does not possess unique knowledge because plaintiff could depose the out-of-state officials with whom plaintiff alleges Ms. Vullo was communicating, ” concluded that plaintiff had demonstrated that “Ms. Vullo's specific rationale for her alleged actions is at issue in this case such that her deposition testimony may be the only way to address these ‘critical blanks' in the record.” Dkt. No. 89 at 12. The Court agreed with plaintiff's rationale that attempting to depose the out-of-state officials to obtain information on their alleged communications with Ms. Vullo was “likely to be met with similar privileges and bars, and, thus, cannot be considered a less burdensome or practical alternative to deposing Ms. Vullo.” Id. at 13. Therefore, the Court granted plaintiff's motion “insofar as plaintiff will be permitted to depose Ms. Vullo to address the extent and/or nature of her communications with others to support plaintiff's selective enforcement and/or ‘censorship campaign' claims.” Id.

         II. Motion for Reconsideration

         On April 4, 2019, defendants filed a Motion for Reconsideration. Dkt. No. 95. Plaintiff opposed the motion. Dkt. No. 103. Defendants filed a reply. Dkt. No. 114. Defendants ask that the “Court reconsider its order” or “limit the boundaries of Ms. Vullo's deposition to the discrete issue raised by Plaintiff during oral argument.” Dkt. No. 95-1 at 4 (citing Tr. at 17-18, 20-21, 23). More specifically, defendants argue that the Court issue an order “clarifying that the Plaintiff is only entitled to inquire as to Ms. Vullo's communications with the California Department of Insurance. Such communication is the only information that Plaintiff identified as being uniquely within Ms. Vullo's possession.” Id.

         Plaintiff argues that defendants “simply disagree with the Court” and have “fail[ed] to offer any compelling reason to reconsider its decision to allow the NRA the chance to obtain crucial discovery[.]” Dkt. No. 103 at 5. Plaintiff therefore urges the Court to deny the Motion for Reconsideration.

         III. ...


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