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State ex rel. Kander v. Green

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Writ Division

June 9, 2015

STATE OF MISSOURI EX REL. JASON KANDER, MISSOURI SECRETARY OF STATE, Relator,
v.
THE HONORABLE DANIEL R. GREEN, CIRCUIT JUDGE, Respondent

Page 845

ORIGINAL PROCEEDING FOR REMEDIAL WRIT OF PROHIBITION.

For Relator: Chris Koster, Attorney General, Jeremiah J. Morgan, Deputy Solicitor General, Jonathan M. Hensley, Assistant Attorney General, Jefferson City, MO.

For Green and Plaintiff Below, Laura Reeves, Respondent: Marc H. Ellinger, Stephanie Bell, and Thomas W. Rynard, Jefferson City, MO.

Before Writ Division: Karen King Mitchell, Presiding Judge, and Victor C. Howard and Lisa White Hardwick, Judges.

OPINION

Karen King Mitchell, Presiding Judge.

Page 846

Relator, the Missouri Secretary of State, seeks a writ prohibiting Respondent, the Honorable Daniel Green, Circuit Judge of Cole County, from ordering the Secretary to respond to numerous discovery requests in the underlying action. We issued a preliminary writ. Because the vast majority of the requested discovery is not relevant to the subject matter involved in the

Page 847

pending litigation, in that it is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, we now make our preliminary writ absolute as to all of the requested discovery, with the exception of Interrogatories 1 and 4.

Facts and Procedural Background

Laura Reeves, the plaintiff below, is an opponent of Initiative Petition 2016-005 (" the Petition" ).[1] She filed suit under section 116.190,[2] in the Circuit Court of Cole County, challenging the Secretary's summary statement as insufficient and unfair.[3] The suit contained allegations that the Secretary was an outspoken proponent of campaign finance reform, and ethics reform in general, and that the summary statement was therefore " the result of a biased and prejudiced process controlled and overseen by a proponent of the changes in the" Petition.

Reeves served discovery requests upon the Secretary, including interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admission. The bulk of the requests referred to the Secretary's personal beliefs about campaign finance and ethics reform generally, including requests related to public and private positions that the Secretary has taken on the subject matter of the Petition, as well as the Secretary's role in drafting ballot summaries. The Secretary objected to each request, arguing that the views of the Secretary on the substance of the Petition were irrelevant[4] to the legal issue of the sufficiency and fairness of the summary statement. Reeves filed a motion to compel, which the trial court granted, ordering the Secretary to respond to each discovery request within 14 days. The trial court stayed its order for three days so that the Secretary could attempt to obtain extraordinary relief from this court. We issued our preliminary writ on April 29, 2015. Following expedited briefing and argument, we make the preliminary writ absolute as set forth herein.

Standard of Review

In reviewing the actions of the trial court, we defer to the trial court's factual determinations and review questions of law de novo. Hoit v. Rankin, 320 S.W.3d 761, 765 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010).

" A trial court has broad discretion in controlling, managing, and administering the rules of discovery." State ex rel. Humane Soc'y of Mo. v. Beetem, 317 S.W.3d 669, ...


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