United States District Court, D. New Jersey
John M. Custin
Harold J. Wirths, et. al.
LETTER OPINION AND ORDER
before the Court is Plaintiff pro se John M. Custin's
motion to compel compliance with subpoenas served on
non-parties New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce
Development (“NJDOL-WD”), New Jersey Department
of Labor-Unemployment Insurance (“NJDOL-UI”), and
Equifax Workforce Solutions, Inc. (“Equifax”).
[D.E. 146]. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's
motion is denied in part and granted in part.
action was filed by pro se Plaintiff, John M. Custin,
alleging constitutional and statutory violations in
connection with the process of applying for unemployment
benefits following his termination of employment with Walmart
in April 2010. See generally Third Am. Compl., D.E.
38. Plaintiff's five applications for unemployment
benefits to the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL) were
denied, as were Plaintiff's appeals of those
determinations with the agency's first appellate level,
the Appeals Tribunal, and the agency's final appeal
level, the Board of Review. Id. Plaintiff filed suit
in this Court against the Commissioner of the NJDOL, Harold
Wirths, three officials who sat on the Board of Review,
Joseph Sieber, Gerald Yarbrough, and Jerald Maddow
(collectively, “State Defendants”), the current
and former United States Secretary of Labor, and the
Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration
(collectively, “Federal Defendants”).
January 31, 2014, Judge McNulty granted the Federal
Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Third
Amended Complaint. D.E. 82. On March 22, 2016, upon the State
Defendants' motion, Judge McNulty dismissed with
prejudice all of Plaintiff's claims based on alleged
violations of the Eighth Amendment and the Social Security
Act, and dismissed with prejudice all claims against
Defendant NJDOL. D.E. 130. However, Judge McNulty denied the
State Defendant's motion as it pertained to
Plaintiff's claims based on alleged violations of the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id.
Thus, Plaintiff's claims against individual Defendants
Wirths, Sieber, Yarbrough, and Maddow, which allege
violations of Plaintiff's due process rights are
currently still viable in this action. The claims alleging
violations of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteen
Amendment, as articulated in Plaintiff's Third Amended
Complaint, include (1) failing to provide Plaintiff with a
copy of all documents used in his hearings; (2) failing to
notify Plaintiff of his appellate rights, (3) failing to
provide proper notice of hearings, and (4) failing to
consider key evidence necessary for Plaintiff's appeal.
Third Am. Compl. ¶2-14.
February 2016 to May 2016, Plaintiff served a total of six
document subpoenas on NJDOL-WD, NJDOL-UI, and Equifax, a
human resources contracting company, seeking information
pertaining to his claims. See Pl.'s Mot. to
Compel, D.E. 146. Specifically, Plaintiff sought, from
non-party NJDOL-WD: (1) the notice mailed to Plaintiff for a
hearing with the Board of Review scheduled for March 26,
2012, (2) the “complete record on appeal submitted to
the Board of Review, ” for appeal dated July 15, 2010,
for docket numbers 284 and 329, (3) the “minutes and
recording of the appeal proceeding of the Board of Review,
” appeal dated July 15, 2010, for docket numbers 284
and 329, and (4) a “list of all claimants for the
[N]DOL] scheduled telephone hearing[s] in which there was an
issue of monetary ineligibly in regard to a claim for UI
benefits between the dates of January 2012 [to] March 2012
and January 2016 and March 2016. See Subpoenas, D.E.
151. From non-party NJDOL-UI, Plaintiff sought: (5) any
document indicting that NJDOL provided prior notice to
Plaintiff regarding evidence that was to be used against
Plaintiff at the June 28, 2010 hearing. Id. From
non-party Equifax, Plaintiff sought: (6) any documents
showing which “records were sent to any party…in
regard to the UI claim of Ms. Teresa Goral.”
NJDOL-WD and NJDOL-UI failed to respond to the subpoenas in
any way. Equifax, through its corporate counsel, responded to
Plaintiff's subpoena by indicating that it would not
produce any documents identified in the subpoena without a
court order, as the documents requested were considered
“confidential.” Exh. B. to Pl.'s Mot. to
Compel, D.E. 146-3.
14, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present motion to compel
compliance with his subpoenas. D.E. 146. None of the
non-parties subject to the subpoenas filed opposition to the
motion to compel. However, Defendants filed a three-page
opposition letter asserting that since the claims against the
NJDOL had been dismissed in their entirety, the information
sought was not relevant to the remaining claims against the
individual Defendants. Defs.' Opp'n, D.E. 148.
Furthermore, Defendants argued that the records were
confidential under the statute that governs the
administration of the unemployment benefits, N.J.S.A. 43:
Rule of Civil Procedure 45(d)(2)(B)(I) sets forth the
procedure by which this Court may compel compliance with a
subpoena, stating that “[a]t any time, on notice to the
commanded person, the serving party may move the court for
the district where compliance is required for an order
compelling production or inspection.”
permissible scope of discovery under Rule 45 is the same as
under Rule 26(b), which provides that “[p]arties may
obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is
relevant to any party's claim or defense …
Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if
the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the
discovery of admissible evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b)(1). Where the subpoenaing party shows the documents
sought to be relevant, “the resisting non-party must
‘explain why discovery should not be
permitted.'” Biotechnology Value Fund, L.P. v.
Celera Corp., 2014 WL 4272732, *1 (D.N. J. Aug. 28,
2014) (citing Miller v. Allstate Fire & Cas. Ins.
Co., 2009 WL 700142 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 17, 2009)). The
Court, in assessing the reasonableness of a subpoena, should
balance several competing factors including: “(1)
relevance, (2) the need of the party for the documents, (3)
the breadth of the document request, (4) the time period
covered by it, (5) the particularity with which the documents
are described, (6) the burden imposed, and (7) the subpoena
recipient's status as a nonparty to the
litigation.” Id. at *2 (internal citations
omitted). Based on this framework, each discovery request
contained in Plaintiff's subpoenas will be discussed in
The notice mailed to Plaintiff for a hearing scheduled with
the Board of Review scheduled for March 26, 2012.
operative complaint alleges that Board of Review members
violated his due process rights for failing to provide proper
notice of Plaintiff's hearings. As such, the existence or
nonexistence of a notice for Plaintiff's hearing is
clearly relevant to Plaintiff's claim.
argue that this record is confidential because under N.J.S.A.
43: 21-11(g), "All records, reports and other
information obtained from employers and employees under this
chapter, except to the extent necessary for the proper
administration of this chapter, shall be confidential and
shall not be published or open to public…and shall not
be subject to subpoena or admissible in evidence in any civil
action." Id. However, because the statute
clearly only protects “information obtained from
employers and employees, ” a hearing ...