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Baugus v. State Compensation Insurance Fund

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

April 23, 1997

J. B. BAUGUS Petitioner
v.
STATE COMPENSATION INSURANCE FUND Respondent/Insurer for EMPIRE SAND & GRAVEL Employer.

          Submitted: April 16, 1997

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY

          Mike McCarter Judge

         Summary: Respondent moved to compel production of financial documents seized by the Montana Department of Justice Criminal Investigations Bureau pursuant to search warrant. After an information was filed charging petitioner with felony theft of workers' compensation benefits, the evidence at issue was suppressed based on the district court's conclusion the warrant had been overbroad and service of the warrant, which involved police invitation of newspaper reporters into petitioner's home to photograph various things, violated petitioner's constitutional rights of privacy. At petitioner's request, the district court criminal proceedings were stayed pending resolution in the WCC of what benefits claimant was entitled to receive. Petitioner asks the WCC to deny the motion to compel, essentially applying the exclusionary rule recognized in the criminal case.

         Held: Respondent's motion to compel denied. Where the district court ruling makes the WCC proceeding essentially an extension of the criminal case, the WCC need not decide whether Montana law permits illegally seized evidence to be admitted in a civil case. The evidence must be suppressed in this proceeding as in the parent proceeding in district court.

         Topics:

Discovery: Generally. Where a district court ruling makes a WCC proceeding essentially an extension of a criminal case charging petitioner with felony theft of workers' compensation benefits, and financial records seized pursuant to an overbroad search warrant have been suppressed in district court, the WCC need not decide whether Montana law permits illegally seized evidence to be admitted in a civil case. The evidence must be suppressed in this proceeding as in the parent proceeding in district court.
Discovery: Compelling Discovery. Where a district court ruling makes a WCC proceeding essentially an extension of a criminal case charging petitioner with felony theft of workers' compensation benefits, and financial records seized pursuant to an overbroad search warrant have been suppressed in district court, the WCC need not decide whether Montana law permits illegally seized evidence to be admitted in a civil case. The evidence must be suppressed in this proceeding as in the parent proceeding in district court.
Discovery: Requests for Production. Where a district court ruling makes a WCC proceeding essentially an extension of a criminal case charging petitioner with felony theft of workers' compensation benefits, and financial records seized pursuant to an overbroad search warrant have been suppressed in district court, the WCC need not decide whether Montana law permits illegally seized evidence to be admitted in a civil case. The evidence must be suppressed in this proceeding as in the parent proceeding in district court.

         The matter before the Court is the respondent's motion to compel production of financial documents belonging to claimant but presently in the possession of the Montana Department of Justice Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) as a result of a search and seizure executed by CIB agents on October 19, 1994. The documents in question have been suppressed in a pending criminal case charging claimant with fraudulently securing workers' compensation benefits. The issue presented by respondent's motion is whether the documents should be suppressed in this proceeding as well. I find that they should be.

         Factual Background

         The following facts appear from documents provided to the Court and contained in the Court file. The documents are from the district court file in State of Montana v. J.B. Baugus, Montana Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County, Cause No. DC 94-554.

         This matter began as a criminal prosecution on October 18, 1994, when the State presented Judge Russell Fillner with a motion for leave to file a Criminal Information, along with a supporting affidavit. Judge Fillner granted the State leave to file the Information. The Information, which was then filed, charged claimant with felony theft of workers' compensation benefits. While this Court does not have a copy of the original Information, an Amended Information filed January 4, 1996, alleges that between May 1982 and October 16, 1994, the claimant obtained "approximately $136, 963.85" in workers' compensation benefits by misstating his physical condition and by failing to report income he received from construction and excavation projects. (Affidavit of Counsel in Support of Claimant's Response to Motion for Stay or in the Alternative to Continue, Ex. A at 1.)

         At the same time he approved the Information, Judge Fillner also reviewed an application for a search warrant and signed the warrant. The warrant authorized agents of the CIB to search claimant's home and property.

         CIB agents went to claimant's home the next day, October 19, 1994, and carried out an extensive search of the home. They were there for several hours, during which time they invited reporters from the Billing's Gazette into the home to photograph their efforts. ...


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