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Quen v. Eleventh Judicial District Court

Supreme Court of Montana

October 9, 2018

JAMES QUEN, Petitioner,
v.
ELEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, FLATHEAD COUNTY, HONORABLE HEIDI J. ULBRICHT, Respondent.

          ORDER

         Petitioner James Quen, through counsel, filed a petition for writ of supervisory control requesting this Court accept original jurisdiction over the Eleventh Judicial District Court, the Honorable Heidi J. Ulbricht presiding, and direct the District Court to issue various subpoenas duces tecum. Quen also requests that, "if necessary," this Court order the "documents subject to the subpoena duces tecum ... be produced and held under seal for later appellate review." The State filed a response objecting to Quen's request.

         Quen is charged with the deliberate homicide of Brad Winters by shooting him on April 25, 2018. Quen filed notice of intent to rely upon the affirmative defense of justifiable use of force. Discovery is ongoing and there are currently no pending motions to compel discovery or request that sanctions be imposed for any failure on the part of the State to provide discovery. On June 22, 2018, at Quen's request, the Flathead County Clerk of Court issued subpoenas duces tecum to various detention and law enforcement entities requesting records and other information pertaining to the victim and several witnesses. The State filed a motion to quash the subpoenas duces tecum. After consideration of the parties' briefs, the District Court quashed Quen's subpoenas duces tecum as improperly obtained because they "do not establish the relevancy of the documents sought, do not establish that the documents are necessary for trial preparation, and do not establish that the documents are not otherwise procurable reasonably in advance of trial through discovery process of Section 46-15-322, MCA."

         This Court has supervisory control over all other courts in Montana and may, on a case-by-case basis, supervise another court through a writ of supervisory control. Mont. Const, art. VII, § 2(2); Mont. R. App. P. 14(3). Supervisory control is an extraordinary remedy and is only appropriate when the normal appeal process is inadequate; when the case involves purely legal questions; and when one or more of the following exists: (1) the lower court is proceeding under a mistake of law and is causing a gross injustice, (2) constitutional issues of state-wide importance are involved, or (3) the lower court has granted or denied a motion for substitution of judge in a criminal case. Tipton v. Mont. Thirteenth Judicial Dist. Ct., 2018 MT 164, ¶ 9, 392 Mont. 59, 421 P.3d 780.

         Typically, "orders pertaining to discovery are interlocutory in nature and are generally not reviewable in an original proceeding." Hegwood v. Mont. Fourth Judicial Dist. Ct., 2003 MT 200, ¶ 6, 317 Mont. 30, 75 P.3d 308. This Court has "expressed disfavor in granting a writ in the context of a discovery issue." State ex rel. Burlington N. R.R. v. Dist. Q., 239 Mont 207, 212, 779 P.2d 885, 889 (1989). We have refused to "micromanage discovery or perform exhaustive document review on supervisory control." Montana State University-Bozeman v. First Judicial Dist. Ct., 2018 MT 220, ¶ 17 n.12, 392 Mont. 458, ___P.3d ___.

         Quen asserts the factual record in the District Court will be incomplete without disclosure of the records he subpoenaed and therefore appellate review an inadequate remedy. Quen also asserts that appellate review would be limited to the highly deferential "abuse of discretion" standard. Finally, Quen maintains that whether §§ 46-15-101 and -106, MCA, were correctly interpreted and applied by the District Court is the core issue in his petition and is a "purely legal" question. Quen maintains that the district courts across the state are interpreting these constitutional provisions inconsistently and that this Court has yet to provide an interpretation or construction of the statutes. The State offers that discovery is ongoing and that Quen has remedies available during trial to secure needed information. The State maintains that Quen's requests are overly broad and burdensome, which is not an atypical discovery issue presented for a trial court's resolution.

         We are aware that this Court has not yet construed or interpreted the relevant statutes pertaining to the process of issuance of a subpoena duces tecum. Should the matter be properly presented for appellate review, we would consider the issue on a more complete and developed record. However, at this juncture we are not convinced that there is no adequate remedy of appeal, a fundamental requirement for this Court to take supervisory control of District Court proceedings. For the same reasons, we decline to order production of the documents under seal. This is an issue for the District Court to decide upon proper motion and inquiry by the parties. The District Court was not given an opportunity to determine the propriety of such a request.

         Accordingly, Quen's application for a writ of supervisory control is DENIED.

         The Clerk is directed to provide a copy of this Order to the Hon. Heidi Ulbricht, Eleventh Judicial District Court, Flathead County; to the Clerk of District ...


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