United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL
G. TORRES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Irina Chevaldina's
(“Defendant” or “Chevaldina”) motion
to compel against the Center for Individual Rights
(“Plaintiff”). [D.E. 73]. Plaintiff responded to
Chevaldina's motion on November 10, 2017 [D.E. 80] to
which Chevaldina replied on November 20, 2017. [D.E. 86].
Therefore, Chevaldina's motion is ripe for disposition.
After careful consideration of the motion, response, reply,
relevant authority, and for the reasons discussed below,
Chevaldina's motion is DENIED.
an action for breach of contract. The complaint - filed on
March 11, 2016 [D.E. 1] - alleges that Plaintiff successfully
represented Defendant pro bono in an appeal before
the 11th Circuit in Katz v. Google, Appeal No.
14-14525, in which the Eleventh Circuit affirmed summary
judgment in favor of Defendant in a copy infringement
action. See Katz v. Google, Inc., 802
F.3d 1178 (11th Cir. 2015), aff'g, Katz v.
Chevaldina, 12-cv-22211, 2014 WL 5385690 (S.D. Fla.
Sept. 5, 2014). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant had few
financial obligations under the retainer agreement in that
case and that Plaintiff paid the out of pocket expenses of
the suit. Plaintiff contends that it only asked Defendant for
(1) reasonable attorney fees and expenses as permitted under
law, and (2) that Defendant provide Plaintiff with any fees
or expenses that were attributable to Plaintiff's
expenditures and/or the work of its attorneys. If Defendant
decided to settle the case, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant
was also obligated to provide Plaintiff with a reasonable
amount in attorney's fees and expenses.
December 2015 - while being represented by another attorney -
Defendant settled all the remaining claims in the
Katz case. In the settlement, Plaintiff claims that
Defendant obtained only $10, 000 in attorney fees for the
work of Plaintiff's attorneys as well as both taxable and
non-taxable costs. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff sought to
challenge the fee award in the Eleventh Circuit, but
Defendant allegedly instructed Plaintiff to withdraw its
motion and Plaintiff reluctantly complied. Therefore,
Plaintiff suggests that Defendant did not obtain a reasonable
amount in attorney fees for the work of Plaintiff's
attorneys and that Defendant breached the retainer agreement.
In exchange for the low sum of $10, 000 in attorney fees,
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant agreed with Katz to drop a
substantial claim against Defendant in excess of $100, 000.
Because Plaintiff alleges that it has been deprived of a
reasonable attorney fee award, Plaintiff seeks judgment
against Defendant in an amount of no less than $105, 000 -
including reasonable costs and expenses in accordance with 28
U.S.C. § 1920.
motion seeks to compel Plaintiff to produce documents in
response to discovery request 4 and sanctions for
mispresenting that no other documents exist. On August 10,
2017, Chevaldina emailed Plaintiff her first request for
production of documents. In request 4, Chevaldina seeks
“[a]ny and all records, ESI pertaining to the financial
donations and financial contributions received by CIR between
February 1, 2015 and the present date relating to the
Agreement.” [D.E. 73]. Plaintiff responded to
Chevaldina's request with approximately four objections:
Plaintiff objects to this request on the grounds of
vagueness. As it is phrased, it is unclear whether
‘ESI' is the only type of ‘records' being
sought by this request. Plaintiff also objects to Request No.
4 on the ground that the phrase ‘relating to the
Agreement' is vague in this context. The Agreement was a
contractual arrangement for the provision of legal services,
and contained various obligations on both parties to it. It
is unclear how ‘financial donations and financial
contributions received by CIR' could ‘relate'
to the document creating those legal obligations.
Plaintiff also objects on the ground that this request seeks
documents that are not relevant to any claim or defense in
this action. Plaintiff's records regarding
‘financial donations and financial contributions'
relating to the Agreement, if any existed, would have nothing
to do with whether defendant breached the Agreement by
failing to provide for a reasonable sum for attorneys'
fees in the Katz appeal, as alleged in the
complaint, what damages CIR may have incurred as a
consequence of any breach, whether CIR violated the DPPA, or
any damages that defendant may have incurred as a
Plaintiff further objects to the extent that the request
calls for documents disclosing the names of CIR's donors,
which is confidential information protected by the First
Amendment right of association. Without waiving these
objects, Plaintiff states that it has no additional
September 25, 2017, Chevaldina claims that - contrary to
Plaintiff's response that it had no additional documents
relating to request 4 - Plaintiff produced a communication
with a donor in response to request 1. This document
allegedly demonstrates that Plaintiff received money from
various sources to cover all of the expenses in
Chevaldina's case at the Eleventh Circuit, negating any
claim that Plaintiff is entitled to attorneys' fees in
this case. Chevaldina claims that she notified Plaintiff that
its response to request 4 was a misrepresentation, but
Plaintiff allegedly refused to produce any additional
documents. As such, Chevaldina suggests that Plaintiff has
intentionally withheld items in response to request 4, and
that Plaintiff must be required to produce additional
documents relating to the following areas of inquiry:
[B]ank statements, statements of accounts, bank records,
deposit slips, accounting ledgers, statements, reports,
billings, invoices, worksheets, balance sheets, wires,
transmissions, cancelled checks, electronically stored
information (ESI) and any other documents pertaining to the
financial donations and financial contributions CIR
received' as requested.
[D.E. 73]. Accordingly, Chevaldina concludes that Plaintiff
has willfully concealed relevant evidence in this case and
that Plaintiff's actions have ...