333 F.R.D. 291 (D.D.C. 2019), Misc. A. 19-0148 (JDB), In re Motion to Compel Compliance with Subpoena Directed to Cooke Legal Group, PLLC

Docket Nº:Misc. Action 19-0148 (JDB)
Citation:333 F.R.D. 291, 105 Fed.R.Serv.3d 651
Opinion Judge:JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge
Party Name:IN RE: MOTION TO COMPEL COMPLIANCE WITH SUBPOENA DIRECTED TO COOKE LEGAL GROUP, PLLC v. Republic of the Sudan, et al., Defendants. James Owens, et al., Plaintiffs, Judith Abasi Mwila, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al., Defendants. Rizwan Khaliq, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Republic of the Sudan, et al., Defendants. Civil Action...
Attorney:Matthew D. McGill, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff. Edmund D. Cooke, Cooke Legal Group, Washington, DC, for Non-Party Respondent.
Case Date:December 11, 2019
Court:United States District Court, Federal Circuit

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333 F.R.D. 291 (D.D.C. 2019)

105 Fed.R.Serv.3d 651

IN RE: MOTION TO COMPEL COMPLIANCE WITH SUBPOENA DIRECTED TO COOKE LEGAL GROUP, PLLC

James Owens, et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

Republic of the Sudan, et al., Defendants.

Judith Abasi Mwila, et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

Islamic Republic of Iran, et al., Defendants.

Rizwan Khaliq, et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

Republic of the Sudan, et al., Defendants.

No. Misc. Action 19-0148 (JDB)

Civil Action Nos. 01-2244 (JDB), 08-1377 (JDB), 10-0356 (JDB)

United States District Court, D. Columbia

December 11, 2019

Page 292

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 293

Matthew D. McGill, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Edmund D. Cooke, Cooke Legal Group, Washington, DC, for Non-Party Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge

Plaintiffs are judgment-holders seeking to locate and attach assets owned by defendants the Republic of the Sudan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Plaintiffs move for the Court to order nonparty Cooke Legal Group, PLLC ("Cooke"), to produce documents in compliance with a third-party subpoena issued on May 1, 2019. Pls.’ Mot. to Compel Compliance with Subpoena Directed to Nonparty Cooke Legal Grp., PLLC ("Pls.’ Mot.") [ECF No. 1] at 2. For the reasons detailed below, the Court grants plaintiffs’ motion. Cooke’s broad, generally unsupported objections are unavailing, and it must produce the requested materials.

BACKGROUND

This discovery dispute stems from the litigation that followed the 1998 terrorist bombings at the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. See, e.g.,

Owens v. Republic of Sudan, 174 F.Supp.3d 242, 247-48 (D.D.C. 2016). Plaintiffs hold judgments against the Republic of the Sudan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. See Order, Owens v. Republic of Sudan, Civ. Action No. 01-2244 (D.D.C. Mar. 28, 2014) [ECF No. 301]; Order, Mwila v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 33 F.Supp.3d 36 (D.D.C. 2014) [ECF No. 88]; Order, Khaliq v. Republic of Sudan, 33 F.Supp.3d 29 (D.D.C. 2014) [ECF No. 40]. To date, plaintiffs have received no compensation under those judgments and are in the midst of discovery to identify defendants’ assets for attachment. See Mem. in Supp. of Pls.’ Mot to Compel Compliance with Subpoena Directed to Nonparty Cooke Legal Grp, PLLC ("Pls.’ Mem.") [ECF No. 1-1] at 2.

Plaintiffs issued a subpoena to nonparty Cooke on May 1, 2019, seeking information regarding the firm’s past work advising Sudan on debt restructuring. Ex. 1 to Pls.’ Mot. ("Subpoena") [ECF No. 1-4] at 2, 14-15.1 Plaintiffs hope to glean information about how Sudan paid Cooke and about Sudan’s other commercial activities and assets both in the United States and abroad. Pls.’ Mem. at 2.

Plaintiffs and Cooke met and conferred on May 23, 2019. Ex. 7 to Pls.’ Mot. ("May 29 Letter") [ECF No. 1-10] at 2. According to plaintiffs, "Cooke Legal represented [at that meeting] that it had identified over 1,000 potentially responsive documents," but "asserted a blanket claim of privilege over all of them and took the position ... that it would not produce those documents." Ex. 9 to Pls.’ Mot. ("June 28 Letter") [ECF No. 1-12] at 2. Plaintiffs thereafter sent a letter on May 29, 2019, responding to Cooke’s claim that it did not possess any responsive, non-privileged documents. May 29 Letter at 2-3. Plaintiffs followed up with letters on June 17 and June 28, but they received no response. June 28 Letter at 2-3; Pls.’ Mem. at 6. On September 6, 2019, plaintiffs filed this motion to compel compliance with their May 1, 2019 subpoena. Pls.’ Mot. 2.

Cooke responded on October 22, 2019, objecting to each of plaintiffs’ requests and refusing to turn over any documents related to Sudan. Non-Party Cooke Legal Grp.’s Resp. & Objs. to Third Party Subpoena Issued by the Pls. ("Cooke’s Resp.") [ECF No. 6] ¶¶ 1-7. According to Cooke, one of its prior partners, Mr. Thomas Laryea, began working with Sudan while he was a partner at Dentons Law Firm and continued that

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representation when he became a partner at the now-defunct Cooke Robotham, LLC. Decl. & Claim of Privilege ("Cooke...

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