Economist Faces Discovery by Spurned Lover

     (CN) – A Dutch economist may renew her efforts to seek discovery in a defamation claim against her former lover, a fellow economist who accused her of harassing him with X-rated emails, the Second Circuit ruled.
     Economist and former New York University professor Heleen Mees and Citigroup chief economist William Buiter were once lovers, according to the July 17 ruling. But their relationship went south at some point in 2009, after which Mees began sending Buiter messages asking him to meet with her. The messages allegedly made sexual innuendos and included threatening images.
     Some of the thousands of emails included X-rated images of Mees masturbating and others attached images of other naked women, according to a Business Insider report.
     One message said she hopes his “plane falls out of the sky” and another included a picture of dead birds, the ruling states. Buiter claimed these messages caused him to fear for his safety.
     Buiter eventually complained to police that Mees was stalking, menacing and harassing him. She was arrested in New York and the detective’s affidavit quoted a number of Mees’ sexually explicit messages, which were publicized by news media in the U.S. and the Netherlands.
     Mees accepted a dismissal contemplation adjournment in March 2014, stipulating that her criminal charges would be dismissed in a year if she completed counseling and complied with a protective order, and the charges have now been dropped.
     Mees filed an application two weeks later seeking discovery “as part of her Dutch attorneys’ investigation of a defamation claim against Buiter” in the Netherlands, according to the ruling. She claims Buiter’s stalking accusations are false and caused her to lose her teaching job at New York University as well as other opportunities.
     Buiter actually returned her romantic interest, Mees claims. She allegedly has more than a dozen emails between her and Buiter to corroborate her story, and her application seeks additional evidence – hotel reservations, credit card statements, and phone records – that could support her contention that the two had 27 romantic rendezvous during the period she allegedly stalked him.
     Under Dutch law, a plaintiff faces a duty to substantiate the complaint, a particularly demanding burden of proof. Mees argues that to meet this burden, she requires additional discovery.
     A federal judge in Manhattan denied the application, finding that Mees already had enough evidence to satisfy the Dutch threshold. But the Second Circuit reversed Friday, disagreeing with the lower court’s reasoning.
     The New York-based appeals court did not decide whether the application should be granted, but ruled it was enough that Mees’ application showed “that the materials she seeks are to be used at some stage of a foreign proceeding” – even if the information is not necessary for her complaint to assert a claim.
     “As noted above, Mees explained to the district court that her application served the dual purposes of helping her to plead and to prove her defamation claim,” Judge Gerard Lynch wrote for a three-judge panel. “Thus, in concluding that the discovery was not ‘for use’ because it was not necessary to plead Mees’s claim, without addressing whether the materials sought could be used to prove her claim, the district court implicitly concluded that any subsequent use of the discovery to prove her claim would not constitute ‘use’ under § 1782. Such a conclusion is contrary to the language of the statute.”
     The judge vacated the district court’s order and remanded for reconsideration. Lynch did not deny that Mees’ application may be an attempt to circumvent foreign proof-gathering restrictions but said that the “availability of the discovery in the foreign proceeding should not be afforded undue weight.”

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