(CN) – High-ranking government officials seeking to quash subpoenas bear the burden of proving that their information is available from a lower-ranked official, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled.
Aris Mardirossian sued William Goldstein for circulating a letter that allegedly interfered with his plan to cut down trees to allow a view of the Potomac River from Mardirossian’s property.
Mardirossian issued subpoenas to five members of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. He wanted them to attend a deposition and produce certain documents.
The district court denied the commissioners’ motion for a protective order against the subpoenas, and the commissioners appealed.
The officials argued that they should not be brought into court to answer an action that is not directed at their conduct. Judge Salmon disagreed and upheld the subpoenas.
“Appellees wanted to find out who contacted the Commissioners in regard to Goldstein’s letter,” Salmon wrote. “It is possible, of course, that some subaltern could answer such questions and produce the documents requested.
“But if such a person or persons exist,” the judge continued, “appellants’ knowledge of the identity of the person(s) would be superior to that of the appellees. Therefore, this burden should be on the party that seeks to quash the subpoenas.”