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United States v. Michigan Department of Community Health

    Brief Fact Summary.

    The Michigan Department of Community Healthy refused to comply with a subpoena by the United States to obtain records from seven specified patients, on the grounds that the documents are confidential.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A subpoena must be enforced if enforceable if the subpoena satisfies the terms of an authorizing statute, the documents requested in the subpoena are relevant to the investigation, the information sought in the subpoena not already in the requesting party’s possession, and enforcing the subpoena is not an abuse of the court’s process.

    Facts.

    The United States seeks to enforce a subpoena issued to the Michigan Department of Community Healthy (MDCH) to obtain certain documents in regards to seven specified individuals. The documents the United States is seeking are copies of the patients’ caregiver registration cards, or applications of such cards for each individual listed on the subpoena. MDCH refuses to comply with the subpoena on the grounds that it conflicts with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), which provides that certain documentation, such as the ones requested, would be kept confidential. The United States has filed a petition seeking an enforcement of the federal court order. MDCH stated it would comply with the petition if the court order is clear that its employees and agents “will be immunized from liability for providing information that is confidential” under state law.

    Issue.

    Whether the MDCH has an obligation to provide the United State with the requisite documents listed on the subpoena, regardless if they contain confidential information.

    Held.

    Yes, the MDCH has an obligation to provide the United State with the requisite documents listed on the subpoena, regardless if they contain confidential information.

    Discussion.

    In Doe v. United States, the court held that a subpoena is properly enforceable if “1) it satisfies the terms of the authorizing statute, 2) the documents requested were relevant to the [agency’s] investigation, 3) the information sought is not already in the [agency’s] possession, and 4) enforcing the subpoena will not constitute an abuse of the court’s process.” 253 F. 3d 256, 265 (6th Cir. 2001). An agency must establish the first three prongs, while the respondent must establish the fourth prong. Here, the subpoena was issued as part of an ongoing investigation of a violation of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), which is an appropriate purpose authorized by statute, § 876. Additionally, the documents are relevant, as they should be construed broadly. Further, the DEA does not have possession of these documents. Lastly, the respondent, MDCH, has failed to show that the court has abused its discretion or acted in bad faith. Therefore, because the United States has satisfied its burden, the first three prongs, and Respondent has not, the fourth prong, the subpoena should be complied with.


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