IN RE CHRISTOPHER J. RUSSO, Relator
ORIGINAL PROCEEDING WRIT OF MANDAMUS 295th District Court
Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2016-24818
consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Christopher and
April 3, 2018, relator Christopher J. Russo filed a petition
for writ of mandamus in this court, his second relating to
this discovery dispute. See Tex. Gov't Code Ann.
§ 22.221 (West Supp. 2017); see also Tex. R.
App. P. 52. In the petition, Russo asks this court to compel
the Honorable Caroline Baker, presiding judge of the 295th
District Court of Harris County, to vacate her March 20, 2018
order, which compels Russo to produce certain documents for
which Russo has asserted an act-of-production privilege under
the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
real parties-in-interest are Superior Energy Services, Inc.,
and Stabil Drill Specialties, LLC, and SESI, LLC
(collectively, the "Superior Parties").
Fifth Amendment privilege does not apply to the records of
corporate entities. Russo has not shown that the documents
for which he asserted the privilege are not records of
corporate entities he allegedly owned or controlled. We
therefore deny the petition for writ of mandamus.
and Procedural Background
Superior Parties filed suit, alleging, among other things,
that Russo and the other defendants conspired to defraud the
Superior Parties of $72 million and other assets over several
years. Specifically, the Superior Parties allege that Russo
and Martin A. LeBlanc were the executive officers of Stabil
Drill, a subsidiary of SESI, and that Russo and LeBlanc
engaged in a complex scheme of self-dealing primarily by
creating separate but interwoven corporate entities (which
they owned or controlled directly or indirectly) to
improperly invoice Stabil Drill for goods and services and to
benefit themselves by being on both sides of various
transactions. The Superior Parties allege that Russo was a
member of, owned, and/or controlled several limited liability
companies which he used to execute his schemes to defraud the
Superior Parties. These corporate entities include, among
others, Triple RRR Investments, LLC, Gulf Coast Wireline,
LLC, Maverick Rental Tools, LLC, Quest Holdings, LLC, Basket
Specialties, LLC, Tri-Eagle NDT Services, LLC, Longhorn Bits
LLC, Prime 337, LLC, Russo Energy LLC, Russo Exploration LLC,
and Cole Joseph Russo Trust, LLC. In their petition, the
Superior Parties assert claims against Russo and his
corporate entities for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, trade
secret misappropriation, and civil conspiracy.
Superior Parties served Russo and Russo Energy, LLC with
several requests for production. Russo withheld some
responsive documents, objecting to each request "on the
ground that it requires production of documents in violation
of Defendant's Fifth Amendment (U.S. Constitution)
act-of-production privilege. See United States v.
Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27 (2000)."
September 22, 2016, the Superior Parties filed a motion to
compel production of the withheld documents. The trial judge
heard the motion on October 3, 2016, and took the matter
under advisement. On August 3, 2017, the trial judge issued
an order requiring Russo to prepare a privilege log of all
the documents Russo withheld and to deliver the documents to
the court for an in camera review. Russo submitted a
privilege log listing 2, 277 documents.
hearing on October 20, 2017, the trial judge asked Russo to
attempt to reduce the number of documents for which he was
asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege. Russo later produced
some of the documents he had withheld, submitted amended and
supplemental privilege logs (listing a total of 1538
documents), and delivered the documents on the logs to the
court for in camera review.
February 12, 2018, the trial judge signed an order requiring
Russo to produce all of the documents that Russo had listed
on the logs.
February 21, 2018, Russo filed a petition for writ of
mandamus, asking our court to compel the trial judge ...