United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
CATAR CLINIC OF HOT SPRINGS, LLC, and STOCKTON MEDICAL GROUP, LTD. PLAINTIFFS/ COUNTER-DEFENDANTS
THOMAS F. ROBINSON, M.D.; TIFFANY TERRY; ARKANSAS RECOVERY CLINIC; ARC REHABILITATION CENTER, P.A.; CSCB REHABILITATION MANAGEMENT GROUP, LLC; ADDICTION RECOVERY CARE OF LITTLE ROCK; ARC CLINIC; and JANE DOE #1 DEFENDANTS THOMAS F. ROBINSON, M.D.; CSCB REHABILITATION MANAGEMENT GROUP, LLC; and TIFFANY TERRY COUNTER-PLAINTIFFS Exhibit Ruling
Marshall Jr., United States District Judge
Some three months ago this Court held a third hearing on
preliminary matters in the case. Chase Steppig appeared to
show cause why, on Catar's[*] motion, he should not be held in
contempt of this Court's orders about keeping patient
information confidential. Michael Casillas also appeared. The
Court ordered him and Catar to show cause why, in the
circumstances, they shouldn't be estopped to complain
about Steppig's actions. The Court's Order convening
the hearing and giving notice is No. 79. Some unexpectedly
tangled evidentiary issues -about prior criminal charges
against Steppig - arose at the hearing. The Court took those
issues, plus the merits on contempt and estoppel, under
advisement. The press of other matters has prevented the
Court from digging back into this case until now. Other
disputes have arisen in the meantime. There are proposed new
pleadings; there are lawyer issues; and there are some
scheduling challenges. This Order aims to address all pending
counsel relied on several exhibits while questioning Steppig
at the December 2017 hearing. Appendix A lists the
Steppig-related exhibits and the Court's final ruling on
the admissibility of each. The contested exhibits center on
three recent episodes when Steppig was charged with crimes.
the Court disregards everything about Steppig's November
2017 arrest. Exhibits 14 and 15 are excluded. There's
been no conviction; the underlying conduct is irrelevant to
Steppig's credibility; and, most importantly, this event
is (with a minor exception about an undisputed fact)
irrelevant to the contempt issues. Fed.R.Evid. 401, 608(b),
Steppig pleaded guilty in 2016 to felony insurance fraud in
Texas state court. Catar argues that his plea, Exhibit 16,
comes in under Rule 609(a)(2) as a conviction involving
dishonesty. This is a strong argument but the circumstances
are peculiar. The Texas court noted the guilty plea, finding
that it was knowing, voluntary, and made with the advice of
competent counsel. The state court, though, never found
Steppig guilty of insurance fraud. Instead, there was a
deferred adjudication, a period of supervision, and then a
July 2017 discharge - which specifically said that the court
had not adjudicated Steppig guilty. See the next-to-last page
of Exhibit 16.
lack of a judicial finding of guilt casts doubt on whether a
Rule-609-qualifying conviction occurred. See
generally 28 CHARLES Alan Wright & Victor J. Gold,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 6133 at 224-27 (2d ed.
2012). The surer path is to treat Steppig's guilty plea
as a prior act that illuminates his truthfulness. FED. R.
EVID. 608(b). Catar's counsel was allowed to (and did)
question Steppig about the plea; but counsel must take
Steppig's answers as they came, and cannot supplement
those answers with the proposed extrinsic evidence. Ibid;
United States v. Martz, 964 F.2d 787, 789 (8th
Steppig was arrested in 2015 and indicted in 2016 for falsely
holding himself out as a lawyer. Exhibit 18. These incidents
fall squarely within Rule 608(b). They're prior acts -
not convictions - that go to Steppig's truthfulness. And
because they aren't convictions, they're beyond Rule
609's reach regardless of whether the charges were
expunged. The Court therefore denies Steppig's motion to
file the expungement records under seal, and excludes
Catar's proffered expungement petition, Exhibit 20. Those
documents are unnecessary. Fed.R.Evid. 403.
on all the exhibits and all the testimony at the December
2017 hearing, including an evaluation of each witness's
credibility, the Court finds these facts.
• Casillas had mixed motives in reporting Terry to the
Social Work Licensing Board.
NASW Code of Ethics says that "[w]hen necessary, social
workers who believe that a colleague has acted unethically
should take action through appropriate formal channels (such
as contacting a state licensing board ...)." Exhibit 22
at § 2.10(d). Casillas believed Terry had taken
confidential patient information from Catar and was using
that information to drum up business for her new employer.
Fulfilling his ethical obligations, however, was not the only
thing that prompted Casillas to act. Catar's business was
threatened. And Casillas made the Board complaint right after
Catar filed this case, while it was seeking a preliminary
injunction, and while all counsel were working toward an
order to keep patient information confidential. The Board
complaint was also intended to be a second front against the
new competitor clinic. Catar made a concerted effort to
gather the witness statements. Then, through Casillas, it
deployed them. Casillas's testimony that he acted only
because of his ethical obligations was not credible.
• Casillas believed that the Social Work Licensing Board
would keep patients' identities confidential.
so testified. The Court believes him. Plus he relied on the
advice of his lawyers.
• The Social Work Licensing Board has kept the patient
Board provided copies of Casillas's complaint (including
the patient statements) to Steppig because he said he was
acting for and with Terry in responding to the report. There
is no evidence that the Board routinely discloses, or makes
public, patient identifying information.
• Steppig has filed a complaint against Casillas with
the Social Work Licensing Board.
• Steppig learned about patient Doe's identity,
occupation, and treatment during the sealed portion of the
preliminary injunction hearing held on 31 August 2017 and 1
September 2017. That was his only source for those facts.
hearing, Doe appeared and identified himself, his occupation,
his employer, and the fact that he was a patient of Catar.
Steppig did not know any of these facts before the hearing.
Steppig and Terry received a copy of Casillas's complaint
to the Board about Terry after the hearing.
• Steppig realized at the hearing that Doe could not be
licensed in his occupation while receiving the medication
prescribed through Catar.
so testified. The Court believes him.
• After the injunction hearing, and after getting a copy
of Casillas's Board complaint against Terry, Steppig
investigated the patients (including Doe) who made statements