On July 1, 2020, Amended New Jersey Rule of Evidence 530 (Waiver of Privilege by Contract or Previous Disclosure) became effective. N.J.R.E. 530, which tracks Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 502, was amended as a result of the increasing use of electronic discovery in litigation and the associated concerns regarding the potential for the inadvertent disclosures. This blog has frequently addressed decisions involving F.R.E. 502, including in 2019, 2018, and 2012. Amended N.J.R.E. 530 includes significant revisions in paragraph(c), which includes provisions that apply “to disclosure of a communication or information covered by the attorney-client privilege or work-product protection.” N.J.R.E. 530(c). In particular, amended N.J.R.E. 530(c) addresses disclosures made during state proceedings or to state office or agency, N.J.R.E 530(c)(1); inadvertent disclosures, N.J.R.E. 530(c)(2); disclosures made in another forum’s proceeding, N.J.R.E. 530(c)(3); the controlling effect of a court’s order, N.J.R.E. 530(c)(4); and the controlling effect of a party agreement regarding disclosure, N.J.R.E. 530(c)(5). Under the amended Rule, it is clear that a court order regarding disclosure pursuant to N.J.R.E. 530(c)(4) has the potential to have a significant impact on other litigations, as the rule provides that a court order on privilege “is also not a waiver in any other federal...
Tagged: Attorney Client Privilege
Inadvertently Produced Privileged Material May Generally Be Used for Purpose of Challenging Assertion of Privilege
A New York federal court has recently held that inadvertently produced privileged documents may be used by the receiving party for the limited purpose of challenging the claim of privilege to the extent that the receiving party became aware of the contents of those documents prior to the assertion of the privilege over those documents. In re Keurig Green Mt. Single Serve Coffee Antitrust Litig. In that case, the parties had entered into a stipulated protective order with a Federal Rule of Evidence 502(d) clawback provision, but the parties relied on two different provisions of the same order to support their arguments concerning whether the privileged document could be relied upon in challenging the claim of privilege. The order stated that “[i]f a party has inadvertently or mistakenly produced Privileged Material, and if the party makes a written request for the return, … the receiving party will also make no use of the information contained in the Privileged Material … regardless of whether the receiving party disputes the claim of privilege.” However, the order also stated that “[t]he receiving party may not use the Privileged Material … for any purpose whatsoever other than moving the Court for an order compelling...
The Metadata Minefield – New Jersey’s Amended Rules of Professional Conduct Provide Ethical Guidance
Every electronic document contains metadata – hidden, electronically stored information (ESI) which reveals details surrounding its creation, typically including the document’s creator and the date and time the document was created and edited, among other things. Much of this metadata may be innocuous, but some – for example, the identity of every individual who opened or edited a document, or even tracked changes – may reveal privileged and confidential attorney client communications or work product that was not meant to be visible to or seen by the other side. This, in turn, generates issues of concern for lawyers entrusted with preventing disclosure of such confidential information and for those who receive it. Following the recommendations of its Commission on Ethics 20/20, the American Bar Association (ABA) recently amended the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) to address these issues and provide guidance to lawyers in both situations. In the wake of the ABA amendments, the New Jersey Supreme Court examined these issues, soliciting input from, among others, the Special Committee on Attorney Ethics and Admissions (Special Ethics Committee) and the Working Group on Ethical Issues Involving Metadata in Electronic Documents (Working Group), and rendering Administrative Determinations on the Reports and...
Think Before You Send: Communications to an Attorney Using Work Email May Not Be Protected Under the Attorney-Client Privilege
Generally, a confidential email sent to one’s personal attorney is protected under the attorney-client privilege. But what if the communication is sent using a business email account? Will a corporate policy entitling the company to access “all communications” sent on work computers undermine the privilege? Followers of this blog will recall, among other posts, our detailed recap of the extensive discussion of this issue at our Annual E-Discovery Conference in the wake of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Stengart v. Loving Care Agency, Inc., upholding the privilege where the employee used a company computer to communicate with her attorney via a personal password-protected internet based e-mail account, and sanctioning the employer’s attorneys for failing to turn over the protected communications. Readers may also recall our discussion of US v. Hamilton, where the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that a husband waived the marital communications privilege when he sent messages from his work email account to his wife, but took no steps to protect their sanctity. Since those decisions, courts nationwide have continued to wrestle with these issues. Most recently, a Delaware Court held an employee waived the attorney client privilege where he used his work email account to email his lawyer with knowledge of the company’s policy establishing its right to access all communications on work computers.
In U.S. v. Hamilton, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that a husband who sent messages from his work email account to his wife, yet took no steps to protect the sanctity of those emails, waived the marital communications privilege, thus subjecting the emails to disclosure during discovery. This case serves as an important reminder that employees do not necessarily enjoy an expectation of privacy in the emails they send from their work accounts or while using their employers’ computers.
Magistrate Judge Orders Production of Social Media Discovery But Fashions Novel Protocol Designed to Protect Privacy Concerns
Where the requesting party makes a threshold showing of relevance, courts now routinely grant discovery of social media notwithstanding so-called “privacy objections.” Indeed, as one court recently noted, there is “no principled reason to articulate different standards for the discoverability of communications through email, text message, or social media platforms.” But on November 7, 2012, in EEOC v. Original Honeybaked Ham Co., Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado ordered all class members to produce social media discovery to the defendant subject to what the EEOC ultimately called a “somewhat unusual procedure.”
Effective January 1, 2013, the Delaware Court of Chancery Rules 26 (General provisions concerning discovery), 30 (Depositions upon oral examination), 34 (Production of documents) and 45 (Subpoenas) were amended, consistent with similar amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to refer to discovery of “electronically stored information” (“ESI”) in addition to “documents” and “tangible things” and explain how parties are to respond to requests for ESI.
A group of exotic dancers in New York recently found themselves partially exposed — well, their Facebook messages, that is. A federal judge in In re Penthouse Executive Club Compensation Litigation, 10-CV1145 (KMW) (S.D.N.Y May 10, 2012) decided that one of the plaintiff-dancer’s Facebook communications with non-party-dancers about joining the lawsuit were not protected from disclosure, but that Facebook communications between the plaintiff-dancer and opt-in plaintiffs were protected from disclosure. The Court’s application of the well-established work product doctrine and common interest rule to social media communications reminds lawyers to exercise caution when using social media for discovery purposes and to warn their clients to similarly proceed with caution.
Inadvertent Production of Two Privileged Pages Among Over Two Million May Waive the Attorney-Client Privilege
The burdens associated with a massive document review of electronically-stored information (“ESI”) will not, in and of themselves, preclude a court from finding that a party has waived the attorney-client privilege with respect to an inadvertently produced document. In Jacob v. Duane Reade, Inc., Magistrate Judge Katz of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that a privileged, two-page email that was inadvertently produced during the review of over two million documents in less than one month did not have to be returned and that the privilege had been waived because the producing party, Duane Reade, had failed to timely request its return. Duane Reade had used an outside vendor and review team to conduct its review of this large volume of ESI. The document in question concerned a meeting among several individuals, including an in-house attorney at Duane Reade. Duane Reade argued that the email was inadvertently produced because it was neither from nor to an attorney, and only included advice received at a meeting from an in-house attorney, identified in the email only by the first name “Julie.”
Recently, a federal court in Illinois held in Thorncreek Apartments III, LLC v. Village or Park Forest that a defendant waived the attorney-client privilege when it inadvertently produced 159 documents that it later claimed were privileged. The defendant’s failure to take reasonably adequate measures to prevent such disclosure serves as a lesson for all attorneys, especially those who manage large, rolling document productions with the help of a vendor.