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.
The American Bar Association recently published Formal Opinion 11-460 to provide guidance to attorneys regarding their ethical duty upon discovering emails between a third party and the third party’s attorney. The Opinion interprets Model Rule 4.4(b) literally, concluding that neither that rule nor any other requires an attorney to notify opposing counsel of receipt of potentially privileged communications. The Opinion is of particular note because it directly contradicts the New Jersey Supreme Court’s opinion in Stengart v. Loving Care Agency. Inc. 201 N.J. 300 (2010).
Despite recent decisions from courts of last resort on State and federal levels, some jurisdictions are not extending full protection to otherwise privileged communications made through work-issued computers and PDAs. We last wrote on this issue after the New Jersey Supreme Court held that an employee did not waive the attorney-client privilege when using a company computer to communicate with her attorney via a personal password-protected e-mail account. Stengart v. Loving Care Agency. A short time later, in Quon v. Arch Wireless, the United States Supreme Court determined that the search of an employee’s text messages on a work-issued pager was reasonable and did not violate the employee’s Fourth Amendment rights. In the wake of these holdings, courts in other jurisdictions continue to make their own path through this new area of law. In Holmes v. Petrovich Development Company, LLC, the latest in the line of cases, the California Court of Appeals held that an employee’s e-mail communications with her attorney from her work computer did not constitute “‘a confidential communication between client and lawyer'” under Section 954 of the California Evidence Code.
On October 28, the Gibbons E-Discovery Task Force hosted its fourth annual full day E-Discovery Conference, with more than 100 clients, in-house counsel and other contacts in attendance. Devoted to the latest developments in electronic discovery and corporate information management, this program included speakers who are among the most respected names in the e-discovery field, including former United States Magistrate Judges John Hughes and Ronald Hedges, e-discovery authority Michael Arkfeld, and representatives of leading corporations and e-discovery service providers. Among the Gibbons attorneys who presented and moderated panels were Task Force Chair, Mark S. Sidoti, Chair of the firm’s Employment Law Department, Christine A. Amalfe, and Task Force members, Luis J. Diaz, Phillip J. Duffy, Scott J. Etish, Lan Hoang and Jeffrey L. Nagel.
The Gibbons E-Discovery Task Force will host its fourth annual full day E-Discovery Conference on October 28, 2010, in the firm’s Newark, NJ office. Devoted to the latest developments in electronic discovery and corporate information management, this program will include speakers who are among the most respected names in the e-discovery field, including former United States Magistrate judges John Hughes and Ronald Hedges, e-discovery authority Michael Arkfeld, and representatives of leading corporations and e-discovery service providers.