Privilege Covers In-House Lawyer’s (and Non-Lawyers’) Review of Employee-Termination Decision

In an employment-discrimination case, the SDNY ruled that the attorney–client privilege precluded depositions of a company’s Termination Review Committee members, which included an in-house lawyer.  The privilege applied even though the Committee included two non-lawyers.  Fletcher v. ABM Building Value, 2017 WL 1536059 (SDNY Apr. 18, 2017).  You may read the decision here.

Background

ABM Building Value maintains a committee—ominously named the “Termination Review Committee”—that evaluates managers’ employee-termination decisions before the company carries out a termination. Following its review, the TRC, composed of one in-house lawyer and two non-lawyers, provides the company with advice concerning any risks associated with the termination. More…

In-House Counsel Fails to Prove Privilege, Loses Quest to Seal Emails & Notes

Situations arise where a party files privileged communications to support a dispositive motion.  But filing privileged documents raises waiver concerns, so the filing party seeks to seal those documents to prevent third-party access.  The question arises whether policies underlying the attorney–client privilege overcome citizens’ common-law and First Amendment rights of access to publicly filed documents.

In Utica Mut. Ins. Co. v. Munich Reinsurance Am., Inc., 2017 WL 1653608 (NDNY Apr. 26, 2017), available here, the USDC NDNY indicated that the privilege is a “higher value” that may rebut the common-law and FA presumption of access.  So, the court sealed the privileged communications, right? More…

Penn. Adopts Garner Privilege Exception for Shareholder Derivative Actions

A common yet often unresolved question in shareholder derivative actions is whether the company may assert the attorney–client privilege against its own plaintiff–shareholders.  Under federal law, the leading case is Garner v. Wolfinbarger, 430 F.2d 1093 (CA5 1970), where the 5th Circuit created a privilege exception if the shareholders could show good cause for not invoking it.

Now, Pennsylvania has adopted the Garner exception, holding that trial courts should evaluate certain criteria to determine whether “good cause” exists to not apply the attorney–client privilege to plaintiffs in derivative actions.  Pittsburgh History & Landmark Found., 2017 WL 1422894 (Pa. Commonw. Ct. Apr. 21, 2017).  You may read the decision here. More…