attorney-client privilege

LM Insur. Co. v. Aceo, Inc., No. 08 C 2372, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. July 7, 2011) (Cole, Mag. J.).
Judge Cole granted a motion to compel further deposition testimony of a witness. During a deposition, the witness testified that she thought an “individual broker” may have received “‘return’ (kickback).” When asked to identify the broker, her counsel objected that the question called for speculation and coached the witness through a speaking objection that she should not answer without “clear information.” Counsel then took the witness out of the room while a question was pending for a discussion which lasted thirty minutes. After the discussion, the witness stated that she had been “speculating” and that “I don’t feel like what I said was correct.” The Court noted that counsel’s coaching was wrong, but that the counsel’s most “disturbing” action was removing the witness to confer outside the deposition room. Furthermore, counsel never offered a justification for the conference during questioning. And in any event, the only acceptable explanation was determining whether the answer would have been privileged. However, there was no indication of that. Because of the deposition misconduct, the Court ordered that the deposition would continue in-court pursuant to the Court’s supervision. The Court also ordered an in camera conference with the witness and her counsel to determine whether there is any privilege protecting what counsel told the witness during the break in the original deposition. Finally, the Court declined to consider whether further action was necessary at the time of the opinion.

Continue Reading In-Court Deposition Ordered Based Upon Improper Coaching and Discussions

Bergstrom v. Glacier Bay, Inc., No. 08 C 50078, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 22, 2010) (Mahoney, Mag. J.).
Judge Mahoney granted in part the parties’ cross-motions regarding production of defendant Glacier Bay’s source code, and denied Glacier Bay’s other discovery motions. Plaintiff Bergstrom sought production of the source code as an OCR’ed tiff document, consistent with other production in the case. Glacier Bay offered to provide supervised access to the code for an expert and one lawyer on a laptop during business hours. The Court held that Glacier Bay’s proposal was unnecessarily restrictive. It would have been unnecessarily burdensome to only allow Bergstrom’s expert access to the 23,500 pages of source code on only a laptop, and to only allow screenshots of selected portions of the code. The Court, therefore, ordered production of the source code in the case-standard OCR’ed tiff format.
The Court also denied Glacier Bay’s request to prevent anyone involved in prosecuting Bergstrom’s patents from viewing the source code. The Court held such a blanket ban was unnecessary, but did exclude one attorney that had both prosecution and litigation duties for Bergstrom from viewing the software.
The Court also denied Glacier Bay’s motion to compel documents related to a failed settlement discussion between Bergstrom and a third party. The Court reasoned that while Fed. R. Evid. 408 was not an evidentiary rule, the spirit of Fed. R. Evid. 408 – protecting and promoting open settlement talks – counseled against production of the requested documents.
Finally, the Court denied Glacier Bay’s motion to compel answers to requests for admissions regarding whether Bergstrom provided certain alleged prior art to its patent prosecution counsel. Compelling those answers would have potentially compelled Bergstrom to breach its attorney-client privilege with patent prosecution counsel.

Continue Reading Court Refuses Unnecessarily Burdensome Restrictions on Source Code Production

Trading Techs. Int’l., Inc. v. eSpeed, Inc., No. 04 C 5312, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. May 17, 2007) (Moran, Sen. J.).
Judge Moran denied plaintiff Trading Technologies’ (“TT”) motion to compel additional production from third party Chicago Mercantile Exchange (“CME”). TT served CME with a subpoena seeking, among other things, anything referring or relating to potential prior art to the patents at issue and communications between CME and any other entity regarding the patents at issue, including any joint defense agreement between CME and such parties. After TT filed the motion to compel, CME produced thousands of pages, including what it stated were all documents in its possession regarding possible prior art. Because all prior art documents had been produced, the Court denied TT’s motion to compel additional prior art-related documents.
The Court also denied TT’s motion to the extent it sought communications regarding the possible prior art. First, the Court considered any communications CME might have had with defendants in the currently pending cases. The Court referred to its May 1, 2007, order which required defendants to produce a list of all members in their joint defense agreement (that opinion and order, as well as numerous other opinions from this and its related cases, are in the Blog’s archives). The Court held that defendants’ list would allow TT to discover whether CME was involved in a joint defense and that no further discovery from CME was necessary.
Second, the Court considered CME’s communications, including potential joint defense agreements, with any parties not involved in TT’s pending suits. The Court held that the common interest doctrine could attach to communications even before the filing of a suit, so long as the parties anticipated litigation. Furthermore, the Court held that regardless of whether CME’s communications with other third parties were part of a joint defense, they were not discoverable because they were “irrelevant” to this case. The Court explained that while relevance is broadly defined, it does have boundaries and TT’s motion ran “up against such a boundary.”
* Because Westlaw has not published this opinion yet, here is a copy of Judge Moran’s original, signed opinion.

Continue Reading Third Parties’ Communications With Other Third Parties Are Not Relevant

Trading Techs. Int’l., Inc. v. eSpeed, Inc., No. 05 C 4120, (N.D. Ill. May 16, 2007) (Moran, Sen. J.).
Judge Moran granted in part and denied in part plaintiff Trading Technologies’ (“TT”) motion to compel additional production from defendants GL Consultants, Inc. and GL Trade SA (collectively “GL”). The Court required GL to update certain interrogatory responses and to produce documents based upon a priority date GL had argued for, as opposed to stopping at TT’s alleged priority date. The Court also required GL to provide TT access to original source code and certain electronic archives, without regard to whether TT had provided GL similar access. Finally, the Court denied TT’s request to lower the confidentiality designation of the source code for GL’s GL Tradepad software. But what is most interesting about the Court’s opinion is its reminder to the parties about how the Court expects them to conduct discovery:
At the outset, we reiterate some of the points regarding discovery that we have stressed throughout this complicated and contentious litigation. First, parties should err on the side of over-production; relevance should he argued sparingly. Second, counsel are officers of the court and their word is generally sufficient. Third, there will always be additional persons to interview, additional documents to discover, and alleged prior art to be found; we must, however, put an end to discovery at some point. . . . With such guidelines in mind, we address the current dispute.
* Because Westlaw has not published this opinion yet, here is a copy of Judge Moran’s original, signed opinion.

Continue Reading Court Reminds Parties of Their Discovery Obligations

Trading Techs. Int’l., Inc. v. eSpeed, Inc., No 04 C 5312, 05 C 1079, 05 C 4088, 05 C 4120, 05 C 4811 & 05 C 5164, 2007 WL 704525 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 1, 2007) (Moran, Sen. J.).
Judge Moran granted in part and denied in part plaintiff Trading Technologies’ (“TT”) motion to compel production of defendants’ communications between themselves (more on this case in the Blog’s archives). Defendants asserted claims of attorney-client and work product privileges regarding various communications and information exchanged as part of a joint defense agreement among, at least, the various defendants and DJ-plaintiff (collectively “defendants”) in the patent suits regarding TT’s patents. The Court explained that the joint defense privilege protects communications and exchange of information between parties that have expressly decided to cooperate in a litigation — with or without a written agreement. The Court held that defendants had expressed a sufficient intent to cooperate in their respective litigations against TT and, therefore, held that defendants need not produce communications made in relation to their joint defense. The Court required that defendants produce any written joint defense agreement or, in the absence of a written agreement, the identities of all members of the joint defense. The Court further held that third parties need not be identified to the extent that their identities are protected as work product, but that third parties should be identified if defendants’ communications with them are allegedly protected by attorney-client privilege. The Court also required that defendants produce all prior art in their possession, regardless of how it was located. And finally, the Court noted that “it must rely on the integrity of counsel to determine what is and is not privileged.” As a result, the Court required that defendants produce “any communications not protected by a legitimate privilege . . . .”
You can download the opinion here.

Continue Reading Joint Defense Agreement May Protect Third Party Communications

Rowe Int’l. Corp. v. Ecast, Inc., __ F. Supp.2d __, 2007 WL 831772 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 19, 2007) (Kennelly, J.).

Judge Kennelly held that plaintiff Arachnid waived its privilege as to a limited scope of information and held that Arachnid’s related uses of the information did not rise to the level of the crime-fraud exception, even if they may have been inequitable conduct.  Arachnid filed a motion seeking the return of three inadvertently produced, privileged "patent reports."  Defendants filed a cross-motion to compel production of privileged materials arguing that Arachnid waived the privilege as to the three documents and that the crime-fraud exception destroyed the privilege to the extent it was not waived.  The Court agreed that the patent reports were inadvertently produced, but still held the privilege was waived on a limited scope of information.  In 1999, a former Arachnid employee testified that he learned from Arachnid’s attorneys that "the only way we would receive [one of] the patent[s-in-suit] was if we included that information."  While a former employee cannot waive the privilege, Arachnid’s attorneys attended the deposition in question and failed to object to the question or the answer.  Additionally, Arachnid later turned the transcript over to the PTO during prosecution of a subsequent application and to defendants during production in the instant case.  These actions combined to waive the privilege as to the specific information discussed by the ex-employee, the inclusion of figure 2 in the patent.Continue Reading Failure to Object at a Deposition Waives Privilege

Abbott Labs. v. Andrx Pharms., Inc., No. 05 C 1490, 2007 WL 551551 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 20, 2007) (Brown, Mag. J.).*

The Court denied defendant’s motion to compel production of attorney-client privileged documents pursuant to the crime-fraud exception.  Defendant argued that plaintiff’s failure to disclose full results from two studies with conflicting results (for

Beck Sys., Inc. v. ManageSoft Corp., No. 05 C 2036, 2006 WL 2037356 (N.D. Ill. July 14, 2006) (Schenkier, Mag. J.).

In considering the scope of attorney-client privilege and work product waivers stemming from defendant ManageSoft’s reliance on an opinion of counsel, Magistrate Judge Schenkier undertook a detailed analysis of the Federal Circuit’s recent In re Echostar Communications, 448 F.3d 1294 (Fed. Cir. 2006), decision and how it changes the Northern District of Illinois’ previous ruling on the issue in Beneficial Franchise Co., Inc. v. Bank One N.A., 205 F.R.D. 212 (N.D. Ill. 2001).Continue Reading Scope of Waiver of Attorney-Client Privilege and Work Product Protection