Finding that a lower court had underestimated the harm resulting from the government’s seizure and ongoing possession of privileged material, the Fifth Circuit ruled recently that a “taint team” process was insufficient to protect the rights of the party holding the privilege.  The appellate court’s ruling is part of a trend in which courts have expressed skepticism that the use of “taint teams” by the government is an adequate safeguard against undermining the sacrosanct attorney-client privilege.

As part of a criminal investigation spawned by civil False Claims Act qui tam actions, the government executed search warrants at the offices of Harbor Healthcare System and seized “a wealth of information protected by the attorney-client privilege” including communications between the company’s Director of Compliance and its outside counsel.  Harbor subsequently filed a motion for return of property as provided for in Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g).  The District Court ultimately granted a government motion to dismiss that proceeding, finding that a “filter team” and screening process were adequate to protect Harbor’s privileged information.


Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Bolsters Company’s Claim for Return of Privileged Documents Seized by Government

This time of year, everything tends to be more scary and spooky, but one thing doesn’t have to be – creating a defensible privilege log! Creating a privilege log can be one of the most time consuming, labor intensive and expensive parts of litigation. The last thing you want is to have to spend additional time and money defending or re-doing work on your privilege log.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(5) only requires that the party withholding material based on a claim of privilege “(i) expressly make the claim; and (ii) describe the nature of the documents, communications, or tangible things not produced or disclosed – and do so in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, will enable other parties to assess the claim.” Although this seems simple enough, in practice this can actually be more trick than treat.

Here are some things to keep in mind when creating a privilege log to help make it more defensible and less likely to lead to additional time and money making extensive revisions to the privilege log entries.


Continue Reading Tips For Making Privilege Logs Less Scary