Privilege and Discovery

A party may obtain discovery concerning any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the claims or defenses of any party.

Privileges are determined by rules and case law outside the discovery rules. If a party withholds otherwise discoverable information because of claimed privilege, the claim must be made expressly and must describe the information or things withheld in a manner that will enable other parties to assess the applicability of the privilege.
  • Covers relevant (i.e., otherwise discoverable) information that is actually germane to a case.
  • Involves certain relationships that are considered worthy of special protection
    • All jurisdictions respect attorney-client privilege, partly because it's part of the Constitution (right to counsel), and is based on an old common-law privilege.
    • Most jurisdictions protect some form of spousal privilege, but with variations.
    • Others: MD-patient, priest-penitent, accountant-client (but varies from place to place).
    • Can be waived, then no longer protects.
      • Formally by not invoking
      • Or if private communication has already been shared with 3rd parties
        • Such as filing suit about medical issues, which mostly removes MD-patient confidentiality
  • Attorney-client privilege
    • Protects having to disclose particular communications and things you know only by virtue of those communications...
    • ...but does not insulate from discovery the subject matter of those communications to the extent you know about them independently of the communications themselves.
    • Upjohn Co. v. United States, 449 U.S. 383 (1981)
      • Extended corporate attorney-client privilege beyond just the top officials of the corporation.
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