In this blog I have asked that lawyers write in if there was a topic they would like me to address.  I have received many requests over the years and the next couple of blogs will be responding to some of these requests.  Here is the first one.

“I noticed a few things regarding privilege logs. 1) litigators are not sending them. 2) my opposing counsel tends to argue that there is no obligation to prepare a privilege log unless it is demanded by the requesting party and I don’t think that’s right – I think it’s an affirmative duty arising when someone withholds documents under an objection – is that right?”

A party’s ability to request documents from the other side is one of most important tools in any discovery plan.  Depositions are useful but memories can fade, and witnesses’ recollections can be wrong. Interrogatories and requests for admission are responded by the attorney and are usually answered to support a claim or defense.  However, as it has been said over the years, “The document speaks for itself.”  The majority of cases turn on whether or not there are documents, photos or other tangible items, prepared contemporaneously, that support a given position.  This makes not only the document production important, but the response is just as important,  as you will want to nail down whether any documents actually exist that relate to a particular topic of inquiry.


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Have you ever wondered how the work product doctrine works when you hire a consultant who may or may not become your expert. Trial Attorney Lee Previant, from Los Angeles, wrote this great article titled “Attorney Work Product Doctrine And Experts for Advocate Magazine that explains how it all works.  Enjoy.

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As any litigator is undoubtedly aware, expert witnesses are necessary whether to offer evidence required to meet your burden of proof or to offer evidence to combat attacks on causation.  Likewise, communications with your expert witnesses are necessary.  This includes communications to 1) retain the expert witness, 2) communications providing them with case specific materials so they may formulate their opinions, and 3) communications providing scientific, technical, professional texts, treatises, journals, or similar publications to assist the expert in forming their opinion.  In addition, an attorney may communicate with an expert for the sole purpose of obtaining advisory opinions.

An expert witness is defined as someone who has “special knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education sufficient to qualify him[/her] as an expert on the subject to which his[/her] testimony relates.”  (Evid. Code § 720.)


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legal gavel and law books, on white

Can a trial court order a party to disclose potentially privileged information because the party’s privilege log did not provide sufficient information for the court to evaluate whether the privilege applies?  According to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Three in Catalina Island Yacht Club v. The Superior Court of Orange County filed December 4, 2015 the answer is NO!


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On August 14, 2012, Judge William A. Mayhew of Stanislaw Superior Court issued his Notice of Hearing on Issues Re Remand in the case of Debra Coito v. State of California. The order requested that the following issues to be briefed: (1) Does the absolute privilege apply to all or any part of the recorded witness interviews; (2) Does the Plaintiff conted that they can make a sufficient showing of unfair prejudice or injustice under C.C.P. Section 2018.030(b) such as to allow discovery as to any of the interviews that may be found to be not absolutely privileged; and (3) As to interrogatory 12.3, does the STATE contend that answering said interrogatory would result in opposing counsel taking undue advantage of the attorney for the STATE’s industry of efforts or that answering said interrogatory would reveal the attorney of the STATE’s tactics, impressions or evaluation of the case?
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The absence of a reasonable expectation of confidentiality in the content of an independent witness’ signed or recorded verbatim statement precludes a finding of work-product protection. That is what Petitioner Debra Coito’s Answering Brief on the Merits states in the case of Coito v. Superior Court (2010)182 Cal. App. 4th 758(pdf) which is currently pending in the California Supreme Court.
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I received a copy of Petitioner Debra Coito’s Answering Brief on the Merits in the case of Coito v. Superior Court of the County of Stanislaus which is currently pending in the California Supreme Court. As you many of you are aware, Coito v. Superior Court (2010)182 Cal. App. 4th 758 refused to follow the 14-year old case Nacht & Lewis Architect, Inc. v. Superior Court (1996) 47 CA4th 214 stating that witness statements are not attorney work product. Below is Petitioner’s argument that the Court of Appeal correctly held that signed or recorded verbatim statements of independent witnesses are potential evidence.
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The California Supreme Court will uphold Coito v. Superior Court (2010)182 Cal. App. 4th 758(pdf). First of all, the basic purpose of the discovery is to take the “game element” out of trial preparation. See Weil and Brown Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2009) ¶8:1 citing Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court (1961) 56C2d 355, 376; Emerson Elec. Co. v. Superior Court(1997) 16 C4th 1101, 1107. Second, knowing whether or not there are witness statements is not protected under a document production as you would have to disclose the information in a privilege log, so why should it be different for interrogatories. Third, California has a work product statute–C.C.P. §2018.010 et seq.– which codifies California law which makes witnesses statements qualified work product. And, finally, C.C.P §2018.060 allows allows any party to request an in camera review of the documents, which the defendants in Coito v. Superior Court (2010)182 Cal. App. 4th 758(pdf). did not request. Do you agree?
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