Law Firm Must Surrender Client E-Mails Shared With ‘Lay Adviser,’ Judge Says

From the November issue of the New Jersey Law Journal: "A Morristown, N.J., law firm will have to turn over client e-mails in a federal court battle between a former client and his ex-employer, as a judge has rejected the firm’s assertions of privilege.

The messages were exchanged among Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti, its former client, Warren Tobin of New Zealand, and Matthew Young, a "lay adviser" to Tobin in a related New Zealand proceeding.

Tobin and Young are defendants in Stayinfront Inc. v. Tobin, 05-Civ.-4563, in which U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler held on Nov. 3 that there was no attorney-client privilege protection for the e-mails because the privilege had been waived by sharing the messages with Young.

Work-product privilege was also unavailable. Chesler found the defendants’ "recalcitrance, willful noncompliance and disregard for the rules and authority of this Court" constituted exceptional circumstances that justified piercing the privilege to compel production."

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