Thursday, May 5, 2022
Ellen S. Podgor and Wilma Metcalf (Stetson University College of Law and Stetson University - College of Law) have posted 'The Fox Guarding the Henhouse:' Government Review of Attorney-Client Privileged Material in White Collar Cases (Boston University Law Review, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Government review of privileged material seized during law office searches or following the subpoena of an attorney to a grand jury, raise genuine concerns that implicate attorney-client privilege, work product doctrine, and ethical mandates of confidentiality. Currently, the review process may be through a Department of Justice taint or filter team, a court appointed special master, or a hybrid of these two approaches. When applied to high-profile cases such as Michael Avenatti, Rudy Giuliani, and Michael Cohen, one sees an inconsistent approach that is largely controlled by the government. Problems arise not only from this lack of uniformity, but also from certain inherent deficiencies in using a taint/filter team to review privileged material.
This Article offers a reconfiguration of this review process starting with the government’s initial decision to opt for a law office search as opposed to grand jury subpoenas duces tecum. It calls for an expansion of ethical mandates to increase the neutrality of this review process, as well as instituting procedures to ensure an independent review of privileged documents that does not compromise a defendant’s right to due process and right to effective assistance of counsel. Although fortifying the judicial role in reviewing privileged materials comes with certain costs, the aggregate benefits provide a more balanced judicial process.