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Kannan v. Apple Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

October 30, 2019

RAJA KANNAN, Plaintiff,
v.
APPLE INC., Defendant.

          ORDER RE DISCOVERY DISPUTE RE PLAINTIFF'S PRIVILEGE LOG RE: DKT. NO. 152

          VIRGINIA K. DEMARCHI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The parties ask the Court to resolve a dispute regarding the adequacy of plaintiff Raja Kannan's privilege log. Dkt. No. 152. The Court directed Mr. Kannan to submit the documents corresponding to entries #1-20 for in camera review. Dkt. No. 154. Mr. Kannan instead submitted the documents corresponding to entries #1-2, 4-15, 17-23, and 25.[1]

         For the following reasons, the Court concludes that Mr. Kannan has substantiated his claims of attorney-client privilege or work product protection as to the documents submitted for in camera review corresponding to entries #1-2, 4-15, 17-20, and his claim of spousal privilege in entries #21-23 and 25 in his October 16, 2019 privilege log. Mr. Kannan has not substantiated his claims of privilege or protection for entries #3 and 16.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Following this Court's prior order finding his privilege log inadequate, Mr. Kannan served an amended privilege log on October 16, 2019. See Dkt. No. 120 at 4-5; Dkt. No. 152, Ex. C. Mr. Kannan contends that he has properly asserted claims of privilege and work product protection by providing a privilege log that meets the requirements of Rule 26(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and that he should not be deemed to have waived any such privileges or protections. Apple contends that the privilege log does not meet the requirements of Rule 26(b)(5), and therefore Mr. Kannan has not adequately asserted any privileges or protections. In addition, the parties dispute Mr. Kannan's reliance on the work product doctrine with respect to certain materials that he prepared on his own in anticipation of litigation but without any direction or involvement of counsel.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The attorney-client privilege applies only where the communication concerns legal advice sought from an attorney in his or her capacity as a professional legal advisor, and where the communication is made in confidence, is intended to be maintained in confidence by the client, and is not disclosed or waived. United States v. Martin, 278 F.3d 988, 999-1000 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing 8 John H. Wigmore, Evidence § 2292, at 554 (McNaughton rev. 1961)). The privilege protects confidential disclosures made by a client to an attorney in order to obtain legal advice, as well as an attorney's advice in response to such disclosures. United States v. Ruehle, 583 F.3d 600, 607 (9th Cir. 2009) (citations and quotations omitted). However, not all communications with an attorney are privileged. Id. Because it impedes full and free discovery of the truth, the attorney-client privilege is strictly construed. Id.

         The party claiming the privilege has the burden to establish that it applies. Martin, 278 F.3d at 999-1000. In particular, a party asserting privilege must “describe the nature of the documents . . . in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, will enable other parties to assess the claim.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5)(A); see also Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for Dist. of Mont., 408 F.3d 1142, 1148 (9th Cir. 2005) (explaining that a party claiming privilege must “provide sufficient information to enable other parties to evaluate the applicability of the claimed privilege or protection.”). Typically, this is done using a privilege log that identifies “(a) the attorney and client involved, (b) the nature of the document, (c) all persons or entities shown on the document to have received or sent the document, (d) all persons or entities known to have been furnished the document or informed of its substance, and (e) the date the document was generated, prepared, or dated.” In re Grand Jury Investigation, 974 F.2d 1068, 1071 (9th Cir. 1992). However, a party may substantiate a claim of privilege by other means. Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., 306 F.R.D. 234, 237 (N.D. Cal. 2015) (“Briefs, declarations or other proof may establish the purpose of the communication or the specific role of the sender and each individual recipient.”).

         The work product doctrine protects from discovery materials that are prepared by or for a party or its representative in anticipation of litigation. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(3)). Typically, the doctrine provides qualified protection against discovery of the legal strategies and mental impressions of a party's counsel. Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 508-10 (1947); Upjohn Co. v. United States, 449 U.S. 383, 390-91 (1981). However, Rule 26(b)(3) extends the qualified work product protection to materials “prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for another party or its representative . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(3) (emphases added); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(3) advisory committee note to 1970 amendment; 8 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Richard L. Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2024 (3d ed.) (“The 1970 amendment also extended the work product protection to documents and things prepared for litigation or trial by or for the adverse party itself or its agent. Prior to the adoption of Rule 26(b)(3), some cases had held that documents of this kind were not within the immunity, but the protection exists under the rule.”). Although courts regarding whether or to what extent the protection extends to materials prepared by a pro so litigant, compare McKenzie v. McNeil, No. 4:11CV45-RH/WCS, 2012 WL 695108, at *1 (N.D. Fla. Mar. 1, 2012) (expressing skepticism about the extent to which a pro se plaintiff may assert work product protection) with Dessault Systemes v. Childress, No. 09-10534, 2013 WL 12181774, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 22, 2013) (acknowledging pro se litigant's right to assert work product protection), this Court concludes that a party may assert work product protection regardless of whether he is represented by counsel, so long as the assertion meets the requirements of Rule 26(b)(3).

         The work product doctrine does not protect facts from disclosure. See, e.g., O'Toole v. City of Antioch, No. 11 CV 01502 PJH MEJ, 2015 WL 1848134, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 14, 2015); Hamilton v. RadioShack Corp., No. C 11-00888 LB, 2012 WL 2327191, at *4-5 (N.D. Cal. June 18, 2012). The party asserting the protections of the doctrine bears the burden of showing that the documents at issue qualify for protection. Holmgren v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 976 F.2d 573, 577 (9th Cir. 1992). As with claims of attorney-client privilege, the party asserting work product protection must party “describe the nature of the documents . . . in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, will enable other parties to assess the claim.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5)(A).

         The “marital communications” privilege protects private, confidential communications between spouses. United States v. Montgomery, 384 F.3d 1050, 1056 (9th Cir. 2004). The privilege must be construed narrowly. Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Presumably, Mr. Kannan has provided for in camera review all of the responsive documents he is withholding on grounds of privilege: 22 documents. His privilege log, however, is not document-specific. For example, Exhibit 1 submitted in camera is an email exchange between Mr. Kannan and one prospective counsel dated October 12-13, 2016. This exhibit is presented in camera as corresponding to entry #1 in Mr. Kannan's privilege log, which reads:

date

author

recipient

description

privilege

2015 approx. November through August 2018

R Kannan

Specific potential attorneys who would possibly represent Kannan

Communications with specific attorneys concerning potential representation of Kannan and/or consulting on legal issues involved in this litigation. These communications, to the extent now known, to Plaintiff, are individually listed below. Failure to list is not a waiver as to any item which may fall in this category. Not saved to Apple laptop.

Attorney client privilege, work product


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