Brief Fact Summary.
Carpenter sued his former employer for wrongful termination. During discovery, he sought to compel production of certain information related to a meeting held between him and Mohawk’s counsel that also pertained to another case, in which Mohawk was also the defendant, involving allegations related to the employment of undocumented immigrants. Mohawk claim that the information sought was protected by the attorney-client privilege. The district court granted Carpenter’s motion to compel discovery. The Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal filed by Mohawk and rejected a mandamus petition.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The collateral order doctrine does not extend to disclosure orders adverse to the attorney-client privilege.
And they encroach upon the prerogatives of district court judges, who play a special role in managing ongoing litigation.View Full Point of Law
Carpenter sued his former employer in federal district court, alleging wrongful termination in violation of state and federal laws. During discovery, Carpenter moved to compel production of certain information related to a meeting held between him and Mohawk’s counsel that also pertained to another case in which Mohawk was the defendant. That case involved allegations that Mohawk conspired in an effort to drive down wages of its legal employees by knowingly hiring undocumented workers. Mohawk claimed that the information sought was protected by the attorney-client privilege. The district court agreed but held that Mohawk waived the privilege, and granted Carpenter’s motion to compel discovery. The Court of Appeals dismissed Mohawk’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction, and rejected its mandamus petition.
Do disclosure orders adverse to the attorney-client privilege qualify for immediate appeal under the collateral order doctrine?
No. Post-judgment appeals and other review mechanisms provide sufficient protections for litigants and sufficient preservation of the attorney-client privilege.
Justice Thomas argued that the value judgments in the Court’s decision should be left to the “rulemaking process” by Congress; the Court’s ability to “subordinate what the appellate jurisdiction statute says to what the Court thinks is a good idea” should be limited.
The Court reasoned that post-judgment appeals would generally suffice to protect the rights of litigants and ensure the vitality of the attorney-client privilege; the collateral order doctrine did not apply to provide for a right of immediate appeal in this case.