Brief Fact Summary. Petitioner, Hickman, sought discovery of statements or interrogatories made to Respondent Taylor’s counsel. Respondent objected to the request as an attempt to receive privileged information.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The work product of an attorney, particularly opposing counsel’s thoughts and impressions of witnesses or information relating to the claims, is not discoverable.
The general policy against invading the privacy of an attorney's course of preparation is so well recognized and so essential to an orderly working of our system of legal procedure that a burden rests on the one who would invade that privacy to establish adequate reasons to justify production through a subpoena or court order.View Full Point of Law
Issue. The issue is whether Petitioner can discover the statements and work product of opposing counsel.
Held. The United States Supreme Court held that the work product of opposing counsel is not discoverable. If the witnesses or information is available for the opposing side, then they are not prejudiced and can not demand the work product of opposing counsel. And the thoughts, impressions and strategic material of an attorney is never discoverable.
Concurrence. The dissent emphasizes that the U.S. court system is an adversarial system, and it is important to keep the system intact to ensure a “battle of wits.” By handing over their work product, attorneys would not be able to keep the system as it currently stands.
Discussion. The U.S. court system is adversarial, and it would discourage attorneys to write down or do anything that would threaten their ability to represent their client adequately. There is a very significant public policy concern at issue, and the court declines to change the status quo to help a party avoid legwork to collect information from witnesses.