Brief Fact Summary. Attorney Mendel was found in contempt for failing to answer several deposition questions. She responded by claiming that she was privileged from answering based on attorney-client privilege, the attorney work product doctrine, and a lack of relevancy.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The attorney-client privilege prevents the disclosure of confidential communications made for the purpose of facilitating the rendition of professional legal services. The attorney work product doctrine prevents the disclosure of documents that contain the mental impressions, conclusions, opinions or legal theories of the litigating attorney.
Issue. Did the court err in finding Mendel in contempt for failing to answer five questions in discovery?
Held. The court abused its discretion because the information was protected by attorney-client privilege, the attorney work product doctrine, and a lack of relevancy.
The questions were: 1) Did you ever receive phone calls from Laura Bock or to Laura Bock in which she gave you authority to proceed on behalf of her in federal court. Mendel refused to answer questions regarding the content of any of her conversations and asserted that the question had no relevance to the litigation. 2) What words did Carolyn Johnson speak that led you to believe she was Laura Bock’s representative? Mendel refused to answer this question based on attorney-client privilege and relevancy. 3) Once you learned that you might have an opportunity to talk to [a Representative of] Street Stories, [a CBS television show] did you obtain authority from Laura Bock to speak to the news media in New York. Mendel argued that her answer was protected by attorney-client privilege and was irrelevant. 4) State the names of any people reflected on the billing record with whom you’ve had conversations concerning this matter, excluding Carolyn Johnson and Laura Bock. Mendel did n
ot answer this question based on attorney-client privilege and the attorney work product doctrine. 5) Produce [ ].