Sunday, December 22, 2013

United States v. Zolin case brief

United States v. Zolin case brief summary
491 U.S. 554 (1989)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Petitioner sought review of a judgment from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that in order to show that materials subject to petitioner's summons fell within the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege, petitioner was required to use evidence from sources independent of the attorney-client communications contained within the materials sought.

CASE FACTS
Petitioner sought review of a judgment holding that petitioner's evidence that summoned materials were not subject to attorney-client privilege because they fell within the crime-fraud exception, which had to come from sources independent of the attorney-client communications contained within the materials.

DISCUSSION

  • The court held protection of attorney-client communications ceased to operate where the desired advice related to a future wrongdoing. 
  • The court further held that in camera review could be used to determine whether allegedly privileged attorney-client communications fell within the crime-fraud exception. 
  • Before a district court engaged in in camera review at the request of a party opposing the privilege, that party had to present evidence sufficient to support a reasonable belief that in camera review would have yielded evidence that established the exception's applicability. 
  • The threshold showing to obtain in camera review could be met by using any relevant evidence, lawfully obtained, that had not been adjudicated to be privileged. 
  • Accordingly, the judgment was vacated and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

CONCLUSION
Judgment requiring petitioner to use independent evidence to show materials subject to summons fell within the crime-fraud exception of the attorney-client privilege was vacated because an in camera inspection, by a district court, of materials sought by petitioner could have been used to determine whether the exception applied, after petitioner made a showing sufficient to support a reasonable belief that the in camera review would be useful.

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