2012 WI 114
Supreme Court of Wisconsin
This order is subject to further editing and modification. The final version will appear in the bound volume of the official reports.
In the matter of the petition to amend Wis. Stats. §§ 804.01, 805.07 and 905.03 relating to inadvertent disclosure of protected or privileged information.
NOV 1, 2012
Diane M. Fremgen
Clerk of Supreme Court
On February 20, 2012, the Wisconsin Judicial Council, by Attorney April Southwick, filed a petition asking the court to create Wis. Stat. §§ 804.01(7), 805.07(2)(d) and 905.03(5), and to amend Wis. Stat. § 804.01(2)(c). The proposed amendments are intended to resolve uncertainty in the courts about the effect of certain disclosures of communications or information protected by the lawyer–client privilege or as work product; specifically those disputes involving inadvertent disclosure and subject matter waiver.
The court scheduled and conducted a public hearing on the petition on September 19, 2012. At its ensuing open conference, the court discussed the petition and voted to adopt the petition with the addition of relevant federal advisory committee notes.
The Wisconsin Judicial Council filed an amended petition on October 21, 2012, quoting the actual text of those portions of the federal advisory committee notes and statement of congressional intent the Council believes are helpful in understanding the scope and purposes of the rules.
With regard to the applicability of the proposed rules, the Judicial Council recommended the rules apply to all proceedings commenced after the effective date of the rule and, insofar as is just and practicable, in all proceedings pending on the effective date. The court discussed this matter at its open administrative conference on October 31, 2012, and adopted the petition, as amended.
IT IS ORDERED that, effective January 1, 2013, the Wisconsin Statutes are amended as follows:
Section 1. 804.01 (2) (c) of the statutes is amended to read:
804.01 (2) (c) Trial preparation: materials. 1. Subject to par. (d) a party may obtain discovery of documents and tangible things otherwise discoverable under par. (a) and prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for another party or by or for that other party’s representative (including an attorney, consultant, surety, indemnitor, insurer, or agent) only upon a showing that the party seeking discovery has substantial need of the materials in the preparation of the case and that the party seeking discovery is unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the materials by other means. In ordering discovery of such materials when the required showing has been made, the court shall protect against disclosure of the mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories of an attorney or other representative of a party concerning the litigation. This protection is forfeited as to any material disclosed inadvertently in circumstances in which, if the material were a lawyer-client communication, the disclosure would constitute a forfeiture under s. 905.03(5). This protection is waived as to any material disclosed by the party or the party's representative if the disclosure is not inadvertent.
Section 2. The following Judicial Council Note to 804.01 (2) (c) of the statutes is created to read:
JUDICIAL COUNCIL NOTE
Sub. (2) (c) is amended to make explicit the effect of different kinds of disclosures of trial preparation materials. An inadvertent disclosure of trial preparation materials is akin to an inadvertent disclosure of a communication protected by the lawyer-client privilege. Whether such a disclosure results in a forfeiture of the protection is determined by the same standards set forth in Wis. Stat. § 905.03(5). A disclosure that is other than inadvertent is treated as a waiver. The distinction between "waiver" and "forfeiture" is discussed in cases such as State v. Ndina, 2009 WI 21, ¶¶28-31, 315 Wis. 2d 653.
Section 3. 804.01 (7) of the statutes is created to read:
804.01 (7) Recovering Information Inadvertently Disclosed. If information inadvertently produced in discovery is subject to a claim of privilege or of protection as trial preparation material, the party making the claim may notify any party that received the information of the claim and the basis for it. After being notified, a party must promptly return, sequester, or destroy the specified information and any copies it has; must not use or disclose the information until the claim is resolved; must take reasonable steps to retrieve the information if the party disclosed it before being notified; and may promptly present the information to the court under seal for a determination of the claim. The producing party must preserve the information until the claim is resolved.
Section 4. The following Judicial Council Note to 804.01 (7) of the statutes is created to read:
JUDICIAL COUNCIL NOTE
Sub. (7) is modeled on Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(5)(B), the so-called "clawback" provision of the federal rules. The following Committee Note of the federal Advisory Committee on Civil Rules regarding the 2006 Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (regarding discovery of electronically stored information) is instructive in understanding the scope and purpose of Wisconsin's version:
The Committee has repeatedly been advised that the risk of privilege waiver, and the work necessary to avoid it, add to the costs and delay of discovery. When the review is of electronically stored information, the risk of waiver, and the time and effort required to avoid it, can increase substantially because of the volume of electronically stored information and the difficulty in ensuring that all information to be produced has in fact been reviewed. Rule 26(b)(5)(A) provides a procedure for a party that has withheld information on the basis of privilege or protection as trial-preparation material to make the claim so that the requesting party can decide whether to contest the claim and the court can resolve the dispute. Rule 26(b)(5)(B) is added to provide a procedure for a party to assert a claim of privilege or trial-preparation material protection after information is produced in discovery in the action and, if the claim is contested, permit any party that received the information to present the matter to the court for resolution.
Rule 26(b)(5)(B) does not address whether the privilege or protection that is asserted after production was waived by the production. The courts have developed principles to determine whether, and under what circumstances, waiver results from inadvertent production of privileged or protected information. Rule 26(b)(5)(B) provides a procedure for presenting and addressing these issues. Rule 26(b)(5)(B) works in tandem with Rule 26(f), which is amended to direct the parties to discuss privilege issues in preparing their discovery plan, and which, with amended Rule 16(b), allows the parties to ask the court to include in an order any agreements the parties reach regarding issues of privilege or trial-preparation material protection. Agreements reached under Rule 26(f)(4) and orders including such agreements entered under Rule 16(b)(6) may be considered when a court determines whether a waiver has occurred. Such agreements and orders ordinarily control if they adopt procedures different from those in Rule 26(b)(5)(B).
A party asserting a claim of privilege or protection after production must give notice to the receiving party. That notice should be in writing unless the circumstances preclude it. Such circumstances could include the assertion of the claim during a deposition. The notice should be as specific as possible in identifying the information and stating the basis for the claim. Because the receiving party must decide whether to challenge the claim and may sequester the information and submit it to the court for a ruling on whether the claimed privilege or protection applies and whether it has been waived, the notice should be sufficiently detailed so as to enable the receiving party and the court to understand the basis for the claim and to determine whether waiver has occurred. Courts will continue to examine whether a claim of privilege or protection was made at a reasonable time when delay is part of the waiver determination under the governing law.
After receiving notice, each party that received the information must promptly return, sequester, or destroy the information and any copies it has. The option of sequestering or destroying the information is included in part because the receiving party may have incorporated the information in protected trial-preparation materials. No receiving party may use or disclose the information pending resolution of the privilege claim. The receiving party may present to the court the questions whether the information is privileged or protected as trial-preparation material, and whether the privilege or protection has been waived. If it does so, it must provide the court with the grounds for the privilege or protection specified in the producing party's notice, and serve all parties. In presenting the question, the party may use the content of the information only to the extent permitted by the applicable law of privilege, protection for trial-preparation material, and professional responsibility.
If a party disclosed the information to nonparties before receiving notice of a claim of privilege or protection as trial-preparation material, it must take reasonable steps to retrieve the information and to return it, sequester it until the claim is resolved, or destroy it.
Whether the information is returned or not, the producing party must preserve the information pending the court's ruling on whether the claim of privilege or of protection is properly asserted and whether it was waived. As with claims made under Rule 26(b)(5)(A), there may be no ruling if the other parties do not contest the claim.
Section 5. 805.07 (2) (d) of the statutes is created to read:
805.07 (2) (d) If information inadvertently produced in response to a subpoena is subject to a claim of privilege or of protection as trial preparation material, the party making the claim may notify any party that received the information of the claim and the basis for it. After being notified, a party must promptly return, sequester, or destroy the specified information and any copies it has; must not use or disclose the information until the claim is resolved; must take reasonable steps to retrieve the information if the party disclosed it before being notified; and may promptly present the information to the court under seal for a determination of the claim. The producing party must preserve the information until the claim is resolved.
Section 6. The following Judicial Council Note to 805.07 (2) (d) of the statutes is created to read:
JUDICIAL COUNCIL NOTE
Sub. (2) (d) is modeled on Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(d)(2)(B), which was amended in 2007 to adopt the wording of Rule 26(b)(5)(B), the so-called "clawback" provision of the federal rules.
Section 7. 905.03 (5) of the statutes is created to read:
905.03 (5) Forfeiture of Privilege. (a) Effect of inadvertent disclosure. A disclosure of a communication covered by the privilege, regardless of where the disclosure occurs, does not operate as a forfeiture if all of the following apply:
1. The disclosure is inadvertent.
2. The holder of the privilege or protection took reasonable steps to prevent disclosure.
3. The holder promptly took reasonable steps to rectify the error, including, if applicable, following the procedures in s. 804.01(7).
(b) Scope of forfeiture. A disclosure that constitutes a forfeiture under sub. (a) extends to an undisclosed communication only if all of the following apply:
1. The disclosure is not inadvertent.
2. The disclosed and undisclosed communications concern the same subject matter.
3. The disclosed and undisclosed communications ought in fairness to be considered together.
Section 8. The following Judicial Council Note to 905.03 (5) of the statutes is created to read:
JUDICIAL COUNCIL NOTE
Attorneys and those who work with them owe clients and their confidences the utmost respect. Preserving confidences is one of the profession’s highest duties. Arguably, strict rules about the consequences of disclosing confidences, even inadvertently, may serve to promote greater care in dealing with privileged information. However, precaution comes at a price. In the digital era, when information is stored, exchanged and produced in considerably greater volumes and in different formats than in earlier eras, thorough preproduction privilege review often can be prohibitively expensive. Most clients seek a balanced approach.
The various approaches available are discussed in the Advisory Committee Note and in Harold Sampson Children's Trust v. Linda Gale Sampson 1979 Trust, 2004 WI 57, ¶¶28-32, nn.15-17, 271 Wis. 2d 610. Sub. (5) represents an "intermediate" or "middle ground" approach, which is also an approach taken in a majority of jurisdictions. Clients and lawyers are free to negotiate more stringent precautions when circumstances warrant.
Sub. (5) is not intended to have the effect of overruling any holding in Sampson. Sampson holds that a lawyer's deliberate disclosure, without the consent or knowledge of the client, does not waive the lawyer-client privilege. Neither subpart of sub. (5) alters this rule. Sub. (5)(a) shields certain inadvertent disclosures but does not disturb existing law regarding deliberate disclosures. Deliberate disclosures might come into play under sub. (5)(b), which provides that, when a disclosure is not inadvertent, a privilege forfeiture under sub. (5)(a) may extend to undisclosed communications and information as well. However, such an extension ensues only when fairness warrants. Fairness does not warrant the surrender of additional privileged communications and information if the initial disclosure is neutralized by the Sampson rule.
In judging whether the holder of the privilege or protection took reasonable steps to prevent disclosure or to rectify the error, it is appropriate to consider the non-dispositive factors discussed in the Advisory Committee Note: (1) the reasonableness of precautions taken, (2) the time taken to rectify the error, (3) the scope of discovery, (4) the extent of disclosure, (5) the number of documents to be reviewed, (6) the time constraints for production, (7) whether reliable software tools were used to screen documents before production, (8) whether an efficient records management system was in place before litigation; and (9) any overriding issue of fairness.
Measuring the time taken to rectify an inadvertent disclosure should commence when the producing party first learns, or, with reasonable care, should have learned that a disclosure of protected information was made, rather than when the documents were produced. This standard encourages respect for the privilege without greatly increasing the cost of protecting the privilege.
In judging the fourth factor, which requires a court to determine the quantity of inadvertently produced documents, it is appropriate to consider, among other things, the number of documents produced and the percentage of privileged documents produced compared to the total production.
In assessing whether the software tools used to screen documents before production were reliable, it is appropriate, given current technology, to consider whether the producing party designed a search that would distinguish privileged documents from others to be produced and conducted assurance testing before production through methods commonly available and accepted at the time of the review and production.
Sub. (5) employs a distinction drawn lately between the terms "waiver" and "forfeiture." See State v. Ndina, 2009 WI 21, ¶¶28-31, 315 Wis. 2d 653.
Out of respect for principles of federalism and comity with other jurisdictions, sub. (5) does not conclusively resolve whether privileged communications inadvertently disclosed in proceedings in other jurisdictions may be used in Wisconsin proceedings; nor whether privileged communications inadvertently disclosed in Wisconsin proceedings may be used in proceedings in other jurisdictions. Sub. (5) states that it applies "regardless of where the disclosure occurs," but to the extent that the law of another jurisdiction controls the question, it is not trumped by sub. (5). The prospect for actual conflicts is minimized because sub. (5) is the same or similar to the rule applied in the majority of jurisdictions that have addressed this issue. If conflicts do arise, for example, because a rule dictates that a disclosure in a jurisdiction other than Wisconsin should be treated as a forfeiture in Wisconsin, or that a disclosure in Wisconsin should be treated as a forfeiture in a jurisdiction other than Wisconsin, a court should consider a choice-of-law analysis. See Beloit Liquidating Trust v. Grade, 2004 WI 39, ¶¶24-25, 270 Wis. 2d 356.
The language of sub. (5) also differs from the language of Rule 502 in a way that should not be considered material. Sub. (5) applies to a privileged "communication." Rule 502 applies to a privileged "communication or information." The reason for the difference is that sub. (5) is grafted onto sub. (2), which states the general rule regarding the lawyer-client privilege in terms of "communications" between lawyers and clients, not "communications and information." Sub. (5) follows suit. This different language is not intended to alter the scope of the lawyer-client privilege or to provide any less protection against inadvertent disclosure of privileged information than is provided by Rule 502.
Sub. (5) is modeled on subsections (a) and (b) of Fed. R. Evid. 502. The following excerpts from the Committee Note of the federal Advisory Committee on Evidence Rules (Revised 11/28/2007) and the Statement of Congressional Intent regarding Rule 502 are instructive, though not binding, in understanding the scope and purposes of those portions of Rule 502 that are borrowed here:
This new [federal] rule has two major purposes:
1) It resolves some longstanding disputes in the courts about the effect of certain disclosures of communications or information protected by the attorney-client privilege or as work product——specifically those disputes involving inadvertent disclosure and subject matter waiver.
2) It responds to the widespread complaint that litigation costs necessary to protect against waiver of attorney-client privilege or work product have become prohibitive due to the concern that any disclosure (however innocent or minimal) will operate as a subject matter waiver of all protected communications or information. This concern is especially troubling in cases involving electronic discovery. See, e.g., Hopson v. City of Baltimore, 232 F.R.D. 228, 244 (D. Md. 2005) (electronic discovery may encompass "millions of documents" and to insist upon "record-by-record pre-production privilege review, on pain of subject matter waiver, would impose upon parties costs of production that bear no proportionality to what is at stake in the litigation").
The rule seeks to provide a predictable, uniform set of standards under which parties can determine the consequences of a disclosure of a communication or information covered by the attorney-client privilege or work-product protection. Parties to litigation need to know, for example, that if they exchange privileged information pursuant to a confidentiality order, the court's order will be enforceable. Moreover, if a federal court's confidentiality order is not enforceable in a state court then the burdensome costs of privilege review and retention are unlikely to be reduced.
. . .
Subdivision (a). The rule provides that a voluntary disclosure in a federal proceeding or to a federal office or agency, if a waiver, generally results in a waiver only of the communication or information disclosed; a subject matter waiver (of either privilege or work product) is reserved for those unusual situations in which fairness requires a further disclosure of related, protected information, in order to prevent a selective and misleading presentation of evidence to the disadvantage of the adversary. See, e.g., In re United Mine Workers of America Employee Benefit Plans Litig., 159 F.R.D. 307, 312 (D.D.C. 1994) (waiver of work product limited to materials actually disclosed, because the party did not deliberately disclose documents in an attempt to gain a tactical advantage). Thus, subject matter waiver is limited to situations in which a party intentionally puts protected information into the litigation in a selective, misleading and unfair manner. It follows that an inadvertent disclosure of protected information can never result in a subject matter waiver. See Rule 502(b). The rule rejects the result in In re Sealed Case, 877 F.2d 976 (D.C. Cir. 1989), which held that inadvertent disclosure of documents during discovery automatically constituted a subject matter waiver.
The language concerning subject matter waiver——"ought in fairness"——is taken from Rule 106, because the animating principle is the same. Under both Rules, a party that makes a selective, misleading presentation that is unfair to the adversary opens itself to a more complete and accurate presentation.
To assure protection and predictability, the rule provides that if a disclosure is made at the federal level, the federal rule on subject matter waiver governs subsequent state court determinations on the scope of the waiver by that disclosure.
Subdivision (b). Courts are in conflict over whether an inadvertent disclosure of a communication or information protected as privileged or work product constitutes a waiver. A few courts find that a disclosure must be intentional to be a waiver. Most courts find a waiver only if the disclosing party acted carelessly in disclosing the communication or information and failed to request its return in a timely manner. And a few courts hold that any inadvertent disclosure of a communication or information protected under the attorney-client privilege or as work product constitutes a waiver without regard to the protections taken to avoid such a disclosure. See generally Hopson v. City of Baltimore, 232 F.R.D. 228 (D. Md. 2005), for a discussion of this case law.
The rule opts for the middle ground: inadvertent disclosure of protected communications or information in connection with a federal proceeding or to a federal office or agency does not constitute a waiver if the holder took reasonable steps to prevent disclosure and also promptly took reasonable steps to rectify the error. This position is in accord with the majority view on whether inadvertent disclosure is a waiver.
Cases such as Lois Sportswear, U.S.A., Inc. v. Levi Strauss & Co., 104 F.R.D. 103, 105 (S.D. N.Y. 1985) and Hartford Fire Ins. Co. v. Garvey, 109 F.R.D. 323, 332 (N.D. Cal. 1985), set out a multi-factor test for determining whether inadvertent disclosure is a waiver. The stated factors (none of which is dispositive) are the reasonableness of precautions taken, the time taken to rectify the error, the scope of discovery, the extent of disclosure and the overriding issue of fairness. The rule does not explicitly codify that test, because it is really a set of non-determinative guidelines that vary from case to case. The rule is flexible enough to accommodate any of those listed factors. Other considerations bearing on the reasonableness of a producing party's efforts include the number of documents to be reviewed and the time constraints for production. Depending on the circumstances, a party that uses advanced analytical software applications and linguistic tools in screening for privilege and work product may be found to have taken "reasonable steps" to prevent inadvertent disclosure. The implementation of an efficient system of records management before litigation may also be relevant.
The rule does not require the producing party to engage in a post-production review to determine whether any protected communication or information has been produced by mistake. But the rule does require the producing party to follow up on any obvious indications that a protected communication or information has been produced inadvertently.
The rule applies to inadvertent disclosures made to a federal office or agency, including but not limited to an office or agency that is acting in the course of its regulatory, investigative or enforcement authority. The consequences of waiver, and the concomitant costs of pre-production privilege review, can be as great with respect to disclosures to offices and agencies as they are in litigation.
STATEMENT OF CONGRESSIONAL INTENT REGARDING RULE 502 OF THE FEDERAL RULES OF EVIDENCE
During consideration of this rule in Congress, a number of questions were raised about the scope and contours of the effect of the proposed rule on current law regarding attorney-client privilege and work-product protection. These questions were ultimately answered satisfactorily, without need to revise the text of the rule as submitted to Congress by the Judicial Conference.
In general, these questions are answered by keeping in mind the limited though important purpose and focus of the rule. The rule addresses only the effect of disclosure, under specified circumstances, of a communication that is otherwise protected by attorney-client privilege, or of information that is protected by work-product protection, on whether the disclosure itself operates as a waiver of the privilege or protection for purposes of admissibility of evidence in a federal or state judicial or administrative proceeding. The rule does not alter the substantive law regarding attorney-client privilege or work-product protection in any other respect, including the burden on the party invoking the privilege (or protection) to prove that the particular information (or communication) qualifies for it. And it is not intended to alter the rules and practices governing use of information outside this evidentiary context.
Some of these questions are addressed more specifically below, in order to help further avoid uncertainty in the interpretation and application of the rule.
Subdivision (a)——Disclosure vs. Use
This subdivision does not alter the substantive law regarding when a party's strategic use in litigation of otherwise privileged information obliges that party to waive the privilege regarding other information concerning the same subject matter, so that the information being used can be fairly considered in context. One situation in which this issue arises, the assertion as a defense in patent-infringement litigation that a party was relying on advice of counsel, is discussed elsewhere in this Note. In this and similar situations, under subdivision (a)(1) the party using an attorney-client communication to its advantage in the litigation has, in so doing, intentionally waived the privilege as to other communications concerning the same subject matter, regardless of the circumstances in which the communication being so used was initially disclosed.
Subdivision (b)——Fairness Considerations
The standard set forth in this subdivision for determining whether a disclosure operates as a waiver of the privilege or protection is, as explained elsewhere in this Note, the majority rule in the federal courts. The majority rule has simply been distilled here into a standard designed to be predictable in its application. This distillation is not intended to foreclose notions of fairness from continuing to inform application of the standard in all aspects as appropriate in particular cases‑for example, as to whether steps taken to rectify an erroneous inadvertent disclosure were sufficiently prompt under subdivision (b)(3) where the receiving party has relied on the information disclosed.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Judicial Council Notes to Wis. Stat. § 804.01 (2) (c), 804.01 (7), 805.07 (2) (d), and 905.03 (5) are not adopted, but will be published and may be consulted for guidance in interpreting and applying the rule.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the amendments adopted pursuant to this order shall apply to all proceedings commenced after the effective date of this rule and, insofar as is just and practicable, in all proceedings pending on the effective date.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that notice of this amendment of the Wisconsin Statues be given by a single publication of a copy of this order in the official publications designated in SCR 80.01, including the official publishers' online databases, by the state bar of Wisconsin, and on the Wisconsin court system's web site.
Dated at Madison, Wisconsin, this 1st day of November, 2012.
BY THE COURT:
Diane M. Fremgen
Clerk of Supreme Court