Adversaries often challenge each other’s privilege calls in the thick of litigation, and sometimes those challenges are elevated to a court’s in camera review. In Governo Law Firm LLC v. CMBG3 Law LLC, et al., Judge Salinger, sitting in the Massachusetts Business Litigation Session, ruled that the attorney-client privilege protected from production a confidential email from the defendants to their counsel “seeking feedback on a draft press release . . . embedded in the text of the email.”
After reviewing the email in camera, Judge Salinger ruled that “it is evident that this defendant sent this confidential communication to counsel in order to elicit legal advice as to whether issuing a press release in this form could create any legal exposure for the Defendants.” Although the communication “does not contain legal advice,” “that does not matter,” explained Judge Salinger. “Any confidential communication between attorney and client, in either direction, is privileged if it [is] made for the purpose of obtaining or giving legal advice—whether the communication conveys legal advice or not.”
It was another eventful year at the BLS, which included Judge Green replacing Judge Kaplan in the BLS1. As 2020 concludes, check out our top five widely read posts:
- Facebook Ordered to Turn Over Internal Investigation Documents to Massachusetts Attorney General: Judge Davis of the BLS ordered Facebook to produce documents to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (AG). The AG obtained the order while investigating Facebook’s policies and protections related to user data.
- Community Health Systems Affiliate Found Subject to Personal Jurisdiction in Massachusetts: In Steward Health Care System v. CHSPSC, Judge Sanders found that CHSPSC, an affiliate of Community Health Systems (CHS), is subject to personal jurisdiction in Massachusetts for claims made under transition-services agreement (TSAs) signed along with an asset-purchase agreement (APA).
- lululemon’s Motion to Dismiss Eviction Case Denied: In CWB Retail Limited Partnership v. Lululemon USA, Inc., lululemon moved to dismiss a summary-process action brought by its landlord, CWB Retail Limited Partnership.
- Comcast Prevails in Dispute over Interpretation of Commercial Lease: Maynard Industrial Properties Associates Trust (MIPA), a commercial landlord, sued Comcast of Massachusetts III, Inc. (Comcast). The dispute focused on the amount Comcast would owe under an extension of the amended lease.
- John J. Donovan Loses Again: Court Rules that Award in Derivative Action be Distributed Based on Shareholders’ Investment to Avoid Windfall to Disloyal Fiduciary: In Brining v. Donovan, the latest blow to former MIT business professor, John J. Donovan, Judge Davis held that shareholders in Donovan’s failed internet start-up, SendItLater (SIL), could recover more than $700,000 in attorneys’ fees in addition to a December 2019 award of $1.57 million in damages.
As we previously blogged, Facebook and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (AG) are embroiled in a dispute over documents. After Facebook refused to produce certain information created in the course of its “App Developer Investigation,” the AG filed a petition in the BLS to compel Facebook’s compliance with her civil-investigative demand. Facebook opposed the petition, claiming that the sought-after information was work product and protected by the attorney-client privilege. Judge Davis rejected Facebook’s arguments, ordering Facebook to produce documents within 90 days of his order.
After Judge Davis handed down his order, Facebook filed a notice of appeal and moved for a stay pending appeal. The AG opposed the stay. Judge Davis denied the motion.
Judge Davis grounds his denial on two main points.
First, according to Judge Davis, the automatic-stay provision of Mass. R. Civ. P. 62(a) does not apply to the court’s prior order compelling production of documents. That prior order, Judge Davis wrote, “is most appropriately viewed as ‘an interlocutory or final judgment in an action for an injunction,’ which does not qualify for an automatic stay under Rule 62(a).”
Second, Facebook failed to convince Judge Davis that he should exercise his discretion to stay the prior order.
Recognizing that this Judge represents a difficult audience to convince that the [prior order] is erroneous, the Court—viewing the question as objectively as it reasonably can—sees nothing in Facebook’s motion papers which lead it to believe that Facebook’s pending appeal is likely to prevail. The arguments that Facebook intends to pursue on appeal all were considered and rejected by this Court . . . . The Appeals Court may see it otherwise, but this Court remains of the humble opinion that [its prior order] was correctly decided and is likely to be affirmed—rather than overturned—on appeal. For this reason alone, the Court, acting within its discretion, chooses to deny Facebook’s request for a stay of the [prior order].
The Business Litigation Session of the Massachusetts Superior Court
Docket Number: 1984CV02597-BLS1
Case Name: Attorney General v. Facebook, Inc.
Dates of Decision: March 2, 2020
Judge: Brian A. Davis
Judge Davis of the BLS ordered Facebook to produce documents to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (AG). The AG obtained the order while investigating Facebook’s policies and protections related to user data. The AG’s decision to investigate Facebook was prompted, in part, by media reports about Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook user information, including private data associated with millions of Facebook users residing in Massachusetts.
During discovery, plaintiff America’s Test Kitchen moved to compel production of documents withheld under a claim of attorney-client privilege. The defendants had withheld certain communications with an outside consultant to their business – CPK Media, LLC – regarding legal advice sought by the LLC.
In Mooney v. Diversified Business Comms., Judge Sanders addressed a number of discovery issues, including the relevance of requested documents, the redaction of non-relevant information in responsive documents, and privilege. The most notable—an issue of first impression in Massachusetts—was whether a former officer suing his old company could discover privileged communications that occurred when he had been employed with the company.