eDiscovery Daily Blog

Rule 502(d) Orders for Non-Waiver of Privilege: eDiscovery Best Practices

Tomorrow, Tom O’Connor and I will discuss the various issues to consider and decisions to be made to help you meet your discovery obligations in an efficient and proportional manner when preparing for the Rule 26(f) conference in the webcast Holy****, The Case is Filed! What Do I Do Now? (noon CT, click here to register for the webcast or to get a link to access the slides and video afterward).  One of the topics relates to an order you can file to avoid non-waiver of privilege for inadvertent disclosures (click here and here for recent examples of cases where information was inadvertent disclosed).  If you missed it before, let’s revisit the topic now.

A couple of years ago, LegalTech New York (LTNY) had several judges’ panel sessions that included several notable judges, including Judge Andrew J. Peck.  In each of those sessions, you heard this question from Judge Peck at one point during the session.

“How many of you use Federal Rule of Evidence 502(d) non-waiver orders?  Or, if you’re inside counsel, (how many) instruct your outside counsel to do so?”

For those who don’t know, here is the text of FRCP Rule 502(d): “Controlling Effect of a Court Order. A federal court may order that the privilege or protection is not waived by disclosure connected with the litigation pending before the court — in which event the disclosure is also not a waiver in any other federal or state proceeding.”

In one of the sessions, Judge Peck discussed the significance of Rule 502(d), as follows: “it is a rule that says you don’t have to be careful, you don’t have to show that you’ve done a careful privilege screening, and it says that if the court enters a 502(d) order, it’s a non-waiver of privilege in that case and it’s a non-waiver of privilege in any subsequent state or federal case, even with different parties.”

While making it clear that “I’m never saying that you shouldn’t be as careful as possible to protect your client’s privilege”, Judge Peck related a story of one case where a firm had a potentially privileged group of documents and the associate was reviewing the documents late at night, creating two piles – one for privileged, one for not privileged – got up to get a drink, came back and got the piles mixed up, resulting in privileged documents being inadvertently produced.  Naturally, he said, the other side “didn’t just let them off the hook” about whether that waived the privilege or not and there were motions back and forth about it, which a 502(d) order would have eliminated.

With regard to any potential downsides to filing a 502(d) order, Judge Peck made it clear that “in my mind, there is no downside to having such an order”, noting that the only downside he has heard is that “if you’re before the wrong judge, the famous Neanderthal judge that everyone worries about, that judge might say that you need to produce all your documents next week and you don’t need to do a privilege review.”  But, he dismissed that as unlikely and, noted that it is “against the rules”.

Judge Peck doesn’t just advocate use of 502(d) orders, he has provided a sample order on his page in the Southern District of New York web site, noting that “it’s a simple two paragraph order – the first paragraph gives you the 502(d) protection to the fullest extent and the second paragraph essentially says that nothing in this order will serve to prevent you from doing a careful review for privilege, confidentiality or anything else.”  He acknowledged that he “stole that paragraph from a lawyer presenting at the Georgetown conference a few years ago”.

Judge Peck also mentioned The Sedona Conference Commentary on the Protection of Privileged ESI (released three years ago, it can be downloaded here), which not only includes his sample order, but another (longer) example as well.

So, what do you think?  Do you use 502(d) orders in your cases?  If not, why not?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.