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United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
August 25, 2003, Decided ; August 25, 2003, Filed
02 CIV. 7955 (DLC)
OPINION AND ORDER
DENISE COTE, District Judge:
Defendants bring a motion to compel production of sixteen documents for which plaintiff claims protection under the attorney-client or work product privileges. Fifteen of the documents are communications sent to a public relations consultant engaged by plaintiff's former counsel; the sixteenth was sent by the consultant to the attorney. The asserted attorney-client privilege cannot extend to a public relations consultant on the facts of this case. Defendants are unable, however, to overcome work product protection for these documents. The motion is denied.
Until her employment was terminated on May 9, 2002, plaintiff Sharon Haugh ("Haugh") was Chairman of defendant Schroder Investment Management North America, Inc. ("SIMNA"). At the time her employment ended, Haugh was presented with [*2] a draft press release and a separation agreement, which she refused to sign. In the weeks following, articles discussing her departure from SIMNA appeared in industry publications. Believing that her former employers had engaged in unlawful age discrimination, Haugh filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on June 26. After the EEOC issued a right to sue letter on September 23, Haugh commenced this action on October 7. In her complaint, Haugh alleges, inter alia, that defendants engaged in unlawful age discrimination in deciding to terminate her employment.
This motion concerns the involvement of Laura J. Murray ("Murray"), a public relations consultant who is also a lawyer licensed to practice in the state of Texas. Plaintiff's former counsel, Arkin Kaplan LLC ("Arkin"), retained Murray in September 2002, and sent Murray a formal retention letter on October 3, 2002. 1 The retention letter states that Murray will "provide us advice to assist us in providing legal services to Ms. Haugh." The letter provided that Murray would look only to Haugh for payment. It included the following statement regarding confidentiality: "You further understand that our [*3] communications with you are confidential and privileged."
According to the affidavit of Stanley S. Arkin, he hired Murray to help defend Haugh from further attacks in the media which he anticipated would occur once she filed her lawsuit. Mr. Arkin expected that Murray's role in the case "would include media strategy as it impacted on our litigation and the consequent support and handling of media communications." Mr. Arkin's affidavit identifies, as tasks performed by Murray, assisting in the preparation of a press release issued at the time this action was filed, participating in strategy sessions with Arkin and Haugh, reviewing materials sent by Haugh "for impact on our litigation strategy," advising Arkin as to possible "public reactions," handling media communications and preparing a "detailed agenda" for a meeting held with Arkin and Haugh "on one occasion." Mr. Arkin further affirms that "Murray attended meetings at my office with Ms. Haugh and lawyers [*4] at my firm. The purpose of these meetings was to discuss Ms. Haugh's claims and to develop a litigation and media strategy. . . ." Murray's affidavit largely echoes the statements made in the affidavit submitted by Mr. Arkin, although she notes that she "always considered the legal ramifications and potential adverse use of press releases." Murray affirms:
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14586 *; 92 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1043
SHARON HAUGH, Plaintiff, -v- SCHRODER INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT NORTH AMERICA INC., SCHRODERS PLC, SCHRODER INVESTMENTS (BERMUDA) LIMITED, SCHRODERS INC., and MICHAEL DOBSON, Defendants.
Subsequent History: Summary judgment granted, in part, summary judgment denied, in part by, Claim dismissed by Haugh v. Schroder Inv. Mgmt. N. Am. Inc., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15973 (S.D.N.Y., Sept. 15, 2003)
Prior History: Haugh v. Schroder Inv. Mgmt. N. Am., Inc., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7989 (S.D.N.Y., May 14, 2003)
Disposition: Defendants' motion to compel denied.
documents, public relations, communications, attorney-client, media, legal advice, consultant, preparing, press release, legal theory, discovery, mental impressions, work product, anticipation
Evidence, Privileges, Attorney-Client Privilege, Elements, Civil Procedure, Discovery, Privileged Communications, General Overview, Waiver, Burdens of Proof, Legal Ethics, Client Relations, Duties to Client, Duty of Confidentiality, Scope, Work Product Doctrine, Methods of Discovery, Inspection & Production Requests, Attorneys, Opinion Work Product