MANHATTAN (CN) – Attorney-client privilege prevents prisoners who were strip-searched at the Erie County Jail from viewing e-mails from jail officials, the 2nd Circuit ruled.
Adam Pritchard and other prisoners involved in a class action against the sheriff of Erie County challenged a policy requiring every prisoner to undergo a strip search.
The district court ruled that the sheriff and other jail officials had waived attorney-client privilege to more than 10 e-mails, because the advice of counsel was placed in issue.
Judge Miner ruled that while privileged information may be relevant in a lawsuit, “a party must rely on privileged advice from counsel to make his claim or defense.”
“This is an objective, not a subjective test,” the judge added, “and reliance upon advice of counsel therefore cannot be used to support the defense of qualified immunity.”
Miner vacated the order to produce the e-mails and protected the confidentiality of the privileged communications.