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Brannock Humphries & Berman Notches Win in Dispute Over Attorney-Client Privilege

For the second time in an ongoing tortious interference lawsuit involving a former member of a Collier County charter school’s board of directors, Brannock Humphries & Berman defeated a bid to get the appellate court to intervene.

The lawsuit arises from complaints about the school made by the former director. The complaints, which the school vigorously disputed, were partially directed to the Collier County School District, whose general counsel spearheaded an investigation and issued a report that was made public. After the school sued the director, it sought as part of the routine litigation discovery process to depose two District employees who had participated in the investigation.

During the first deposition, the school’s lawyer asked the employee what she had discussed about the school with the District’s general counsel. The District objected to that question and asserted the attorney-client privilege. The trial court ultimately rejected the claimed privilege, and the District challenged that ruling in a petition for certiorari relief in the Second District Court of Appeal.

After briefing and oral argument, the Second District issued a written opinion rejecting the petition. The appellate court agreed with the position argued by Brannock Humphries & Berman, on behalf of the school, that the privilege did not apply because neither employee had consulted the general counsel to obtain legal services. Their conversations had, instead, been part of the District’s fact-finding investigation, a topic not covered by the attorney-client privilege.

Like its win in the first appellate proceeding, which upheld the trial court’s denial of a motion to dismiss, Brannock Humphries & Berman’s win in this second proceeding will allow the school to fully develop its case in the trial court.