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Letter not covered by attorney-client privilege

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A Southern District magistrate judge has decided a letter between the city of Madison's mayor and city attorney isn't protected by attorney-client privilege in a civil action seeking damages over strip searches of three women.

Magistrate Judge William Hussmann Jr. ruled today that a cover letter from city attorney Robert Barlow II to Madison Mayor Albert G. Huntington isn't protected because it doesn't contain information covered under attorney-client privilege. The ruling came from an order granting plaintiffs' third motion to compel discovery. The plaintiffs, Kristy L. Lessley, Kara J. Rhodehamel, and Kayla M. Messer, filed suit against the city of Madison, Board of Public Works and Safety, the police department, and fire department in Lessley, et al. v. City of Madison, et al., No. 4:07-CV-136, claiming they were improperly strip searched following a traffic stop in January 2007.

The plaintiffs' motion sought a July 2007 cover letter written by Barlow, who also is a member of the city's Board of Public Works and Safety, which operates and manages the police and fire departments.

The issue facing the magistrate was whether Barlow could protect his communications to the mayor concerning the Board of Public Works' business by virtue of the attorney-client privilege. Although the scenario presents a difficult and interesting case for analysis, Magistrate Hussmann declined to make the analysis because this particular letter doesn't have information in it protected by the privilege.

The cover letter doesn't discuss any facts underlying the claims of the instant case, doesn't have any type of legal analysis of cases or statutes, and doesn't give advice to the mayor. The only opinion found in the letter deals with Barlow's opinion about the "tenor" of the letter and his impressions about the plaintiffs' attorney's motive in filing the claims.

As a result, the magistrate ordered the letter be produced within 15 days.

In November 2008, Magistrate Hussmann ordered sanctions against Madison, its Board of Public Works, and police and fire departments following their lack of response to court orders and obstructing discovery in the civil action. The defendants were required to respond to all outstanding discovery requests by Dec. 5, 2008, and pay a $1,000 fine, as well as attorney's fees to plaintiffs' counsel for filing the motions to compel.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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