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Sporck v. Peil

April 18, 1985


Petition for Writ of Mandamus.

Seitz, Adams, and Hunter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Hunter


HUNTER, Circuit Judge

1. This case arises on a Petition for Writ of Mandamus involving a discovery dispute between the parties to a securities fraud class action suit. The underlying action involves an allegation by plaintiff-respondent Raymond K. Peil that defendant National Semiconductor Corporation ("NSC"), defendant-petitioner Charles F. Sporck, NSC's president, and defendant Peter J. Sprague, NSC's chairman, conspired to inflate artificially the value of NSC stock, in order to enable Sporck and Sprague to sell their own shares at the inflated level. The wrongful conduct alleged includes various misrepresentations and nondisclosures of material facts during an eight-month period continuing from July 1, 1976, until March 1, 1977. Jurisdiction in this court is based on the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a) (1982).

2. During pretrial discovery, attorneys for Peil served numerous sets of combined interrogatory and document requests on defendants. In response, defendants produced hundreds of thousands of documents, from which Peil's attorneys selected more than 100,000 for copying. There is no allegation in this case that defendants have improperly concealed or refused to produce requested documents.

3. The issue presently before this court arose on May 16, 1983, at the deposition of defendant-petitioner Sporck. Prior to the deposition, counsel for defendants had prepared Sporck for his expected week-long deposition by showing him an unknown quantity of the numerous documents produced by defendants in response to plaintiff's discovery requests. Defense counsel selected and compiled these documents in a folder in Philadelphia, and transported them to California solely for the deposition. According to defense counsel, the selected documents represented, as a group, counsel's legal opinion as to the evidence relevant both to the allegations in the case and the possible legal defenses. It is conceded that none of the individual documents, in their redacted form, contained work product of defense counsel.

4. At the inception of the Sporck deposition, Peil's attorney asked: "Mr. Sporck, in preparation for this deposition, did you have occasion to examine any documents?" (Petition, Exhibit A at 9). Sporck answered affirmatively, and Peil's attorney first orally, and then by written motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34, requested identification and production of "[a]ll documents examined, reviewed or referred to by Charles E. Sporck in preparation for the session of his deposition commencing May 16, 1983." (Petition, Exhibit B). Defense counsel refused to identify the documents, arguing first that all the documents had previously been produced, and second, that the select grouping of the documents was attorney work product protected from discovery by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(3). Defense counsel agreed, however, to allow Peil's counsel to ask Sporck about his reliance on individual documents in the context of specific factual questions, and Sporck's deposition continued on this basis.

5. Peil filed a motion to compel identification and production of the selected documents, on the ground that all documents used in preparing a witness for a deposition are properly discoverable under Federal Rule of Evidence 612. (Petition, Exhibit D). By order of August 22, 1984, Judge John B. Hannum granted Peil's motion, and ordered that defendant produce or identify all documents reviewed by Sporck in preparation for his deposition. (Petition, Exhibit E). Upon petitioner's motion for reconsideration, Judge Hannum reaffirmed his order, holding that although the select grouping of documents constituted attorney work product, it was not "opinion" work product entitled to absolute protection, and that the principles behind Federal Rule of Evidence 612 supported Peil's claim to identification of the documents. (Petition, Exhibit F). Sporck now asks this court to issue a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate both orders.*fn1


6. The remedy of mandamus is properly invoked only in extraordinary situations and where "necessary or appropriate in aid of [appellate] jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a) (1982); see, e.g., Allied Chemical Corp. v. Daiflon, Inc., 449 U.S. 33, 34, 66 L. Ed. 2d 193, 101 S. Ct. 188 (1980). In order to ensure that a writ of mandamus will issue only in limited circumstances, the Supreme Court has required that "a party seeking issuance have no other adequate means to attain the relief he desires," id. at 35, and that the petitioner satisfy the "burden of showing that [his] right to issuance of the writ is 'clear and indisputable.'" Bankers Life & Casualty Co. v. Holland, 346 U.S. 379, 384, 98 L. Ed. 106, 74 S. Ct. 145 (1953). Further, because "[w]here a matter is committed to discretion, it cannot be said that a litigant's right to a particular result is 'clear and indisputable,'" a writ of mandamus will only be granted for clear error of law. Allied Chemical Corp. v. Daiflon, Inc., 449 U.S. 33, 36, 66 L. Ed. 2d 193, 101 S. Ct. 188 (1980).

7. In the case before us, petitioner has established that the issue in dispute "may at some future time come within the court's appellate jurisdiction,"*fn2 that post-trial relief would be inadequate because the harm caused by identifying the selected documents would be irreparable,*fn3 and that he has no other adequate means to obtain the relief sought other than by writ of mandamus.*fn4 Further, we believe that review of the issue presented in this case "would comport with the instructional goals of mandamus." United States v. Christian, 660 F.2d 892, 897 (3d Cir. 1981). Because petitioner raises an issue new to this court and discussed in only a few reported district court decisions,*fn5 review by mandamus, if otherwise appropriate, is consistent with the court's supervisory function. See, e.g., Schlagenhauf v. Holder, 379 U.S. 104, 13 L. Ed. 2d 152, 85 S. Ct. 234 (1964); Bogosian v . Gulf Oil Corp., 738 F.2d 587, 591-92 (3d Cir. 1984).

8. The question remains, however, whether petitioner's right to immediate relief by writ of mandamus is "clear and indisputable" because of clear error of the law by the trial court. Although discovery orders are normally committed to the discretion of the trial court, see, e.g., DeMasi v. Weiss, 669 F.2d 114, 122 (3d Cir. 1982), petitioner argues that the trial court's failure to protect defense counsel's work product from discovery as mandated by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(3) constituted clear error of law. Respondent argues, however, that the trial court correctly ordered the identification of the documents used to prepare petitioner for his deposition, either under a theory of waiver of work product immunity, or through a balance of the respective policies of Federal Rule of Evidence 612 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(3). Because we find neither a ...

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