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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Coito v. Superior Court: Cal. Supreme Court Rules On Witness Interviews and Work Product

The California Supreme Court yesterday issued its ruling in Coito v. Superior Court. In short, the Court held:
[R]ecorded witness statements are entitled as a matter of law to at least qualified work product protection. The witness statements may be entitled to absolute protection if [a party] can show that disclosure would reveal its “attorney's impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal research or theories.” (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 2018.030, subd. (a).) If not, then the items may be subject to discovery if [the opposing party] can show that “denial of discovery will unfairly prejudice [her] in preparing [her] claim . . . or will result in an injustice.” (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 2018.030, subd. (b).)
[T]he identity of witnesses from whom [a party's] counsel has obtained statements, we hold that such information is not automatically entitled as a matter of law to absolute or qualified work product protection. In order to invoke the privilege, [a party] must persuade the trial court that disclosure would reveal the attorney's tactics, impressions, or evaluation of the case (absolute privilege) or would result in opposing counsel taking undue advantage of the attorney's industry or efforts (qualified privilege).  
The opinion is available here.  

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