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Public Entities Can Assert Attorney Client Privilege

Public entities (the county Board of Commissioners and Sheriff's office) are entitled to assert the attorney-client privilege.

Documents prepared in anticipation of being sued under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act are protected by the work product doctrine in subsequent § 1983 litigation brought by prisoners, notwithstanding that defendants' object was to avoid being sued or to reach a settlement. By the time the court ruled, defendants had turned over most of the material, and the court doesn't find substantial need for the plaintiffs to get the rest of it, especially since most of it contains the mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, and legal theories of defendants' attorneys.

In response to plaintiffs' argument that defendants should not be able to resist discovery and then argue that they relied on the advice of counsel, the court says that defendants cannot use any of the protected documents at trial for any purpose, including evidence or refreshing a witness's recollection. See: Winton v. Board of Commissioners of Tulsa County, Okla., 188 F.R.D. 398 (N.D.Okla. 1999).

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Related legal case

Winton v. Board of Commissioners of Tulsa County, Okla.