Legal Memorandum: Documents Protected by the Work Product Doctrine

Issue: Documents Protected by the Federal Work Product Doctrine.

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Work-product doctrine; Disclosure; Attorney's strategies and legal impressions
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 839 F.2d 958; 619 F.2d 222; 213 F. 3d 124; 94 S. Ct 1011; 709 F.2d 1109; 759 F.3d 312; 329 U.S. 495; 138 F.3d 978
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(3)
Date: 11/01/2005

The work product doctrine was first announced in Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495 (1947), and later codified in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(3).  It shields from disclosure those documents and other tangible objects that were prepared in anticipation of litigation either by or for another party, or by or for that party’s representative.  See Onwuka v. Federal Corp., 178 F.R.D. 508, 512 (D. Minn. 1997).  “The doctrine of work-product immunity ‘shelters the mental processes of the attorney, providing a privileged area within which he can analyze and prepare his client’s case.'”   Holmes v. Pension Plan of Bethlehem Steel Corp. & Subsidiary Cos., 213 F. 3d 124, 138 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting In re Grand Jury (Impounded), 138 F.3d 978, 981 (3d Cir. 1998)).  In Holmes the court reversed the district court’s holding that the work product doctrine applied.  Id. at 139. The district court had stated that it was “reasonable to conclude that the document would have not been prepared but for the prospect of litigation.”  Id.  The Holmes court stated that although the lower court’s conclusions may have been reasonable, “they were based on nothing more than assumptions.”  Id.  “The mere fact that the memorandum was prepared ‘in connection with’ Plaintiff Holmes’ claim to interest in his delayed benefits hardly establishes that it was prepared in anticipation of litigation.”  Id.

“The decision that a document is protected by the work product doctrine is not […]

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