Weinstein v. University of Connecticut
A court can reject a request to depose an in-house corporate attorney, even if the plaintiff alleges that the individual actually works as a human resources employee. Allegedly, the plaintiff assistant professor, Luke Weinstein, resisted changes to the University of Connecticut's innovation accelerator program, because he believed that proposed changes could violate laws that govern students' workers' compensation and wages. In July 2010, the plaintiff was not reappointed as the director of the innovation accelerator program. In May 2011, the plaintiff was not reappointed to teach entrepreneurship. The plaintiff sued the dean of the School of Business, P. Christopher Earley, and the university, alleging retaliation and violation of his rights to free speech. The plaintiff filed discovery requests for production. The defendants allegedly withheld 106 documents on the basis of attorney-client, attorney work product and deliberative process privileges. The plaintiff moved to compel and sought to depose Attorney Michael Eagen, who works for the University of Connecticut. Eagen's official title is labor and employment specialist in the Department of Human Resources. In 2012, he became director of UConn's Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations. UConn objected to the plaintiff's discovery requests and filed motions to quash and for a protective order. Attorney Eagen claimed that his work correspondence and notes are protected, because they describe his mental opinions and legal theories and were created so that he could furnish confidential legal counsel to UConn administrators and officials, or as work product in anticipation of litigation. The plaintiff objected that Eagen's communications were made in his capacity as a human resources employee. "[T]he line between business advice and legal advice is blurry," wrote the court, "when an attorney [works] in-house for a corporate client." It will be less burdensome to obtain this discovery from other, nonlawyer witnesses. The court granted UConn's motion for a protective order with respect to the plaintiff's request to depose Attorney Eagen. After an in camera inspection, the court granted the plaintiff's motion to compel the production of two documents that the defendants withheld on the basis of attorney-client, work product or the deliberative process privilege.