Behunin v. Superior Court

Attorney-client privilege does not shield communications among plaintiff, his attorney, and a third party public relations firm whom plaintiff hired to smear defendants in an attempt to induce a favorable settlement.  Steiner represented Behunin in litigation Behunin brought against Charles and Michael Schwab.  To pressure the Schwabs to settle the litigation, Steiner hired Levick Strategic Communications, a public relations firm, and it created a website that accused the Schwabs of being in cohoots with deposed Indonesian dictator Suharto.  The Schwabs then sued for defamation and in response to Behunin’s and Levick’s Anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss sought discovery of Behunin’s and Steiner’s communications with Levick.  This decision holds that those communications were not attorney-client privileged under Evid. Code 912(d) since Behunin failed to show that the communications with Levick were reasonably necessary to achieve the purposes for which he consulted Steiner.  Merely the involvement in creating settlement pressure was insufficient for that purpose.

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 7 (Segal, J.); March 14, 2017; 2017 WL 977095

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