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In re Bevill

argued: September 16, 1986.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey - Newark (D.C. Civil No. 85-1728) (D.C. Civil No. 85-2224)

Author: Seitz


SEITZ, Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises out of two related proceedings currently before the district court: the Chapter 11 reorganization of Bevill, Bresler & Schulman Asset Management Corporation (AMC), 11 U.S.C. § 1101, and the liquidation of Bevill, Bresler & Schulman, Inc. (BBS) under the Security Investor Protection Act (SIPA), 15 U.S.C. § 78aaa. Intervenors John D. Rooney and Robert L. Bevill, two principals of the corporations, appeal the order of the district court directing Gilbert Schulman, president of AMC, and Hellring, Lindeman, Goldstein, Siegal & Greenberg (Hellring, Lindeman), counsel for BBS, to respond to questions posed in depositions by the trustees to discover the substance of certain meetings that took place between the law firm and the principals of the corporations before the Chapter 11 petition was filed. Because Rooney and Bevill allege that the district court's order violates their attorney-client privilege, we have jurisdiction under In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 604 F.2d 798 (3d Cir. 1979) (FMC Corp.).


We turn first to the facts as narrated by the district court. Gilbert Schulman first became aware that AMC was in financial difficulties on March 19, 1985, when Robert Bevill telephoned him in Greece. After talking again with Bevill on the following day, Schulman, he was unable to obtain any information about AMC until he consulted with Hellring, Lindeman on March 25, 1985.

Between March 25, 1985 and April 7, 1985, Schulman met with Hellring, Lindeman almost daily. Other principals of BBS and AMC, including Bevill and Rooney, were present at some of these meetings.

When Schulman first met with Hellring, Lindeman, he explained that he was seeking both personal and corporate legal advice. In his deposition, he testified that with regard to the March 26th meeting:

I stated to Mr. Hellring and Mr. Goldstein that I had arranged for Mr. Bevill to come down and meet them and at that point I had said to them that "Possibly you will represent me, possibly you will represent Mr. Bevill and me, possibly you will represent the firms," but I was definitely seeking personal legal advice at that time.

On March 31, 1985, Hellring, Lindeman was retained to represent BBS. In addition, it continued to consider whether it would represent the principals of BBS. On April 4, 1985, Hellring, Lindeman informed the principals that they should obtain separate counsel.

On April 7, 1985, AMC filed a petition for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. A trustee was subsequently appointed by the district court. On April 8, the SEC filed a civil complaint in the district court alleging fraud against AMC, BBS, and the principals of the corporations, including appellants. In addition, the SEC began a criminal investigation, and there is currently a grand jury investigation into the affairs of the two corporations. On May 8, the district court placed BBS under a SIPA receivership and the SIPA trustee commenced a liquidation proceeding.

On May 13, 1985, the counsel for the AMC trustee began to depose Schulman. By the consent of the parties, this deposition was conducted as a joint proceeding in the AMC Chapter 11 proceeding, the BBS SIPA liquidation, and the SEC proceeding. The AMC trustee sought to depose Schulman as to the substantive communications between Hellring, Lindeman and the principals, and indicated that the trustee had waived AMC's attorney-client privilege. Schulman's counsel instructed Schulman not to answer the questions. Counsel for the other principals also instructed Schulman not to respond, asserting the existence of a joint defense privilege.

On May 21, 1985, the deposition of Schulman resumed, and the AMC trustee began questioning Schulman about the circumstances surrounding the meetings with counsel, including the dates of the meetings, who was present, and whether the discussions involved personal or corporate matters. Once again, counsel for the other principals objected on the grounds of a joint defense privilege.

The AMC and BBS trustees and the SEC subsequently filed motions with the district court for an order directing the principals and Hellring Lindeman to respond to a series of questions as to the circumstances surrounding the meetings. In opposition to these motions, Rooney filed an unsworn affirmation with the district court stating that he met with counsel for personal advice and with the expectation that the communications would be ...

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