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In re Grand Jury (Impounded)

March 13, 1998

IN RE: GRAND JURY (IMPOUNDED)


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware (D.C. Misc. No. 97-00020) Argued February 11, 1998

Before: Greenberg, Nygaard, and Mckee, Circuit Judges

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Greenberg, Circuit Judge.

(Filed: March 13, 1998)

OPINION OF THE COURT

I. JURISDICTION

Thomas J. Capano appeals from an order entered in the district court on June 27, 1997, holding that he waived the attorney work product privilege with respect to certain documents he created which the United States seized from a third party pursuant to a subpoena.*fn1 The district court had jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3231, and we have jurisdiction to review the order of the district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Cf. In re Grand Jury, 111 F.3d 1066, 1073-77 (3d Cir. 1997) (holding that a denial of an order to quash a subpoena not directed to a movant was a final order if the movant had no further opportunity to challenge the subpoena).

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In July 1996, the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") and a federal grand jury in Delaware began a kidnaping investigation into the disappearance of Anne Marie Fahey, who last was seen alive on June 27, 1996. Capano became the major target of these investigations. At the time of Fahey's disappearance, Capano, who is an attorney, was a partner in the Wilmington office of the Saul, Ewing, Remick & Saul law firm ("Saul Ewing"), a position he held until his resignation on May 31, 1997.

On June 30, 1996, Capano retained attorneys after police officers notified him that they considered him a suspect in Fahey's disappearance. One of Capano's attorneys, Charles M. Oberly, III, directed him to prepare "a time-line of everything he could remember concerning his whereabouts on June 27, 1996 and immediately thereafter," and to "write down his thoughts and notes, as he remembered them, of anything he could recall about his relationship with Ms. Fahey." App. at 42. Following his attorney's instructions, Capano created a time-line and wrote down other notes regarding his relationship with Fahey and placed them in a legal file.

Capano then put the file on a bookshelf in the office adjacent to his own office at Saul Ewing occupied by of one of his law partners, Timothy A. Frey, because he was concerned that there could be an unauthorized search of his own office leading to an unauthorized seizure of the file. Initially Frey was unaware that Capano placed thefile in his office; however, in August or September of 1996, Capano informed Frey about the location of the file. Within the next month, Frey found the file in his office, read it, and returned it to its prior location on his bookshelf.

The file remained in Frey's office until the United States seized it on November 4, 1996. On that day, Assistant United States Attorney Colm F. Connolly telephoned Frey to inform him that an FBI agent would serve him with a grand jury subpoena for Capano's file. Frey then re-examined the file and determined that it was the same file he had examined previously. Connolly also telephoned the chairman of Saul Ewing, J. Clayton Undercofler, to notify him about the subpoena. Undercofler expressed a concern that the production of the file might reveal information relating to the law firm's representation of its clients. Connolly and Undercofler then agreed that thefile would be produced under seal, and that the law firm would have an opportunity to screen the file for any confidential information.

After these phone calls, FBI Special Agent Kevin Shannon arrived at Frey's office and served the subpoena. The file was placed in an envelope, sealed, and delivered to Assistant United States Attorney Patricia Hannigan, who had been "walled off " from the investigation to avoid any possibility of taint. On November 5, 1996, Hannigan met with Undercofler and Saul Ewing's executive partner, Frederick D. Strober. After unsealing the envelope, the two attorneys from Saul Ewing examined the file and

determined that it did not contain any information relating to the law firm's representation of its clients. Hannigan then examined the file and determined that nothing in it arguably was privileged or protected. She then made a copy of the file which she gave to Connolly. She, however, retained the original file.

Although the parties dispute exactly when Capano learned of the seizure, they agree that Capano and his attorneys did not know that the government intended to seize the file prior to the service of the subpoena and that they were informed of the seizure only after it had occurred. Capano asserts that his attorney first learned of the disclosure on November 6, 1996, two days after the seizure. See br. at 27. In any event, on November 12, 1996, one of Capano's attorneys, Bartholomew J. Dalton, sent a letter to the United States Attorney advising the government that the file contained privileged information. The United States, through Connolly, responded on November 26, 1996, by telephone and informed Dalton that the United States did not believe ...


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