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In re County of Erie

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
473 F.3d 413 (2d Cir. 2007)


Facts

The Erie County Sheriff’s Office had a written policy of subjecting every detainee who entered the county holding center or correctional facility to an invasive strip search, regardless of individualized suspicion or the offense alleged. Three detainees brought a civil-rights class action against the county and its officials (defendants) asserting the policy violated the Fourth Amendment. The county withheld documents as privileged attorney-client communications and instead produced a privilege log. When asked to compel production of the logged documents, a magistrate judge reviewed the documents in camera and ordered the county to produce 10 e-mails between the Assistant County Attorney and county officials that discussed the law regarding strip searches of detainees, assessed existing county policy, recommended alternatives, and monitored the county’s compliance with suggested policy changes. The magistrate reasoned that those 10 e-mails made policy recommendations and did not give legal advice. The district court conducted an independent in camera review of the e-mails under a clear-error standard and ordered the county to produce the e-mails, prompting the county to request a writ of mandamus.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Jacobs, C.J.)

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