Upjohn v. United States

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Upjohn v. United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued November 5, 1980
Decided January 13, 1981
Full case name Upjohn Company, et al. v. United States, et al.
Citations 449 U.S. 383 (more)
101 S. Ct. 677; 66 L. Ed. 2d 584; 1981 U.S. LEXIS 56; 49 U.S.L.W. 4093; 81-1 U.S. Tax Cas. (CCH) P9138; 1980-81 Trade Cas. (CCH) P63,797; Fed. Sec. L. Rep. (CCH) P97,817; 47 A.F.T.R.2d (RIA) 523; 30 Fed. R. Serv. 2d (Callaghan) 1101
Prior history Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
(1) District Court's test, of availability of attorney–client privilege, was objectionable as it restricted availability of privilege to those corporate officers who played “substantial role” in deciding and directing corporation's legal response; (2) where communications at issue were made by corporate employees to counsel for corporation acting as such, at direction of corporate superiors in order to secure legal advice from counsel, and employees were aware that they were being questioned so that corporation could obtain advice, such communications were protected; and (3) where notes and memoranda sought by government were work products based on oral statements of witnesses, they were, if they revealed communications, protected by privilege, and to extent they did not reveal communications, they revealed attorney's mental processes in evaluating the communications and disclosure would not be required simply on showing of substantial need and inability to obtain equivalent without undue hardship.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Rehnquist, joined by Brennan, Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, Stevens, Burger (parts I, III)
Concurrence Burger

Upjohn Co. v. United States, 449 U.S. 383 (1981),[1] was a Supreme Court case in which the Court held that a company could invoke the attorney–client privilege to protect communications made between company lawyers and non-management employees. In doing so, the Court rejected the narrower control group test that had previously governed many organizational attorney–client privilege issues. Under the control group test, only employees who exercised direct control over the managerial decisions of the company were eligible to have their communications with corporate lawyers protected.

The case also expanded the scope of the work-product doctrine.

Background, procedural posture and issues[edit]

The case was taken by the Court on appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which had held that the attorney–client privilege did not apply to communication between Upjohn's middle management officials and the company's attorneys. The Sixth Circuit had also ruled that the work-product doctrine did not apply to the tax summons the company had received as a result of some of its unlawful business practices.[clarification needed]

Decision of the Court[edit]

In a unanimous 9-0 decision, Justice William Rehnquist wrote the opinion of the Court in which it reversed the Sixth Circuit's holding. The Supreme Court held that the communications of lower ranking employees were protected by attorney–client privilege when protection was necessary to defend against litigation. The Court also reversed and remanded the tax summonses issue.

Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote a concurring opinion in which he supported the Court's decision, but advocated a clear bright-line that would privilege any employee or former employee's communications with attorneys, if the attorneys' inquiry was authorized by management, and was designed to assess legal responses or issues with regard to the employee's conduct.

Upjohn is considered one of the leading cases on attorney–client privilege.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]