New Legal Developments

Attorney Billing Statements May Not Be Privileged — California Attorney Ethics — Civil

County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court (ACLU of Southern California) (2016) 2 Cal.5th 282

The ACLU made a Public Records Act (PRA) request for LA County attorney billing statements in 9 inmate abuse lawsuits. The ACLU made these requests to ascertain whether opposing counsel was merely defending these suits, or engaging in “scorched earth” litigation tactics. LA County produced the records, except for those from pending lawsuits, which the County objected to on the basis of attorney-client privilege. The Court of Appeal held that all attorney billing statements are protected from disclosure under the attorney-client privilege.
Held: Reversed. Attorney billing statements are privileged, or not, depending on the extent to which individual billing entries convey legal advice, or a request for legal advice. Thus, any invoices from pending matters may betray trial strategy or investigative efforts. Invoices from matters which have been concluded, may not.