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FUNKE v. LIFE FINANCIAL CORPORATION

United States District Court, Southern District of New York


April 29, 2003

JAMES E. FUNKE ET AL., PLAINTIFFS, AGAINST LIFE FINANCIAL CORPORATION ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Constance Baker Motley, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
In a previous Memorandum Opinion and Order, this court denied defendant Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.'s ("Keefe's") request that the court order plaintiffs to produce retainer agreements signed by its clients in this case. Funke v. Life Financial Corp., 2003 WL 1787125, *1 (S.D.N.Y. April 3, 2003). The court expressed its concern that the agreements might contain matters that were protected by the attorney client privilege. Id. Accordingly, the court ordered plaintiffs to submit their retainer agreements for the court's in camera review. Id.

The court did note, however, that fee arrangements per se are not privileged. Id.; see also Vingelli v. United States (Drug Enforcement Agency), 992 F.2d 449, 452 (2d Cir. 1993); In re Grand Jury Subpoena Served Upon Doe, 781 F.2d 238, 247-48 (2d Cir. 1985) (en bane) ("While consultation with an attorney, and payment of a fee, may be necessary to obtain legal advice, their disclosure does not inhibit the ordinary communication necessary for an attorney to act effectively, justly, and expeditiously. For this reason, absent special circumstances not present here, disclosure of fee information and client identity is not privileged. . . ." (citation omitted)).

Having reviewed the retainer agreements, the court is satisfied that they contain no privileged communications. Plaintiffs are therefore ordered to produced those agreements pursuant to defendant Keefe's request.

20030429

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