Salt Lake Legal Defender Ass'n v. Uno

In Salt Lake Legal Defender Ass'n v. Uno, 932 P.2d 589 (Utah 1997) the Salt Lake Legal Defender Association (LDA) had petitioned the Court for extraordinary relief from the district court's September 16 order. Id. at 589. The Court clarified the procedures courts should follow when applying the work product doctrine to privileged documents sought in discovery. Id. at 590-91. The Court granted LDA's petition, vacated the district court's September 16 order regarding the production of LDA documents, and ordered the district court to supervise discovery in accordance with the standards set forth in our opinion. Id. at 591. The Court considered some of the discovery issues that have pervaded this case since Menzies' post-conviction petition was filed. In that case, LDA had petitioned this court for an extraordinary writ asking that we reverse the district court's denial of its motion for a protective order. Id. at 589. The State had served LDA with subpoenas duces tecum and requests for the production of all documents relating to LDA's representation of Menzies in the underlying criminal trial in order to challenge Menzies' claims that LDA had rendered ineffective assistance. Id. LDA asked the district court for a protective order preventing the disclosure of these documents, asserting the work product immunity doctrine, but the district court denied its request and ordered that the documents be produced. Id. The Court vacated the district court's order, concluding that the order violated the work product immunity doctrine. Id. at 591. In Uno, the Court first recited the rule, contained in rule 26(b)(3) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, that attorney work product--defined as "'documents and tangible things . . . prepared in anticipation of litigation'" but not including "'mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories of an attorney'"--is not discoverable unless "'the party seeking discovery has substantial need'" and cannot obtain the materials elsewhere "'without undue hardship.'" Id. at 589-90 (quoting Utah R. Civ. P. 26(b)(3)). The Court then noted that while an attorney's mental impressions are generally not discoverable, there is an exception if those mental impressions are "directly at issue." Id. at 590. As the Court stated in Uno, "There is a sense in which the mental impressions, conclusions, and opinions constitute 'the facts' of the case and therefore may be discoverable." Id. However, this exception must be applied very carefully in ineffective assistance of counsel cases because a discovery policy whereby counsel's files can be freely accessed in subsequent proceedings has the potential to significantly impair the trial preparation process. Id. In order to prevent such a result, we set forth in Uno a three-step test that the State must meet when seeking the production of attorney work product in an ineffective assistance case before such documents may be disclosed. Id. at 591. For each document sought, the State must demonstrate that (1) "it has 'substantial need' and that it cannot, without 'undue hardship,' obtain the substantial equivalent of the information by other means," as required by rule 26(b)(3); (2) the "at issue" exception applies to the document; and (3) "the document has been edited to prevent the disclosure of information not related to the ineffectiveness claims." Id. In Uno, the Court suggested that LDA prepare an index of the documents in its file in order to help the State meet its burden and also instructed the district court to conduct an in-camera review of each document for which the State met the first two requirements in order "to ensure that it does not contain extraneous information that should not be revealed to the State." Id.