Oral argument: Oct. 5, 2009
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Aug. 26, 2008)
EVIDENCE, DISCLOSURE, CONFIDENTIALITY, ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE, COLLATERAL ORDER DOCTRINE
Norman Carpenter, a shift supervisor for Mohawk Industries, Inc., reported to Mohawk that several of its temporary employees were illegal aliens. Mohawk investigated the report and required Carpenter to speak with its outside counsel who was defending Mohawk in a RICO class action filed by current and former Mohawk employees over the hiring of illegal aliens. Thereafter, Mohawk terminated Carpenter, and Carpenter filed suit, alleging that he had been terminated as a result of refusing to recant his report. Carpenter sought discovery of information regarding his interview with Mohawk’s counsel. Mohawk claimed the interview and investigation were protected by the attorney-client privilege. The District Court for the Northern District of Georgia held that Mohawk had impliedly waived the privilege by putting the protected communications in issue during the class action lawsuit. Mohawk appealed this order to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, arguing that the discovery order was immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that the collateral order doctrine did not apply, because the discovery order would not be effectively “unreviewable” on appeal from the district court’s final judgment. The Supreme Court’s decision will resolve a circuit split on whether the collateral order doctrine permits the immediate appeal of a discovery order finding waiver of the attorney-client privilege.