Attorneys Say Private Investigation Should Not be Subject to Subpoena in Turkey Antitrust Matter

Attorneys for plaintiffs who alleged that Agri Stats and various turkey-producing companies were participating in illegal antitrust activities are asking the court to quash a subpoena filed against them by the defendants. Their motion was transferred into the Northern District of Illinois, where the related lawsuit is being held, on Friday. 

The motion to quash was initially filed in Maine on June 22. Attorneys for the plaintiffs, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P., and a private investigation firm hired by the plaintiffs, On Point Investigations LLC, asked to quash the subpoena claiming that the information requested by the defendants is protected through “attorney work product privilege” under the rules of civil procedure.

The movants sought for the court to either quash the motion or issue a protective order allowing them to keep the subpoenaed materials.  In the motion, they noted that they had attempted to communicate with counsel for some of the law firms representing the defendants, but had not reached an agreement leading them to contact the court. 

In the motion, the movants argued that the Supreme Court and other courts have previously held that attorney privilege extends to the work of investigators, and that the subpoena contradicts “this long-standing precedent.” Reportedly, the subpoena did not ask for any materials which attorneys for the plaintiffs did not consider protected, and they asked for it to be quashed entirely. 

The filing explained, “in correspondence prior to filing this motion, Defendants at no point addressed whether they disagreed that these materials were created for use in the litigation. Instead, Defendants’ primary apparent justification for the validity of this subpoena is that attorney work product privileges do not attach to any materials that were created in anticipation of litigation if a formal representation agreement with a client had not yet been signed. Despite Plaintiffs’ repeated requests, Defendants refused to identify a single case in support of their position.”

The parties each agreed to transfer the motion from the District of Maine, since the motion is part of “a discovery dispute ancillary to a putative class action” in the Northern District of Illinois, and the Illinois court is the one that issued the subpoena. On Friday, the District of Illinois filed a letter with information about the requirements to designate local counsel. 

The movants are represented by Murray Plumb & Murray.