Grand Jury Subpoenas for Documents of a Public Investigation Enforceable

Dec 15, 2010

The Ninth Circuit Court reversed an order in the district court. The Ninth Circuit held that grand jury subpoenas for documents were enforceable where they came within subpoena power through litigation initiated after the grand jury investigation became public.

The government conducted an anti-trust investigation into alleged criminal conduct that became public. Private lawsuits were filed against the companies under investigation. These lawsuits were consolidated in district court into one case. During that litigation discovery produced defendants’ documents that originated from outside of the United States. Several domestic law firms representing the defendant companies possessed the documents and were subpoenaed by the grand jury in the government investigation. The law firms moved to quash the subpoenas. The district court agreed, finding novel issues with the implications for grand-jury power and for the relationship between grand-jury proceedings and civil discovery of foreign defendants that were not indicted.

The court of appeals reversed, holding that grand jury subpoenas could be enforced. The court noted that the law firms did not establish or suggest any collusion between their clients and the government. The law firms also did not claim that the documents were privileged. The court applied its per se rule that a grand jury subpoena takes precedence over a civil protective order pursuant to (I) In re Grand Jury Subpoenas Served on Meserve, Mumper & Hughes (I), 62 F.3d 1222 (9th Cir. 1995).

This case is: In re Grand Jury Subpoenas; 9th Cir. December 7, 2010; 10-15758.