In Re: Application of Chevron

After first filing claims in a U.S. district court, inhabitants of eastern Ecuador filed suit in their country, alleging that the company contaminated the area and caused residents' health problems. The company, attempting to establish fraud and collusion in the proceedings, sought discovery from the plaintiffs' attorney for use in that litigation, in criminal proceedings in Ecuador, and in arbitration initiated against the Republic of Ecuador with the United Nations. The district court granted discovery under 28 U.S.C. 1782, which provides that the court of the district in which a person is found may order him to give testimony or to produce a document or thing for use in a proceeding in a foreign tribunal, unless the disclosure would violate a legal privilege. The court concluded that attorney-client privilege had been waived because documentary film-makers had been allowed intimate access to proceedings involving the environmental litigation. The Third Circuit reversed in part, holding that the public disclosure of certain communications did not lead to "subject matter waiver" of attorney-client privilege for communications that were covered by the privilege. The court remanded for consideration of whether certain communications are discoverable pursuant to the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege.