Private Sector Subpoenas

Eastman-Chapman University Case

Major Issue:  Whether a law professor can block his former employer, a university, from responding to a House committee subpoena by producing the professor’s emails and other documents related to the 2020 election and January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Case Status:  Awaiting additional rulings.

Case Description: On January 18, 2022, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol issued a subpoena to Chapman University requesting production of all documents and emails in its possession “attributable to Dr. John Eastman, that are related in any way to the 2020 election or the January 6, 2021 Joint Session of Congress” during the time period Nov. 3, 2020 to January 20, 2021.  On January 20, 2021, Dr. Eastman filed suit to invalidate the House committee subpoena and block any document production by Chapman University.

Procedural Posture:  The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division, where Chapman University is located.  California District Judge David O. Carter was assigned to the case.  On January 20, 2022, the same day the suit was filed, Judge Carter issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) and ordered expedited briefing.  On January 26, 2022, the district court lifted the TRO, denied the request for a preliminary injunction, and upheld the House subpoena.  The court also authorized Dr. Eastman to review the 19,000 documents that the university planned to produce and raise any privilege claims during the document production process.  Dr. Eastman reviewed documents and claimed privilege over some, and the House Select Committee objected.  After a March 8, 2022 hearing on the privilege claims, the District Court reviewed each of the 111 challenged documents.  On March 28, 2022, the District Court found 10 documents to be privileged and ordered disclosure of the remaining 101 documents to House Select Committee.  On June 7, 2022, the District Court ordered Dr. Eastman to disclose an additional 159 documents.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division, where Chapman University is located.  Judge David O. Carter was assigned to Case No. 8:22-cv-00099-DOC-DFM.  On January 20, 2022, the same day the suit was filed, Judge Carter issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) and ordered expedited briefing.  On January 26, 2022, after receiving briefs from Dr. Eastman, Chapman University, and the House committee and holding oral argument, Judge Carter lifted the TRO, denied the request for a preliminary injunction, and upheld the House subpoena.  The court also issued an order allowing Dr. Eastman to review the 19,000 documents that Chapman University planned to produce and create a privilege log asserting any attorney-client or attorney work product privilege claims.

First, the parties disagreed over whether 111 documents sent or received by Dr. Eastman on his Chapman email account January 4-7, 2021 were privileged.  The parties submitted briefs on the issue and the court set a hearing for March 8, 2022.

On March 28, 2022, the District Court issued an order on some of the privilege claims.  The order examined whether privilege attached to each of the disputed documents, whether privilege was waived, and whether an exception applied.  The court found that privilege attached to 13 documents.  However, privilege was waived for two of those documents because they were made public by media disclosure and a court filing.  Additionally, the court found that one memo fell within the crime-fraud exception, as it likely furthered the crimes of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States.  The court found the remaining 10 documents to be protected and ordered Dr. Eastman to disclose the other 101 documents.

On April 19, Dr. Eastman completed his privilege review of all requested documents.  After some negotiation between the parties, Dr. Eastman produced 933 documents and a consolidated privilege log identifying an additional 2,018 documents over which he claimed privilege.  The Select Committee withdrew objections to some of these documents and reserved the right to raise objections with respect to some others. 

The parties submitted briefs on the privilege assertions and the District Court ordered the disclosure of an additional set of documents on June 7, 2022.  While the Court found 440 of the requested documents to be protected by work product or attorney-client privileges, the Court ordered Dr. Eastman to disclose 159 documents to the House Select Committee by June 8, 2022.

No proceedings to date.

No proceedings to date.