Pacific Pictures Corp., et al. v. USDC-CALA, No. 11-71844 (9th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
This case involved intellectual property related to the Superman character created by writer Jerome Siegel and illustrator Joe Schuster. In 2010, D.C. Comics filed a lawsuit against Marc Toberoff, owner of a joint venture with the heirs of Shuster and Siegel (Heirs), the Heirs, and three entities in which Toberoff owned a controlling interest (collectively, petitioners), claiming that Toberoff interfered with its contractual relationships with the Heirs. Toberoff had hired lawyer David Michaels to work for one of his companies. Michaels remained in Toberoff's employ for only about three months before absconding with copies of several documents from the Siegel and Shuster files. These documents formed the basis of this lawsuit. About a month after the suit was filed, Toberoff asked the U.S. Attorney to investigate Michaels and, in response, the U.S. Attorney's Office issued a grand jury subpoena for the documents at issue as well as a letter stating that if Toberoff voluntarily complied with the subpoena, the Government would "not provide the...documents...to non-governmental third parties except as may be required by law or court order." At issue was whether a party waived attorney-client privilege forever by voluntarily disclosing privileged documents to the federal government. Given that Congress has declined broadly to adopt a new privilege to protect disclosures of attorney-client privileged materials to the government, the court would not do so here. The court also rejected petitioner's assertion that even if the court rejected selective waiver as a general matter, the court should enforce a purported confidentiality agreement based upon the letter from the U.S. Attorney's Office where petitioners have provided no convincing reason that post hoc contracts regarding how information could be revealed encouraged frank conversation at the time of the advice. The court further rejected petitioners' remaining claims and denied the petition for mandamus.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on May 10, 2012.