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Disqualification Assertion Of Privilege In Camera Review

DP Pham LLC v. Cheadle (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 653.
A dead defendant sold the same mobile home park to two different buyers. The buyers sued each other and the representative of the seller’s estate. One buyer moved for summary judgment based in part on emails between the dead seller and the seller’s attorney, that were copied to the seller’s bookkeeper. The estate’s representative moved to exclude the emails on grounds of attorney-client privilege, and also moved to disqualify buyer’s counsel. The trial court found the emails were not privileged after an in camera review.
Held: The in camera review of the emails was improper under Evidence Code 915. The estate representative made a prima facie showing of privilege and it was the buyer’s onus to rebut that showing without resort to the contents of the disputed documents.  The disqualification motion was remanded because disqualification under these circumstances is discretionary, not mandatory.