'Evolution' of Controversial Filter Teams Practice Is Underway
White Collar Defense and Investigations attorney Eddie Jauregui spoke with Law360 about the escalating tug-of-war between federal prosecutors and white collar criminal defense lawyers over the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) use of government-backed filter teams. Filter teams sift through seized materials to pluck out attorney-client privileged information before it gets to prosecutors. This article discusses the ongoing uncertainty around this controversial practice as conflicts persist among the circuit-level appellate decisions on the issue and various U.S. attorneys' offices continue to follow different protocols for the use of these teams. Mr. Jauregui commented on a series of high-profile cases that have further amplified the focus on privilege review teams and methods.
"The defense bar is seeing a little bit of an opening from these cases, and we're now trying to flip things so that we can get access to that seized information first," he said. "But in an ongoing investigation, the Department of Justice will forever oppose that, because it will provide the defense with a sense of what the DOJ is investigating."
He also provided insight on the varying approaches to filter teams between U.S. attorneys’ offices. For instance, the office for the Central District of California staffs its filter teams with dedicated privilege review attorneys rather than federal prosecutors, he explained.
"The idea was to move away from a more ad hoc system that relied on assigning [assistant U.S. attorneys] from other sections to serve as the filter or taint AUSA on somebody else's case," he said. "That was a lot of work, stress and pressure. Frankly, it's not anything anybody wanted to do."
READ: 'Evolution' of Controversial Filter Teams Practice Is Underway (Subscription required)