Lakin must hand over emails with PR firm to Burke

Steve Korris Jan. 10, 2008, 10:28pm



EAST ST. LOUIS - U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan has ordered Brad Lakin to give Richard Burke copies of electronic mail between his law firm and a consultant he hired to cope with publicity about an indictment against his father, Tom Lakin, on morals charges.

Reagan on Jan. 7 affirmed Magistrate Judge Philip Frazier, who ruled in Burke's favor after a hearing in October.

Burke expects the e-mails to help him win a suit he filed after Brad Lakin fired him.

His suit seeks to recover fees from class action settlements, along with other damages.

Last May he asked for all e-mail between the Lakin firm and consulting firm Public Strategies Inc.

Lakin asked Frazier to protect the e-mail as work product in anticipation of litigation and as confidential communication between attorney and client.

Reagan held that, "None of the documents in question contemplate any legal strategy."

He wrote that they pertained to business decisions, not litigation decisions.

He wrote that the Lakin Law Firm retained Public Strategies Inc. on the advice of attorney William Lucco, who represents the firm in other litigation.

Reagan wrote that the firm hired the consultant "to help LLF deflect negative publicity and other fallout from Thomas Lakin's legal troubles."

In a footnote he added that the "salacious details" of Lakin's indictment "have been reported ad nauseam in local print and electronic media."

Burke maintains that he tried to protect clients from the scandal while Brad Lakin put his own interests ahead of the interests of clients.

Brad Lakin filed a counterclaim, accusing Burke of trying to steal clients.

Frazier, who oversees discovery in the case, ruled that the attorney client privilege did not apply because the e-mails were not exchanged between an attorney and a client.

"What develops when the client acts on advice is not protected," he wrote.

Frazier also ruled that he could not protect the e-mails as work product because they were not prepared in anticipation of litigation.
Brad Lakin appealed to Reagan, a step above Frazier as presiding judge in the case.

Reagan read the e-mails and agreed with Frazier, finding that the e-mails did not involve preparation for litigation.

"Instead," Reagan wrote, "the documents discuss preparation and strategy for minimizing the public relations fallout that could result from pending litigation."

He wrote that although the work product doctrine protects documents prepared for legal defense, "it does not protect documents that were merely prepared for one's defense in the court of public opinion."

He finished by noting that his order applies to discoverability of the e-mails but not to their admissibility as evidence at trial.

More News