(From Press Release from Katehi’s Legal Team) – The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) has made a controversial determination that UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi does not have the right of privileged communication with her attorney during the course of an already compromised investigation launched in late April.
As reported in the Sacramento Bee this morning, the UCOP has now demanded that Chancellor Katehi turn over attorney-client privileged and confidential information contained in her work phones and computers. Citing “university policy” that says UC owns the devices and therefore can confiscate them at any time, UCOP now seeks to violate California laws protecting privileged communications between a citizen and her attorney.
According to Chancellor Katehi’s attorney Melinda Guzman, “The attorney client privilege is a fundamental right in California law that protects communications between attorneys and clients. By seizing all data in these devices, UC is demanding that we waive that privilege.”
Guzman continued: “Californians also have the protection of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act enacted in January 2016. That law clearly protects authorized users – and not just owners – of devices.”
Melinda Guzman expressed her concern.
“Why should a Chancellor have fewer privacy rights than a private citizen under investigation for a crime? Should a court decide that there is reasonable doubt of illegal behavior and issues a warrant, and then she will comply with the law. Until then, she has her legal right to privacy like anyone else,” Guzman said.
The UCOP, as it has often done since the beginning of this compromised “investigation,” took to the media and characterized the call for legal due process as somehow a bad thing. Yesterday’s Bee story said:
UC officials said Katehi asked to choose the vendor that would decide which messages are privileged. “They would hire the person to take out what they want to take out and give it back to us, and that is not acceptable, nor is it in any way independent,”[UCOP spokesperson Dianne] Klein said.
Chancellor Katehi’s spokesperson Larry Kamer said: “Wrong. This is the usual process used in any litigation matter. It must be followed here.”
Guzman further states: “To be clear: our proposal is to allow us to use a respected vendor, and to allow us to review the data to identify privileged and confidential information and to then remove that from the report. It would be preserved in a log if it ever needed to be produced, if ordered by a judge.”
Another problem pointed out by Kamer is: “UCOP isn’t even following its own rules and stated policy.
“These require UCOP to identify what it is seeking and why, and to follow a process to obtain access the information. UCOP’s approach amounts to little more than a fishing expedition.”
Finally, Kamer points out: “As with all unjustified overreach, there is the inevitable spin that makes it sound all-so-reasonable. Recall this investigation was launched via press release, before Chancellor Katehi was formally informed. UCOP’s media office has been busy characterizing everything from Chancellor Katehi’s motives to her level of cooperation while coyly suggesting that it’s not commenting at all.
“It’s time for this investigation to be scrapped, started over, and conducted in a way that protects both Chancellor Katehi’s legal rights, and her right to a fair hearing,” Kamer said.
(Correction: the original version of this article misattributed a quote by Melinda Guzman to Senator Mark Leno).