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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York.

BLUEBIRD PARTNERS, L.P., Plaintiff-Respondent, v. BANK OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

Decided: February 23, 1999

ELLERIN, J.P., NARDELLI, WALLACH and RUBIN, JJ. David M. Friedman, for Plaintiff-Respondent. Craig P. Murphy, for Defendants-Appellants.

Orders, Supreme Court, New York County (Beatrice Shainswit, J.), entered July 10, 1998, denying defendants' motions to review and vacate a Referee's rulings on discovery of billing records, unanimously reversed, on the law, without costs, the orders vacated, and the matter remanded for further proceedings.

 This Court previously held (248 A.D.2d 219, 671 N.Y.S.2d 7) that plaintiff had a right to review relevant documents before passing upon defendants' claims for legal expenses.   In doing so, we ruled that privileged material should be redacted “under the Referee's careful supervision.”   In the review that followed, the Referee accorded “relevance and reasonableness” a higher priority than “privilege.”   That was error.

Privileged matter and an attorney's work product are absolutely immune from discovery (CPLR 3101[b], [c] ), regardless of their relevance (Spectrum Sys. Intl. Corp. v. Chemical Bank, 78 N.Y.2d 371, 575 N.Y.S.2d 809, 581 N.E.2d 1055;  De La Roche v. De La Roche, 209 A.D.2d 157, 158-159, 617 N.Y.S.2d 767).   The Referee's review of proposed redactions should be carried out with that in mind.


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