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Court rules personal e-mail sent from work account is private

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  1. Libel and Privacy
The D.C. federal district court ruled Thursday that a U.S. attorney’s personal e-mail correspondence, sent from his work account, was…

The D.C. federal district court ruled Thursday that a U.S. attorney’s personal e-mail correspondence, sent from his work account, was private and cannot be used to bolster former Justice Department attorney Richard Convertino’s lawsuit against the government, The National Law Journal reported.

Because Justice Department policy permitted Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel to use work e-mail for personal communication, he had a reasonable expectation that electronic messages with his personal attorney would be private, wrote Chief Judge Royce Lamberth, and therefore the e-mail is protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Convertino sought access to Tukel’s e-mail messages during his suit against the Justice Department because Tukel was the attorney who reviewed Covertino’s cases. Convertino says the Justice Department violated the Privacy Act by leaking details about an investigation into Convertino’s conduct during a terrorism trial to the press. Tukel, in a sworn written, has denied he was the source of the leaked information.

Convertino, who lost his department position, previously subpoenaed Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter to build his Privacy Act case. Ashenfelter successfully invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in order to protect his confidential sources, but the subpoena battle continues with the newspaper.