The crucial question, however, is not whether an interest is important in the abstract; it is whether deferring review until final judgment so imperils the interest as to justify the cost of allowing immediate appeal of the entire class of relevant orders. We routinely require litigants to wait until after final judgment to vindicate valuable rights, including rights central to our adversarial system.See, e.g., Richardson-Merrell, 472 U. S., at 426 (holding an order disqualifying counsel in a civil case did not qualify for immediate appeal under the collateral order doctrine); Flanagan v. United States, 465 U. S. 259, 260 (1984) (reaching the same result in a criminal case, notwithstanding the Sixth Amendment rights at stake). In Digital Equipment, we rejected an assertion that collateral order review was necessary to promote “the public policy favoring voluntary resolution of disputes.” 511 U. S., at 881. “It defies common sense,” we explained, “to maintain that parties’ readiness to settle will be significantly dampened (or the corresponding public interest impaired) by a rule that a district court’s decision to let allegedly barred litigation go forward may be challenged as a matter of favor.” Ibid.
We reach a similar conclusion here. In our estimation, postjudgment appeals generally suffice to protect the rights of litigants and assure the vitality of the attorney-client privilege. Appellate courts can remedy the improper disclosure of privileged material in the same way they remedy a host of other erroneous evidentiary rulings: by vacating an adverse judgment and remanding for a new trial in which the protected material and its fruits are excluded from evidence.
As hoped, Justice Sotomayor has brought her trial experience to bear, and has contributed a practical understanding of how the law works at the trial level previously unseen in Supreme Court opinions:
Moreover, were attorneys and clients to reflect upon their appellate options, they would find that litigants confronted with a particularly injurious or novel privilege ruling have several potential avenues of review apart from collateral order appeal. First, a party may ask the district court to certify, and the court of appeals to accept, an interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U. S. C. §1292(b). The preconditions for §1292(b) review—“a controlling question of law,” the prompt resolution of which “may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation”—are most likely to be satisfied when a privilege ruling involves a new legal question or is of special consequence, and district courts should not hesitate to certify an interlocutory appeal in such cases. Second, in extraordinary circumstances—i.e., when a disclosure order “amount[s] to a judicial usurpation of power or a clear abuse of discretion,” or otherwise works a manifest injustice—a party may petition the court of appeals for a writ of mandamus. Cheney v. United States Dist. Court for D. C., 542 U. S. 367, 390 (2004) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Firestone, 449 U. S., at 378–379, n. 13.3 While these discretionary review mechanisms do not provide relief in every case, they serve as useful “safety valve[s]” for promptly correcting serious errors. Digital Equipment, 511 U. S., at 883.
Another long-recognized option is for a party to defy a disclosure order and incur court-imposed sanctions. District courts have a range of sanctions from which to choose, including “directing that the matters embraced in the order or other designated facts be taken as established for purposes of the action,” “prohibiting the disobedient party from supporting or opposing designated claims or defenses,” or “striking pleadings in whole or in part.” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 37(b)(2)(i)–(iii). Such sanctions allow a party to obtain post judgment review without having to reveal its privileged information. Alternatively, when the circumstances warrant it, a district court may hold a noncomplying party in contempt. The party can then appeal directly from that ruling, at least when the con-tempt citation can be characterized as a criminal punishment. See, e.g., Church of Scientology of Cal. v. United States, 506 U. S. 9, 18, n. 11 (1992); Firestone, 449 U. S., at 377; Cobbledick v. United States, 309 U. S. 323, 328 (1940); see also Wright & Miller §3914.23, at 140–155.
I wrote before about Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter. Essentially, a host of corporate defense interests and, disturbingly, the ABA, urged the Supreme Court hold that large corporate defendants with the financial wherewithal to over-litigate cases were special and thus entitled to more appellate review than individuals.
The Supreme Court today held otherwise. It is a good ruling — by a unanimous court — that eliminates a one-sided rule that large corporations routinely used to frustrate and to delay cases. One of the most common tricks played by corporate defense lawyers goes something like this:
- First, the defense files a motion attaching cherry-picked internal documents supporting their defense, some of which were either reviewed by, or drafted by, the corporation’s counsel;
- Second, when the plaintiff requests information related to those documents, the defendant asserts attorney-client privilege;
- Third, when the district court rules against the defendant, the defendant immediately files an appeal.
That game alone would add two or more years to litigation.