Thought this might be of interest to many of you (especially in the 2nd Circuit). Court Rules on Attorney Client Privilege By MATT APUZZO Associated Press Writer NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Public officials should be allowed to have confidential conversations with government lawyers because privileged communications are in the best interest of the public, a federal appeals court said. The decision conflicts with Clinton-era rulings in Washington, D.C., and Arkansas that forced President Clinton's attorney to testify before independent counsel Kenneth Starr's Whitewater grand jury. Attorneys say the discrepancy sets the stage for a likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, although the Justice Department has not decided whether to appeal. "It's a chance to overturn the wreckage left by Ken Starr," said Lanny J. Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton. The case is in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which affects New York, Connecticut and Vermont. The court issued a sealed ruling in August that Anne George - legal counsel for Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland's office from 2000 to 2003 - could not be forced to testify against Rowland before a grand jury investigating contract steering in his administration. Rowland had brought the case to the 2nd Circuit, citing attorney-client privilege. He has since pleaded guilty to a corruption charge and is scheduled to be sentenced this month. Last week, the judges explained their reasoning in a written opinion. "It is crucial that government officials, who are expected to uphold and execute the law and who may face criminal prosecution for failing to do so, be encouraged to seek out and receive fully informed legal advice," Chief Judge John M. Walker Jr. wrote. The ruling creates conflicting legal precedent, said attorney Ross Garber, who argued the case on behalf of the governor's office. "It's clear that if you're a public official in the 2nd Circuit, there is an attorney-client privilege," Garber said. "Unfortunately, there is now uncertainty for public officials outside of the circuit." In California, for instance, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman said legal conversations are considered privileged but there is no federal case law either way. The issue is more than just academic, said John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon. Chief executives are more likely to make bad decisions if they can't have frank conversations with their attorneys, he said. "In the Nixon administration, we sure screwed up Watergate but we kept a lot of other stuff from really going astray," Dean said.