[wiaattorneys] FW: Court Rules on Government-Attorney Client Privilege

  • From: "Mason, Paul" <Paul.Mason@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "'wiaattorneys@xxxxxxxxxxxxx'" <wiaattorneys@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2005 10:54:12 -0500

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.

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