ABA President Robert Grey Creates Task Force to Advocate For Attorney-Client Privilege
CHICAGO, Oct. 6, 2004–American Bar Association President Robert J. Grey Jr. of Richmond, Va., today announced creation of the ABA Task Force on the Attorney-Client Privilege.
“The protection of communications between client and lawyer, as embodied in the attorney-client privilege, has been a bedrock principle of our justice system for hundreds of years,” said Grey. “It is important for federal regulators and policymakers to have a clear understanding of the public policy underpinnings of the attorney-client privilege, and sometimes competing societal interests that make it necessary to strike the right balance to protect the public,” said Grey. “This task force will provide needed perspective for decisions that are contemplated on a number of fronts to achieve governmental purposes.”
“The Task Force will examine the purposes behind the privilege and its exceptions, the circumstances in which competing objectives are currently being asserted by governmental agencies and others to override the privilege, and the extent to which the correct balance is being struck between these competing objectives and the important policies underlying the privilege,” said R. William Ide III of Atlanta, named by Grey to chair the task force.
As an example of proposed new federal policies that have the potential for eroding the attorney-client privilege, Ide cited proposed amendments to federal sentencing guidelines for “organizations,” a broad term that includes corporations, associations, unions and many other types of entities. One amendment would authorize the government to compel entities to waive the attorney-client privilege and work-product protections, to show “thorough” cooperation with the government and qualify for a reduction in the culpability score under the guidelines.
“Though well-intentioned, these amendments could severely weaken the attorney-client privilege between companies and their lawyers, resulting in great harm both to companies and to the investing public,” Ide said. “If the proposed amendments are adopted, companies and other organizations may be discouraged from consulting with their lawyers on close issues, which would compromise the lawyers’ ability to effectively counsel compliance with the law. This would harm not only the corporate clients, but the investing public and society as well.”
Task force members are Hilarie Bass of Miami; Stephen F. Gates of Houston; Stanley Keller of Boston; M. Peter Moser of Baltimore; Judy Perry Martinez of Avondale, La.; Burnele V. Powell of Columbia, S.C. and Herbert S. Wander of Chicago. Bruce A. Green of Fordham University Law School in New York is the task force reporter.
Task force meetings are tentatively scheduled for November in Washington, D.C.; February in Salt Lake City; and April in Nashville, Tenn.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.