Sunday, January 18, 2009

Prosecutors - Don't Indict Attorneys for Giving Legal Advice

Vesselin Mitev, NLJ (Law.com), Lawyer Cannot Be Prosecuted for Giving Advice, Panel Finds -The attorney last year denied encouraging the resignation by the nurses, who had been accused by the DA of abandoning their patients

"We cannot conclude that an attorney who advises a client to take an action that he or she, in good faith, believes to be legal, loses the protection of the First Amendment if his or her advice is later determined to be incorrect. Indeed, it would eviscerate the right to give and receive legal counsel with respect to potential criminal liability if an attorney could be charged with conspiracy and solicitation whenever a District Attorney disagreed with that advice. The potential impact of allowing an attorney to be prosecuted in circumstances such as those presented here are profoundly disturbing. A looming threat of criminal sanctions would deter attorneys from acquainting individuals with matters as vital as the breadth of their legal rights and the limits of those rights. Correspondingly, where counsel is restrained, so is the fundamental right of the citizenry, bound as it is by laws complex and unfamiliar, to receive the advice necessary for measured conduct.

"Moreover, by placing an attorney in the position of being required to defend the advice that he or she has provided, the state compels revelation of, and thus places within its reach, confidential communications between attorney and client. . ."

The opinion is here.

(esp) (w/ a hat tip to Bill Olis)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/whitecollarcrime_blog/2009/01/ny-state-suprem.html

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