Brief Fact Summary. Defendant is a non-lawyer accountant who worked for a law firm whose client was being investigated for income tax violations. He was sentenced for contempt for failing to answer a question claiming the attorney-client privileged applied to him.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The attorney-client privilege applies to communications made in confidence while obtaining legal advice from a lawyer.
The elements of the attorney-client privilege are: (1) Where legal advice of any kind is sought, (2) from a professional legal adviser in his capacity as such, (3) the communications relating to that purpose, (4) made in confidence, (5) by the client, (6) are at his instance permanently protected, (7) from disclosure by himself or by the legal adviser, (8) unless the protection be waived.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Should the attorney client privilege be allowed to prevent Defendant from answering questions even though he is not a lawyer?
Held. Justice Friendly issued the opinion for the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals in holding that the attorney-client privilege may apply to Defendant depending on whether the communications were for seeking legal advice or accounting advice.
Discussion. The Court of Appeals notes that each instance of deciding whether or not the attorney-client privilege applies to non-lawyers should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If what is sought from the non-lawyer is not legal, then the privilege should not apply. The communication should be for the purpose of obtaining legal advice from a lawyer.