Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Swidler & Berlin v. United States case brief

Swidler & Berlin v. United States case brief summary
524 U.S. 399 (1998)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Petitioner attorney sought a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which reversed the lower court judgment in part and held that petitioner's notes of an interview with his client, who later committed suicide, were not protected by either the attorney client privilege or the work product privilege.

CASE FACTS
Respondent, as part of an investigation of the dismissal of employees from the White House Travel Office, sought the notes petitioner attorney had made during an interview of his client, the Deputy White House Counsel, prior to the client committing suicide. Petitioner filed a motion to quash, arguing that the notes were protected by the attorney client privilege and by the work product privilege. The lower appellate court reversed the trial court which had found the notes were protected from disclosure by the attorney client privilege and the work product privilege. Petitioner sought a writ of certiorari to the decision.

DISCUSSION

  • The court reversed finding that the general rule with respect to confidential communications was that such communications were privileged during a testator's lifetime and, also, after the testator's death unless sought to be disclosed in litigation between the testator's heirs. 
  • The court held that the attorney-client privilege survived the death of the client in this case.

CONCLUSION
The court reversed the lower appellate court judgment which held petitioner attorney's notes of an interview with a deceased client were not protected by either the attorney client privilege or the work product privilege. The court held that the notes were protected by the attorney-client privilege.

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