From Fred Zacharias, "Rethinking Confidentiality", 74 lowa,Law Review 409 '(1988-89


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. 1: ~ client tel,Is a !awye~ the.locati~n of a "missing child" or kidnapplOg vrcum. The client ISnot Implicated In the person's disappearance. but does not want the lawyer to disclose the information because the client ."doesn't want to get involved." The client will not accept the lawyer's assurance that the lawyer could act without naming the 2. An attorney obtains information from a client that would prove that another person falsely accused of a crime, is innocent. The attorney could reveal the information without implicating the client in the crime. The client refuses to disclose the information . 3". In a civil suit involving a serious automobile accident, the plaintiff 15 exa~tned by defendant's doc~or. The doctor discovers a life threatening aneurism. Although the aneunsm was probably caused by the accident, plaintiffs own physician has not discovered it. The condition is curable but • if defendant's lawyer does not reveal the danger-against the client's wishes-plaintiff may die.280 4. The general counsel to a firm that produces a metal alloy used in ~he manu~acture. of airp~anes learns of a company study that suggests that In some high-altitude flight patterns the alloy might weaken and cause a 1 U plane to explode. The alloy does, however, meet the minimum safety J....... I" standards set by,the government. The lawyer urges the Board of Directors to recall the all~y or at a",inf?rm users. of its potential danger. The Board decides that. the study IS t'QOinconclusive to warrant action in light of the dire financial consequences of disclosure to' the company.w! . 5. From -information given by and conversations with a client, an attorney becomes convinced that the client is mentally imbalanced, out of conrrol, and wilt injure someone in the near future .. The client has, however, not expressed eny specific intention to commit a crime.282 6, X negotiates directly with Yand agrees to buy Ys house. Yagrees to provide "owner financing," subject to the contingency that X supply certain information concerning X's ability to pay. The only role X's attorney is to 1:::'"0 play in the transaction is to write the final sale contract and preside over the J' . I closing. Right before the closing, X's attorney learns from X's accountant that the financing information X supplied to Y contained inaccurate information. If any fraud was committed, it occurred before the attorney became 7. A client fortuitously receives an undeserved payment from the government te.g., a duplicate welfare check or tax refund) and deposits it in ) a savings account. The client then contacts his/her attorney who advises the client to return the money. The client refuses.see B. A lawyer. represents reputed organized crime figures in civil litigation. During a deposition of a' key witness against them, the witness reverses his testimony andtells a story that is completely favorable to the lawyer's clients. When confronted by the lawyer, one client admits that "a f friend had a talk with the witness" but denies any subornation of perjury. The lawyer has no way of knowing what really happened. 9. A tax lawyer learns. from working with the books of a client, that ~ tI the client has received large sums from the Russian eovemment. The client ~ will only say that the money is income for services rendered. Thelawyer knows that the client has access to classified governmerit documents. 10. A lawyer for a political organization learns that the client is secretly a Nazi front. 'II. There are 'rumors that a former Vice President who resigned after pleading nolo contendere to tax evasion charges plans to run for public . office again. He publishes -a book in which he asserts that he at all times protested his innocence of any wrongdoing to his. attorney. The attornc::y t remembers that, in fact, the Vice President admitted accepting graft.285 12. President Nixon announces publicly that the Watergate tapes show he knew nothing about any potentially illegal activities. Nixon's lawyer listens to the tapes and urges Nixon to disclose its contents "in the national interest" Nixon refuses and tells the press that he will not disclose anything . about them because of his "duty to protect the presidency:' .


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