Client confidences

Attorney Ben Webb was acquitted of a contempt charge this week, brought by a judge in June of this year because Webb refused to testify against his client regarding a failure to appear.
Judges and prosecutors get used to defense attorneys freely telling them the substance of communications with their clients, regarding when they appeared in court, whether the attorney told them to appear in court, and their client’s criminal history, and may not know what to do when a lawyer says no. The problem is that the court is trying to balance the lawyer’s duty to preserve confidentiality with the lawyer’s duty of candor to the court.
The lawyer does have a duty of candor to the court and must never misrepresent facts to the court, but the lawyer does not have a duty to reveal client confidences to the court or to testify against his client in most situations. The ethics rules, the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, and public policy that encourages full disclosure between client and attorney dictate that the attorney must not disclose the information.

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