Bar Counsel Notes: Client confidences/confidentiality

Attorney C has a client - that he has known since high school - who has made a "confidential" statement to him threatening to possibly do harm to a hearing officer in a pending contested matter. C knows the client quite well and would not be surprised if client were to carry through with the threat. May C tell the hearing officer and/or others (police) about that client's threat?

Yes. Bar Rule 3.6(h)(4) specifically allows (but does not require) an attorney's disclosure of a client's otherwise confidential comments if" ... the attorney reasonably believes disclosure is necessary: (i) to prevent the commission of a criminal act that is likely to result in death or bodily harm to another person... " C seems to have adequate cause and basis to make such disclosure(s) as he reasonably deems to be appropriate, i.e. this disclosure would appear to be exactly what the rule's exception was designed to permit.

*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.