Opinion #20. Disclosure of Client's Whereabouts

Issued by the Professional Ethics Commission

Date Issued: January 15, 1981

Facts

H & W were divorced in 1975, and W was awarded custody of the minor child, with rights of visitation granted to H. After some time during which the exercise of visitation by H was strained, W moved out of State. W has had no contact with H and has permitted no visitation between H and C. He brought a motion to amend the custody decree. When retained by W, attorney A was expressly directed by W to keep the whereabouts of W and C confidential. Upon motion by H, the court has ordered A to provide the court with the address of child, C.

Question

In the face of the court’s order, what is the ethical obligation of attorney A.

Discussion

Rule 3.6(l)(1) of the Bar Rules provides:

(1) Except as permitted by these rules or as required by law or by order of court, a lawyer shall not, without the informed written consent of the client, knowingly reveal a confidence or secret of his client. . . . (emphasis added).

By its terms, the Rule creates an exception to the obligation a lawyer owes to his client to preserve confidences of his or her client.

Conclusions

A valid court order requiring an attorney to disclose a confidential communication relieves the attorney of a violation of Rule 3.4(l). The exception apparently applies in the present case. The lawyer should, however, be satisfied that the Order is valid.


Enduring Ethics Opinion