‘Attorney-client privilege’ doesn’t bar government from releasing information

Public officials often say they can’t reveal information because it’s subject to “attorney-client privilege,” even though it would be legal to do so. That was the case with a story this week about Baltimore County’s deliberations over whether to file suit against Merrill Lynch over losses on a $21 million investment.

Earlier this week, four council members attended a meeting with County Attorney Mike Field and members of Kevin Kamenetz’s administration, as well as other officials, to discuss possible legal action.

On Tuesday, Kamenetz chief of staff Don Mohler would not even say what the meeting was about, saying it was subject to attorney-client privilege. County Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond confirmed to the Sun the meeting occurred and what was discussed, but other council members would not.

Abraham Dash, a professor at the University of Maryland Law School, says the only person who is bound by the attorney-client rule is the attorney, not the council members and other officials who attended the meeting.

“There’s no question that anyone at the meeting, they’re not prohibited from revealing [what happened],” he said.

While there’s nothing stopping the officials from talking about the meeting, they also have no obligation to do so, Dash said. There are reasons why officials don’t want to talk about litigation, he said, such as not wanting another party to get a glimpse of their legal strategy or tactics.

By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Sun

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