Privilege, Contempt, and Mistakes

The trial of Phil Spector for the murder of Lana Clarkson is going on right now. Today, one of the defendant’s former attorneys was held in contempt for refusing to testify against her former client. My initial response was, “Right on, you go, counselor!” because an attorney is supposed to safeguard her client’s confidentiality no matter what the risk to herself. But, I know that Big Media is not well-equipped to report on something as complex and subtle as the law. So glancing at a headline is not a substitute for the all-important task of RTFA.

The real issue is found at the very end of the Fish Wrapper’s summary: the attorney “…was originally called as a defense witness, so even if the privilege claim were valid, it had been waived.” Oops. That’s a whole different story – if Spector (though his trial counsel) called her as his own witness, that may very well waive the privilege. It’s a substantial issue and I think that the attorney still did the right thing by refusing to testify against her client. But she should never have allowed herself to have been named as a defense witness in the first place.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.