LEO: Confidentiality - Client's Identity:  LE Op. 1270


Confidentiality - Client's Identity: Attorney's Duty to Reveal Former

Client's True Identity.


September 27, 1989


You have advised that you represented a client in a personal injury

action in which your client received a soft tissue injuries through no

fault of his own. After reaching a settlement of the case, you were

informed by your client that he was being held in jail under an assumed

name on a criminal matter. At the time, you felt it was appropriate to

advise your client that he should inform the authorities of his actual

identity and that he should obtain a criminal attorney. You wish to know

whether you are under any ethical obligations to either report or not to

report your knowledge of your client's "double identity," under the



For the purposes of this inquiry, the Committee will assume that the

personal injury representation is not in any way related to the subsequent

criminal charges for which the former client is presently being held in



The Committee believes the appropriate and controlling rule relative to

your inquiry is DR:4-101(B) which provides that except as permitted

under DR:4-101(C) and (D), a lawyer shall not reveal a confidence or

secret of his client nor use the same to the client's disadvantage or to

his own advantage or a third person's advantage, unless the client

consents after full disclosure. Therefore, since you are not representing

the former client in the criminal matter, the Committee believes that

unless you have a legal duty to reveal the client's double identity or are

in possession of insurance funds which you believe were fraudulently

obtained, you may have an ethical duty not to reveal your former client's

true identity. The Committee directs your attention to LE Op. 1147 in

which the Committee opined that even the fact of client's identity may

constitute a confidence or secret if the attorney should have known or it

is obvious that disclosure of such information would be likely to cause

embarrassment or would be likely to be detrimental to the client. (See

DR:4-101(A)) Whether disclosure of your client's identity would be

embarrassing or detrimental to the client is a factual determination which

is beyond the purview of this Committee.


Committee Opinion September 27, 1989




See also LE Op. 1316, and LE Op. 1347.