LEO: Confidences and Secrets: Disclosure of  LE Op. 1607


Confidences and Secrets: Disclosure of Client

Confidences Affecting Public Health Issue

When Client Refuses Consent.


September 16, 1994


You have presented a hypothetical situation in which a former employee of

a major company visits an attorney's office, and advises counsel that he

wishes assistance in making public certain information he has about

irregular, and possibly illegal, actions of his former employer which may

have an effect on public health. You also state that the client is

completely innocent of complicity of any sort in the company's decisions

or actions in this matter, having gained knowledge of the circumstances



Several days later, the client's wife prevails on the client not to risk

his new employment situation by making public his knowledge of these

events. (You state that the former employer may have some leverage with

the new employer.) The client then directs counsel not to go forward in

making the information public.


Counsel is now deeply concerned about his obligation to society, as

opposed to his obligation to the client, and wishes to release the

information out of concern for the health and safety of the public.

Counsel is concerned, however, that such release of the information

without the client's permission could be viewed as a breach of

confidentiality and could conceivably result in client losing his present



You have asked the committee to opine whether, under the facts of the

inquiry, counsel may make public the information he was provided by the

client, in the absence of the client's permission.


The appropriate and controlling Disciplinary Rule related to your inquiry

is DR:4-101, which provides for the preservation of client confidences

and secrets.


The information possessed by counsel is confidential, received within the

attorney-client relationship. Canon 4 provides, with few exceptions, for

the preservation of such client confidences and secrets.


The facts indicate that the client is innocent of any complicity in the

company's decisions or actions in the matter. The facts do not indicate

that the client has perpetrated a fraud upon a tribunal, or that he

intends to commit a crime, related to this matter. Therefore, the

exceptions to maintaining confidentiality, under DR:4-101(D) do not



Thus, the committee opines that counsel may not reveal the information

provided by the client, regardless of counsel's motivation, absent the

client's permission.


Committee Opinion September 16, 1994