So, I am studying for my last-ever law school exam. And it’s in professional responsibility, which, for you non-lawyers (and I hope there are lots of you), is an ABA requirement. Even though I have already taken (and passed) the MPRE. And let me tell you, I am struggling. Not only am I just plum out of steam, but also this is not the most scintillating topic ever.
At least I’ve got the NY Times (and my buddy Adam Liptak) trying to help me out and keep me interested. And I have to say – the question the article addresses (namely, the extent of a lawyer’s duty of confidentiality to a now-deceased client when the lawyer has information that would exonerate another person) is an interesting one. The article suggests that ethics experts like drawing a clear line at preventing imminent death, which is to say that a lawyer can violate a confidence if doing so would exonerate someone facing the death penalty, but not someone serving life. In some ways, this rle makes a lot of sense. Bright lines are easier to patrol and we have to make sure that we protect the relationship of trust between a client and his or her attorney, particularly in the criminal defense context. But when we balance a life sentence against a dead client, I’m just not sure our current rule makes sense.