Civil Litigation-Privilege

In the course of litigation, it is not uncommon for one party to raise an objection based upon privilege. There are several different privileges that exist within the law. The husband/wife privilege precludes either spouse from testifying against the other based upon what they learned from the other spouse during the course of the marriage. If a husband tells his wife that he has just murdered the next door neighbor, then the wife may be precluded from repeating that statement in a court of law. One of the privileges that is at the foundation of our legal system is the attorney/client privilege. When a client retains an attorney, anything that client says to the attorney is deemed to be privileged and cannot be repeated by the attorney without the consent of the client, unless the communication involves proposed criminal activity. For instance, if a client tells his attorney that he is about to blow up a building, the attorney-under the law of most states-must advise him of the possible legal consequences, urge him not to commit the crime, and advise him that the attorney must reveal his intention to the authorities unless he abandons the proposed criminal activity. If the client confesses to his attorney that he blew up a building, the attorney is bound by the attorney/client privilege not to disclose that information. In the case of the attorney/client privilege, the privilege belongs to the client, not to the attorney. If the client wishes to divulge those communications, then he or she may do so. The attorney, however, may not divulge those communications without the consent of the client, unless the client has already divulged them on his or her own. Some states also recognize other types of privileges, wherein communications made by one person to another may not be divulged without the consent of the person to whom the privilege belongs. (Such privilege exists in regard to the physician/patient relationship and the priest/penitent relationship.)

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