“I was wrongly convicted of murder. I spent nearly 17 years in prison fighting my case. When I finally won a new trial, I chose Greg Robey to be a part of my defense team. He found an FBI agent who had worked on the case in the 1980s, along with critical pieces of evidence that we thought were long lost. After a long and very hard-fought trial, I was found Not Guilty of all charges. I owe my freedom to Greg Robey and my defense team.” -R.R., Ravenna, Ohio
As the Supreme Court of Ohio has stated, “A fundamental principle in the attorney-client relationship is that the attorney shall maintain the confidentiality of any information learned during the attorney-client relationship.”
Clearly, attorney-client privilege is an important component of an attorney’s ethical responsibilities. However, there are multiple and complex situations when attorney-client privilege may not apply – when the legal process compels the disclosure of privileged information, or when which clients may be deemed to have waived attorney-client privilege.
The first, and most simple, distinction is that what is privileged is the content of the communications between the clients and their lawyers — what clients say or write to their lawyers. The facts about what clients knew, did, or failed to do are not privileged. Therefore, clients cannot hide facts simply by telling them to their lawyers.
In Ohio, the general rules about disclosing information relating to the representation of clients can be summarized as follows: