When Lawyers Advise Their Clients To Ignore The Law

Hartford Courant reporter Matt Kauffman has an excellent piece entitled “A Transparency Advocate’s Legislative Wish List.”  As the title suggest, the article contains a list of pro-open government measures that he hopes the General Assembly will consider and adopt this session.  I support every item on the list.

But making that supportive statement is not the purpose of this post.

Matt’s piece begins with a deeply troubling description of the contents of an internal email he obtained. The author of the email is a lawyer for a public agency.  The email states: “As we discussed we can always withhold a document even if there is no exception [under the Freedom of Information Act].”  Yes, you read that right: a lawyer for a public agency advised his/her client that it could ignore the law.

WT__? (Pardon my French.)  I have no idea who this lawyer is, but the kindest thing I can say is that he or she needs to review the Code of Professional Conduct–immediately.  Perhaps a professional sanction is also in order. “Sure, go ahead, ignore the law.”  That is outrageous advice for a lawyer to give to a client, particularly a public agency. 

I am a proud member of the bar.  This unnamed lawyer’s conduct is not representative of the way most lawyers conduct themselves.  It should not go unredressed.

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