Attorney-Client Privilege Protection Act Passes House
Washington, DC (November 13, 2007) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers fully supports H.R. 3013, “The Attorney-Client Privilege Protection Act of 2007, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives Monday afternoon with no serious opposition. NACDL President Carmen D. Hernandez stated, “The attorney-client privilege is our oldest privilege at common law. It has served the public interest well for hundreds of years by ensuring frank and confidential communications between persons and their lawyers in potential civil and criminal matters. The criminal defense bar hopes that the Senate will now pass this legislation without further delay.”
The bill prohibits U.S. government employees from pressuring organizations into waiving their traditional legal privileges, including work product protections, or taking actions that adversely affect the rights of their employees during federal investigations.
The Coalition to Preserve the Attorney-Client Privilege, business and legal groups , including NACDL, which have been supporting the legislation, released the following statement on the bill’s passage:
“An overwhelming majority of Members of the House of Representatives have voted to stop Justice Department abuses of power and force federal prosecutors to simply follow rules that will no longer place untenable pressure on companies and employees to waive basic constitutional rights guaranteed to every person targeted in government investigations.
“If enacted, H.R. 3013 will prevent prosecutors and enforcement professionals from assuming a role properly reserved for impartial courts and judges. In addition, H.R. 3013 would overturn recent federal policies that have been found to violate employees’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel and Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and will prevent government prosecutors from inappropriately pressuring organizations to not pay their employees’ legal fees during investigations, to fire employees for not waiving their rights, or to take other punitive actions against them long before any guilt has been established.
“The Department of Justice cannot point to one case it would not have been able to prosecute if it had not unlawfully forced an organization to waive its attorney-client privilege or cut off legal fees to its employees. Ironically, it is when federal prosecutors fail to play by the rules that their cases fall apart as is what happened in the KPMG case where a judge ruled the constitutional violations were so egregious that he dismissed indictments against 13 defendants.
“The legislation passed today is supported by a group of former senior Justice Department officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations, including three former attorneys general, most of the country’s major national newspapers and a broad and diverse group of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Bar Association, the Association of Corporate Counsel and business organizations.
“The Coalition is a uniquely broad and nonpartisan group of membership organizations with one thing in common: we are all deeply troubled by the corrosive effect that federal investigative and prosecutorial policies and practices have had on four fundamental elements of the American system of justice: the attorney-client privilege, the work product doctrine, and the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.”
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The Coalition to Preserve the Attorney-Client Privilege members include the American Chemistry Council, American Civil Liberties Union, Association of Corporate Counsel, Business Civil Liberties, Inc., Business Roundtable, The Financial Services Roundtable, Frontiers of Freedom, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Association of Manufacturers, Retail Industry Leaders Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL’s 12,000-plus direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling more than 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.