Supreme Court to Resolve Attorney-Client Privilege Split

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For the first time in 25 years, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the scope of the attorney-client privilege in the case In re Grand Jury, No. 21-1397. The Court heard oral arguments earlier this week about when the attorney-client privilege protects communications involving both legal and nonlegal advice (dual-purpose communications).

In re Grand Jury

A grand jury subpoenaed documents from the petitioner, a tax law firm, related to a criminal investigation into the law firm’s client. In re Grand Jury, 23 F.4th 1088, 1090 (9th Cir. 2021). The law firm withheld documents that had dual-purpose communications based on the attorney-client privilege. After the government moved to compel, the district court used the “primary purpose test” to determine whether the dual-purpose communications were privileged. The court used the test to determine “whether the primary purpose of the communication [was] to give or receive legal advice, as opposed to business or tax advice.” Id. at 1091 (citation omitted). In the end, the district court ordered the law firm to produce documents to the government after redacting tax-related legal advice. When the law firm refused, the court held it in contempt, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed the contempt order.

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