October 1954

CONFIDENCES OF CLIENT —FEDERAL INVESTIGATION — Where federal authorities are investigating alleged violations of federal wire tapping laws, an attorney is prohibited from disclosing information in his possession which was obtained by tapping the telephone wires of an adverse party, even though the information was obtained in that manner without the attorney's knowledge.

Canon 34.


The attorney for one of the parties to a divorce suit employed a private investigator to obtain information for his client.  Without the knowledge of the attorney, the investigator tapped the telephone wire of the adverse party and recorded conversations overheard by means of the tapped wire.  Records of the conversations were delivered to the attorney who hd employed the investigator.  Federal authorities, investigating alleged violations of federal laws in connection with wire tapping, have asked the attorney to divulge the information which he received from the investigator.  The following questions were submitted:

    1. Would the attorney violate any statute by divulging such information?
    2. Would the attorney violate the Canons of Ethics if he divulged such information to federal investigators?


It is our opinion that the committee should decline to answer question No. 1 because it is outside the scope of the committee's functions.  (8-0). Concerning question No. 2, the committee is of the opinion that it would violate Canon 34 for the attorney to reveal the described information to federal investigators. (5-2)