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Showing posts from April, 2006

Interesting ruling on scope of attorney-client privilege

Today, the Third Circuit, in In Re: Grand Jury Investigation, ruled on interesting issues regarding attorney-client privilege, the work-product doctrine, and the crime-fraud exception. The case reached the Court after the government subpoenaed certain documents and testimony regarding an attorney’s advice to his client. The district court upheld the subpoena, holding that the crime-fraud exception trumped the attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine because there was evidence that the attorney had given the client advice in furtherance of her obstruction of justice. After surrender of the documents and the testimony of the attorney before the grand jury, but before an indictment was returned, an object of the investigation, Jane Doe, appealed the district court’s ruling.

The Court first discussed issues of mootness. Because the Court could order relief (i.e., return of the subpoenaed documents, possible injunction of future use of arguably privileged grand jury testimony) to…

Supervised Release Condition Prohibiting Employment with Attorneys Upheld

Today, the Third Circuit, in United States v. Smith, has upheld a condition of supervised release that prohibited the defendant from gaining employment with an attorney or law firm. In Smith, the defendant pleaded guilty to a wire fraud offense, where Smith held himself out as a legal consultant. Smith had some prior convictions that revealed similar activities.

After release from a federal correctional institution, Smith received an offer for employment from local attorneys. Smith’s program review team rejected this opportunity. Smith petitioned the district court to allow the petition. The district court denied it. Smith then filed a motion for reconsideration and the government sought a modification of Smith’s terms of supervised release to include a condition banning Smith from any such employment. The court rejected Smith’s motion and granted the government’s. Smith appealed.

Smith first argued that the district court "lacked the authority to modify the conditions of his relea…

Ineffective assistance and the applicability of AEDPA

In Rolan v. Vaughn, the Third Circuit addressed numerous issues relating to habeas relief. The petitioner in Rolan had petitioned the PA state courts for post-conviction relief, based upon ineffective assistance of counsel, claiming that his attorney had failed to investigate possible defenses. The PA Superior Court ultimately denied such relief, simply ruling that any such deficient performance of counsel could not have prejudiced the defendant. On habeas, the federal district court did not apply the deference to the state court’s factual findings under AEDPA and granted relief, stating that counsel’s failure to investigate was, in fact, ineffective and prejudicial.

On appeal, the Third Circuit first addressed whether AEDPA should have applied. It first stated that AEDPA only applies if the PA Court rejected Rolan’s claim on the merits. The Court determined that the state court did adjudicate the claim on the merits, despite the state court’s decision to dispose of the case for lack o…