Does the Attorney-Client Privilege Protect Videotaped Interviews Between Terminally Ill John Gotti and His Lawyers?

May 17, 2006

Many clients (and some lawyers) assume that the attorney-client privilege protects every communication between clients and their lawyers. However, the rules are more subtle than that.

In United States v. Pizzonia, 415 F. Supp. 2d 186 (E.D.N.Y. 2006), the court analyzed efforts by the media to obtain the disclosure of videotaped conversations between John Gotti and his defense lawyers. The court found that the recorded conversations did not relate to legal representation, because “the remarks in the recordings are of a personal, not a professional, nature.” Id. at 189. As the court explained it, “Gotti, a dying man with less than his full faculties, appears to be complaining about mutual friends and acquaintances.” Id. The court ordered public disclosure of the transcript, and allowed the press to view the videotape at the courthouse.

It would be wise for everyone (not just dying mobsters and their lawyers) to remember that the attorney-client privilege does not automatically protect every client-lawyer conversation.