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ACC Files Amicus Brief Urging Pa. Supreme Court to Uphold Attorney-Client Relationship at Nonprofit Organizations

Posted: Apr 30, 2015

WASHINGTON (April 30, 2015) -- The Association of Corporate Counsel, a global legal association representing more than 35,000 in-house counsel at more than 10,000 organizations, today filed an amicus curiae brief with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to protect the attorney-client relationship at nonprofit entities in the commonwealth.  

In the brief, ACC and its three Pennsylvania chapters, representing more than 1,600 Pennsylvania in-house attorneys, urge the Court to affirm a lower court's ruling that counsel for nonprofit corporations are prohibited from disclosing information related to their clients. The case reviews whether inside or outside counsel for charitable nonprofits may reveal information, without the client's consent, to the office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General.

"Clients — individual, corporate, non-profit or otherwise — expect their lawyers to maintain their confidences," said Amar Sarwal, vice president and chief legal strategist at ACC. "Absent that guarantee, lawyers will be without the necessary information to effectively represent their clients."

Although Pennsylvania professional ethics rules make rare exceptions to interrupt attorney-client confidentiality, those circumstances are not present in this case, ACC argues in its brief. Any efforts to broaden the scope of the exceptions must occur within a rule amendment process rather than a Court decision.

"In its ethics rules, Pennsylvania has made a clear choice not to permit counsel to disclose information from organizational clients, except in limited circumstances," Sarwal said. "The Pennsylvania Supreme Court should not undermine that well-thought out decision, but should instead adhere to its long tradition of protecting the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship from erosion."

The case, in which both the plaintiff's and the defendant's names have been redacted, is No. 145 MAP 2014. To read the amicus curiae brief, visit www.acc.com/advocacy/upload/AACamicusbrief-PA_non-profit.pdf.  

About ACC: The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is a global legal association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel who work for corporations, associations and other private-sector organizations through information, education, networking opportunities and advocacy initiatives. With more than 35,000 members in 85 countries, employed by over 10,000 organizations, ACC connects its members to the people and resources necessary for both personal and professional growth. By in-house counsel, for in-house counsel.® For more information, visit www.acc.com and follow ACC on Twitter: @ACCinhouse.

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