The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled a lawyer has to testify against his former client in a mortgage fraud case. The decision reaffirms a rare exception to the attorney-client privilege.
The idea that lawyers and their clients should be able to communicate confidentially is one of the oldest principles in our legal system. But if someone communicates with a lawyer in order to further a crime, the privilege no longer exists. That's called the "crime-fraud exception."
In this case, the lawyer is Mark Helfand. Prosecutors charged him with helping his client, Budimir Radojcic, run a mortgage fraud scheme. They want Helfand to testify against his client.
Emily Wood, who represented Radojcic before the Supreme Court, argues that's a misuse of the exception.
"The crime-fraud exception is not a discovery mechanism. The state's interest in gathering evidence does not overcome attorney-client privilege," Wood said.
The Supreme Court disagrees. It ruled because the state offered evidence that Radojcic and Helfand's communication furthered the scheme, attorney-client privilege no longer applies.
Radojcic was first charged in 2007. The court's decision means his case can now go to trial.