Illinois Supreme Court Says Lawyer Must Testify Against Former Client

Nov 28, 2013

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.

Credit Illinois Supreme Court

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.