With the American Criminal Justice System, a person accused of a crime has the right to be represented by an attorney to advise them and represent them in a court. Attorneys must meet with clients and get information from the client to help form a strong defense strategy for their case. Attorney and their clients have what is known as attorney-client privilege, which allows attorneys to keep conversations between and information gain from their clients confidential except in the formation of the defense’s case. Privilege is essential for communication, trust and confidentiality. The privilege, however, is neither uncontroversial or unlimited.
For example, if an attorney’s client leads the attorney to believe that they may have in fact committed the crime by admitted their guilt to the attorney, then how should the attorney react? Or if an attorney’s client informs the attorney that they intend to perjure themselves on the stand intentionally, should the attorney report it to the court, advise their client of the consequences of perjury, or simply do nothing. Even though the privilege is in place to protect the client, there are ethical considerations that the attorney must take into consideration. The Supreme Court considered some of these questions in Nix v.
Whiteside (1986), which addressed some of the constitutional issues raised when Whiteside’s attorney reported to the trial court judge of his belief that his client intended to commit perjury while testifying in court about events leading up to the death of the victim. Whiteside was convicted of murder, and the appeal raised the question of whether he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to assistance of counsel. The court decided that he was not, but this case raised—but did not settle—the issue of whether the attorney should have revealed this confidential information about his client to the court. (Meyer & Grant, 2003)