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People v. Gionis: Beware of Gratuitous Advice, Attorneys May Testify Against a Business Acquaintance or Friend

NCJ Number
Thomas Jefferson Law Review Volume: 18 Issue: 1 Dated: (Spring 1996) Pages: 97-115
D M Tormey
Date Published
19 pages
This case comment discusses the questionable result of the "Gionis" decision by the California Supreme Court, the failure of the majority to consider a significant part of section 951 of the California Evidence Code, and its failure to correctly apply California precedent.
In People v. Gionis (1995), the California Supreme Court held that incriminating remarks made to an attorney were not privileged because the defendant had no expectation the attorney would represent him in the matter for which he received advice. The decision in "Gionis" not only intrudes into the well settled area of the attorney-client privilege, but creates a dubious cloud over any legal communications between attorneys and their friends, associates, and acquaintances. The first part of this case comment describes the origin and history of the attorney- client privilege. Then it presents the factual and procedural background to the issues raised and the details and reasoning of the majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions. It then examines the court's analysis of the attorney-client issues in greater detail and discusses the court's failure to consider the remaining portion of section 951, which would have been dispositive. Finally, the author discusses the policy concerns and implications of the precedent set herein. 111 footnotes