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News & Press: Montana Supreme Court

Court to decide if lawyer can be forced to testify about communication with client

Thursday, January 4, 2018  
Posted by: Joe Menden
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A case before the Montana Supreme Court will determine whether state district courts can compel an attorney to testify against a client the attorney represents regarding attorney-client communication.

Shannon Sweeney was the court-appointed attorney for a man charged with possession of dangerous drugs. After Sweeney’s client failed to appear at a final pretrial conference, the State of Montana additionally charged him with bail-jumping. In connection with the bail-jumping charge, the 3rd Judicial District Court ordered Sweeney to testify on the state’s behalf about her communication with her former client concerning the pretrial conference.

Sweeney asks the Montana Supreme Court to direct the District Court not to require her to testify, on grounds that attorney-client privilege bars her from doing so.

The Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Sweeney’s position.

An oral argument  is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 9:30 a.m. in the Supreme Court's courtroom in Helena.