Lawyer Comments at Public Meeting Are Privileged, Top NH Court Says, if No One's There to Hear Them

Confidential information discussed by a lawyer with his clients, the New Hampshire Local Government Center, at a public meeting of the center are privileged, the state’s top court has ruled, because no member of the public was present to hear them.

Ruling Friday on a claim by the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, which had sought complete minutes for 14 meetings over a nearly 10-year period, the New Hampshire Supreme Court said the center had a right to redact the discussion with its lawyer under a claim of attorney-client privilege, reports the Nashua Telegraph.

“Because the ultimate touchstone is the speaker’s reasonable expectation that the communications were made in confidence, the fact that the meetings were technically open to the public … is of no import,” the court states in its written opinion (PDF).

“As the superior court aptly observed, ‘The fact that the meeting occurs in a public place does not destroy the privilege, if no one hears the conversation.’ ”

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