Connecticut Bar Association Formal Opinion 49 Confidentiality and the Suicidal Client

JurisdictionConnecticut,United States
Publication year2021
CitationVol. 74 Pg. 238
Connecticut Bar Journal
Volume 74.

74 CBJ 238. Connecticut Bar Association Formal Opinion 49 CONFIDENTIALITY AND THE SUICIDAL CLIENT


Connecticut Bar Association Formal Opinion 49 CONFIDENTIALITY AND THE SUICIDAL CLIENT

In the context of the facts we have been asked to assume and subject to the qualifications set forth below, it is our opinion that a lawyer, without the client's consent, may disclose the client's intent to commit suicide in order to prevent it. The basis for this opinion is Rule 1.14, Client Under A Disability.

We were asked to assume these facts: A client meets with his lawyer seeking estate planning advice and requests that the lawyer prepare the necessary documents on a rush basis. The client's reason for requesting urgent preparation of documents is that he intends to take his own life in about two weeks. He is unemployed and can not pay his mortgage or his child's tuition. Despite trying hard to find a job, the client believes there is no current prospect of finding one. But he does have a life insurance policy and in it the client sees a way to provide for his family. The client seeks the lawyer's assistance in carrying out the estate-planning component of this plan. The lawyer in turn asked us to respond (fn1) to two questions about his obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct (the "Rules"). The first question is as follows:

Does Rule 1.6 or any other Rule of Professional Conduct prohibit my disclosure of my client's intent to commit suicide and related facts to law enforcement authorities, state health care authorities, his family, any judicial or administrative tribunal, or any other persons or entities I feel may provide help?

Rule 1.6 permits a lawyer to reveal information relating to representation if a client consents after consultation. The question assumes that the client has not given consent. We think it is important that, if circumstances permit, the lawyer consult with the client and ask for the client's consent. In the process, the. lawyer may wish to recommend that the client


consult with a mental health professional. (fn2)

Assuming, however, that after consultation the client does not consent to disclosure, or that under the circumstances it is either impossible or not advisable to consult with the client about disclosure, then the question we were asked raises these three issues: Do the Rules permit disclosure without client consent? If so, what information may the lawyer disclose and to whom?

Under normal circumstances a lawyer may not reveal information relating to representation of a client without the client's explicit or implicit consent. Rule 1.6(a). There are exceptions for criminal or fraudulent conduct and claims against lawyers (fn3 )but none of them apply to these facts. Assisting a person to commit suicide is a crime, (fn4) and there are numerous statutes dealing with the prevention of suicide, especially among children and young adults. (fn5) There is even a statute that authorizes the use of reasonable force to prevent suicide. (fn6) Those statutes demonstrate a clear public policy against suicide, which is part of a longstanding tradition in this country. (fn7) If suicide were a crime, Rule 1.6(b) would require the lawyer to reveal his client's intent because it would be likely to result in death or substantial bodily harm. But...

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