SAGINAW COUNTY (WJRT) -
(06/20/14) - Attorney-client privilege. We hear the phrase in news stories, television shows, and movies that deal with court matters.
The attorney-client privilege is a rule that preserves the confidentiality of communications between lawyers and clients.
That rule is at the heart of a lawsuit in Saginaw County, where a lawyer and his client were videotaped in a room inside the jail.
The audio between the attorney and client was not recorded, but they were videotaped, and the attorney's attorney says that's a violation of the 4th Amendment.
It was in March 2012 when attorney Laurence Long was meeting with his client, Diane Messing, who was charged operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated third offense.
The meeting took place in the arraignment video room, where defendants are charged. During the meeting between Long and Messing, they were the only two people in the room and were videotaped on a different camera in the room. The deputy who filed the police report states Messing kissed Long twice on the mouth, and they also hugged.
When Circuit Court Judge Robert Kazcmarek was told of the interaction between the two, he requested an investigation of Long and curtailed his court-appointed attorney standing. Attorney Victor Mastromarco says the recording violates the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.
"All the evidence that has come in so far shows that the sheriff's department was doing this without any of the attorney's knowledge, the fact that it was a videotape and not audio doesn't matter and the law is very clear on that," Mastromarco said.
While attorneys can meet with clients in the jail in rooms where there are no cameras, the police report indicates the deputy wanted Long and Messing in a room where there was a surveillance camera because "Long came in five times in one week to see Messing."
The court also said there was no valid penological interest, meaning safety interest or otherwise, in doing this," Mastromarco said.
Mastromarco says Long was not aware he was being recorded.
"If the attorney and client go into a room where they know they are being observed, that's one thing, but if they are doing it by cover of night, or cloak and dagger, that's exactly what the 4th Amendment is designed to prevent," Mastromarco said.
While U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Ludington has recently ruled the case can proceed, Saginaw County has appealed that ruling to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
When ABC12 contacted the Saginaw County attorney, Friday, she declined to comment on the pending litigation.