Unique challenge to legal bedrock principle↤ KRLA Forum
Recently the Beshear administration called for release of Gov. Bevin’s pardon files. These would include records relating to both pardons and commutations by Gov. Bevin that are under Solicitor General Chad Meredith’s oversight.
KRLA has been very impressed with Attorney Meredith’s abilities. He represented Kentuckians in numerous legal cases brought against the pro-life laws passed by our General Assembly during the Bevin administration.
The Courier-Journal reported on July 23 that Holly Johnson, Beshear Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary, asked the Fayette Circuit Court to order Meredith to turn over public records which he had declined to do in response to an open records request in May and a subpoena in June. Though he provided some records related to the investigation into alleged mismanagement of government funds, he did not release documents related to pardons by asserting that ‘attorney-client and work-product privileges’ prevented him from doing so.
We are sure that Attorney Meredith knows the difference between emails that are state property and emails and documents that comprise confidential case information.
The C-J article reports:
The Finance Cabinet's motion states that Meredith's justification for withholding the records is incorrect, as the emails and attachments related to Bevin’s pardons were part of his official jobs duties and created on state time with state resources.
“In short, they are the property and legal documents of the Commonwealth,” the motion states. “Mr. Meredith’s [sic] does not hold the privilege as to these records, cannot assert the privilege on behalf of the Office of Governor, nor could he do so against the very entity which seeks the production of these documents.”
This seems like an ‘appeal to force’ (‘ad baculum’ logical fallacy for you students of the law), as it claims that the state has full rights to any communications, without respect to the legal principle and practice of client-attorney privilege, which is a norm undergirding the entire legal system.
For our pro-life lawsuits, It would mean that any individual, for example, one damaged by an abortion, could not expect her full conversation with a State attorney to be kept confidential, and only portions shared as deemed necessary in a trial. Obviously, a potential breach of confidence could lead to life-damaging public disclosures. What witness would ever volunteer to fully disclose evidences, if attorney-client privilege were not enforced?
To say that attorney-client privilege is nonexistent for state attorneys on state business, and that all state employees’ documents and emails are the property of the state is a disastrous idea, no matter which department, employee or state officer entertains the notion. The debate about ‘open records’ is an active one at this time, but that topic aside, the issue here is attorney-client privilege. That pillar, if removed, could bring the house down.
The same C-J article notes that Atty. Meredith is being considered for a nomination to a federal judgeship in Kentucky’s western district and has the support of Sen. McConnell.
Chad Meredith skillfully defended Kentucky in ACLU / EMW / Planned Parenthood lawsuits brought against the state both in the Fifth District Court and the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court.
The Fifth District Judges who heard the cases for the Ultrasound Law, the Transfer Agreement Law, the Dismemberment Abortion Law, and the Heartbeat and Anti-Eugenics Laws— Judges Hale, McKinley and Stivers— all ruled in favor of the abortion clinics.
The Heartbeat and Anti-Eugenics case hinges on an Appeals Court ruling.