Noted women’s rights attorney Lisa Bloom may have revealed confidential information in violation of the attorney-client privilege as it related to former client Kathy Griffin in a Twitter post yesterday afternoon.
At 3:42 pm, Bloom tweeted out the following message:
My statement re Kathy Griffin. pic.twitter.com/Xhvwiz1pcx
— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) October 22, 2017
The above missive is another bizarre twist in an increasing war of words between Griffin and Bloom. Griffin previously called Bloom out for essentially over-charging her for apparently less-than-stellar legal services. Bloom had been representing Griffin as she embarked upon a sort of public apology tour after a controversial photo shoot where she stood with the bloodied mock head of President Donald Trump.
Dear @LisaBloom pls stop calling me. If you’d like to refund me the tens of thousands of $$ I wasted on your services maybe I’ll talk to you
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) October 22, 2017
But did Bloom’s response to being called out by a former client perhaps violate professional ethical rules? Maybe so.
The State Bar of California’s understanding of attorney-client privilege is encapsulated in Rule 3-100 Confidential Information of a Client (A), which reads:
(A) A member shall not reveal information protected from disclosure by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) without the informed consent of the client, or as provided in paragraph (B) of this rule.
Ah, the classic legal construction of referencing a series of references. We’ll address all of them. Here’s what California’s Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) has to say about the attorney-client privilege in action:
It is the duty of an attorney…(e) (1) To maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril to himself or herself to preserve the secrets, of his or her client.
And, for emphasis, here’s what section (f) of the above-referenced Business and Professions Code also demands:
It is the duty of an attorney…(f) To advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which he or she is charged.
So, do Lisa Bloom’s tweeted comments rise to the level of revealing Kathy Griffin’s confidential information? Bloom’s potentially unethical comments are as follows, “Her entire team (entertainment lawyer, criminal lawyer, and several others) approved in advance the statements she and I were going to make. Yet Kathy then during the press conference spontaneously chose to put aside the notes we had worked so hard on together. She said on camera ‘my notes are by the wayside and it’s all off the cuff’ and then ad libbed. I was sorry she made that choice…”
To start off, the part where Bloom relays what Griffin said on camera is clearly not a candidate for a rules violation here, because it was simply a rehashing of what happened in full public view, so we can discount that immediately. Everything that’s left in Bloom’s statement, however, could put her in a bit of an ethical quagmire.
First, Bloom notes that Griffin, herself and at least three others (and probably more) worked together on a project as part of Kathy’s team. That’s one discrete piece of information–group work–which Bloom revealed. Second, Bloom notes that other attorneys helped with said project. That’s another discrete piece of information–legal group work–which Bloom revealed. Third, Bloom notes that the comments which derived from said project were approved by other attorneys, which is yet another discrete piece of information–legal imprimatur–which Bloom revealed.
Fourth, Bloom adds a personal touch to her revelations by noting that she was “sorry” Griffin made the choice she did. This is equal parts revelation of information–attorney displeased with client–and advancement of a prejudicial (not favorable) fact against Griffin. And there was simply no cause for Bloom to reveal any of this information–and it appears quite unlikely that Griffin would have given informed consent for Bloom to tweet out a laundry list of lawyerly complaints about a client.
Now, before going forward, it is incumbent upon this analysis to note that were other non-attorneys present for any work during the Griffin-Bloom project, any information relayed to those potential non-attorneys would not be protected by the privilege.
Furthermore, publicly disparaging a former client by revealing information about the contours of representation is not only possibly unethical, it’s entirely beneath the dignity of an attorney–especially one who fashions themselves in the mold of fighting for social justice and equity.
Whether anything ever comes of these potential ethical lapses is another question entirely. (And to be clear, attorney ethical violations are not typically treated as legal violations.) Griffin would likely need to be the mover here by filing a complaint against Bloom with the State Bar of California. That’s unlikely, but if she chose to do so, there’d likely be evidence enough to force Bloom in front of a disciplinary board.
LawNewz reached out to Bloom for comment on this story but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication. This post will be updated if and when such a reply is received.
[image via screengrab]