Two alleged Montreal Mafia leaders were acquitted of gangsterism and drug trafficking charges after Quebec Superior Court excluded wiretap evidence gathered by a joint police task force because they failed to put in place sufficient measures to prevent the interception of conversations between lawyers and clients.
Why it matters: The decision provides guidance on electronic surveillance, castigates police for failing to do enough to protect solicitor-client privilege, and warns that it would be imprudent to view his ruling as an inducement to consider law firm as safe havens to conspire and plan crimes.
The total amount of professional billings paid to lawyers working on a mandate for public bodies is not necessarily automatically protected by solicitor-client privilege ruled the Quebec Court of Appeal.
In what is described as a precedent-setting ruling, the Quebec appeal court decision provides much-needed guidance and strikes a delicate balance between professional secrecy and public access to documents, according to legal experts.
“The importance of this lies with the distinction the Quebec appeal court makes between professional secrecy and public access to documents regarding legal fees paid by public bodies to lawyers,” said Pierre Trudel, a former director of Université de Montréal’s Public Law Research Centre. “The decision provides helpful guidance over what should remain protected by professional secrecy and what should be accessible to ensure public access to documents.”
The amount of legal fees paid to lawyers is no longer automatically deemed to be protected by solicitor-client privilege following a recent ruling by the Court of Quebec that appears to be in conflict with guidance given earlier this year by the Quebec Court of Appeal, according to some legal observers.