Attorney Client Privilege Doctrine In California

The attorney-client privilege and the work product protection doctrine are both statutory creations. ( 1054.6; Code Civ. Proc., 2018; Evid. Code, 954.) Evidence Code section 954 provides that "a client holds a privilege to prevent the disclosure of confidential communications between client and lawyer. A 'client' includes a person who 'consults a lawyer for the purpose of retaining the lawyer or securing legal service or advice from him in his professional capacity', while 'confidential communications' include 'information transmitted between a client and his or her lawyer in the course of that relationship and in confidence." (People v. Gionis (1995) 9 Cal. 4th 1196, 1207 40 Cal. Rptr. 2d 456, 892 P.2d 1199.) Although the attorney-client privilege is not constitutionally based, it is the oldest recognized confidential communications privilege. (Sullivan v. Superior Court (1972) 29 Cal. App. 3d 64, 71 105 Cal. Rptr. 241.) It is grounded on public policy considerations and "is in furtherance of the proper and orderly functioning of our judicial system, which necessarily depends on the confidential relationship between the attorney and the client." (People v. Gionis, supra, 9 Cal. 4th at p. 1207.) The purpose of such evidentiary privilege is to safeguard the confidential relationship between a client and counsel so as to promote full and open disclosure of facts and tactics surrounding the case for which the relationship exists. (People v. Flores (1977) 71 Cal. App. 3d 559 139 Cal. Rptr. 546.) In enacting such privilege, the Legislature recognized that " 'the benefits derived therefrom justify the risk that unjust decisions may sometimes result from the suppression of relevant evidence.' " (Mitchell v. Superior Court (1984) 37 Cal. 3d 591, 600 208 Cal. Rptr. 886, 691 P.2d 642, quoting City & County of S. F. v. Superior Court (1951) 37 Cal. 2d 227, 235 231 P.2d 26, 25 A.L.R.2d 1418.) However, the privilege is not absolute and a person claiming an attorney-client privilege must show that the evidence sought to be protected is within the statutory terms. (People v. Gionis, supra, at p. 1208; see also Vela v. Superior Court (1989) 208 Cal. App. 3d 141, 147 255 Cal. Rptr. 921.)