Thursday, January 06, 2011

Which is more important: the public good or attorney-client privilege?

This story is brought to you by the folks who covered up sudden accelerations in vehicles. I think this lawyer did the right thing. I also think citizens should be prepared to pay a penalty for doing the right thing. Civil disobedience has made our society better, but you've got to be prepared to pay a price when you're working to make the world better. I think lawyers should started taking responsibility for the injustices brought about by dishonesty in our legal system. I believe some things are more important than attorney-client privilege. I also think that priests should violate the sanctity of the confessional in order to protect innocent victims. (Of course, I suspect that this lawyer can easily afford to pay this judgment.)

Toyota wins $2.6-million judgment against former attorney
By Ken Bensinger
Los Angeles Times
January 6, 2011

Toyota Motor Corp. has won a $2.6-million arbitration judgment against a former in-house attorney who had accused the company of a conspiracy to hide evidence in product safety litigation.

The Japanese automaker had vigorously denied the allegations of its ex-attorney, Dimitrios Biller, who helped the company manage vehicle rollover lawsuits out of its U.S. offices in Torrance for four years.

Toyota instead contended that the attorney had violated a confidentiality agreement and attorney-client privilege by taking thousands of company documents with him when he left the company in 2007, later releasing and discussing some of them publicly.

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In a ruling this week, arbitrator Gary L. Taylor sided decisively with the world's largest automaker.

"Mr. Biller did the professionally unthinkable: He betrayed the confidences of his client," Taylor, a retired federal judge, wrote in his 15-page judgment Tuesday. "He intentionally and repeatedly disclosed confidential information and documents in violation of ethical, statutory and contractual prohibitions."

Biller, who took a $3.7-million severance from Toyota, did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.

The Pacific Palisades resident had previously defended his actions, asserting that he witnessed criminal wrongdoing including fraud, and that in such cases attorney-client privilege does not apply.

Taylor's decision is a significant legal victory for the embattled automaker, which has been struggling to restore its reputation in the face of waves of quality and safety recalls, as well as lawsuits related to allegations that its vehicles are prone to sudden acceleration...

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