October 9, 2008


Panel to Make Recommendations to Ensure Privacy Rights of Attorneys and Clients are Protected

The New York State Bar Association today announced the formation of a Task Force on Privacy that will examine current policies, practices and legislation that threaten attorney-client privacy today, and make recommendations to safeguard this most fundamental legal right. The task force was created by Association President Bernice K. Leber (Arent Fox LLP) and is one of her key priorities.

"The right to privacy for lawyers and their clients is a fundamental precept of our justice system. Protecting lawyers and clients from third-party disclosure should be a vital concern not only to our profession, but to all Americans," Leber said.

"From eavesdropping on attorneys representing detainees at Guantanamo Bayto the illegal interception of emails, if the privacy of just one lawyer is compromised, the privacy of every client could be in jeopardy. This task force will conduct a thorough examination of these privacy issues and develop policy and legislative solutions that will ensure that these important rights are preserved. I would like to thank all of the members of the panel for agreeing to tackle this critical problem," Leber added.

The Task Force on Privacy will be co-chaired by Kelly M. Slavitt, Corporate Counsel of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and Alison Arden Besunder (Arent Fox LLP). The panel will also include members of the Association's Business, Criminal, Health, Labor and Employment, and Intellectual Property law sections.

The task force will study specific areas where attorney privacy is most vulnerable, focusing on the Internet, health and financial data, and issues affecting the principle of attorney-client privilege. It will propose reforms of current statutes as needed. Through its work, the panel also will educate the public and the profession on ways to reduce the risk of violations to privacy. In addition, the task force will review and report on the current remedies and compensation available to those whose data has been seized for illegitimate purposes.

Members of the Task Force on Privacy include:

  • Kelly M Slavitt, Esq., Corporate Counsel, ASPCA, Co-Chair;
  • Alison Arden Besunder, Esq. (Arent Fox LLP), Co-Chair;
  • Grace Sterrett, Esq. (HudsonCook, LLP);
  • Cliff Weber, Esq. (Hinman, Howard & Kattel, LLP);
  • Malvina Nathanson, Esq. (Law Office of Malvina Nathanson);
  • Mark Mahoney, Esq. (Harrington & Mahoney);
  • Jo-Ann Marchica, Esq. (Arent Fox PLLC);
  • Jill Steinberg, Esq. (Arent Fox PLLC);
  • Paul Gillan, Esq. (Capital District Physicians Health Plan);
  • Lauren Fass, Esq. (Arent Fox PLLC);
  • Robert N. Swidler, Esq. (Northeast Health);
  • Darrell Gay, Esq. (Arent Fox PLLC);
  • Matthew Asbell, Esq. (Ladas & Parry LLP);
  • Raymond A. Mantle, Esq. (Law Office of Raymond A. Mantle);
  • Lindsay Martin, Esq. (McKool Smith);
  • Jay G. Safer, Esq. (Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP); and
  • Oren Warshavsky, Esq. (Baker Hostetler).

For more information about the Association's Task Force on Privacy, members of the public can visit its Web Site at www.nysba.org/privacytaskforce.

The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, the Association's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.