A librarian at Northwestern University found confidential attorney-client files in eighteen boxes of files belonging to Rod Blagojevich. The librarian purchased them at in an auction held by a moving and storage company that sold Blagojevich’s stored possessions after he stiffed the company on his storage bills. The files date from the ex-Illinois governor and current criminal defendant’s days as a prosecutor. Even though Blago no longer practices law (his bar status is inactive), his duty to protect prior client confidences is sacred and perpetual. The relevant Illinois Rule, 1.6, says:
(a) Except when required under Rule 1.6(b) or permitted under Rule 1.6(c), a lawyer shall not, during or after termination of the professional relationship with the client, use or reveal a confidence or secret of the client known to the lawyer unless the client consents after disclosure.
That means that leaving boxes of former client secrets statements, records and confidences in boxes stored in a facility where you’re not paying your bills is recklessly risking the privacy of those documents, and making it possible for them to fall into untrustworthy hands—not that Rod Blagojevich meets the minimal level of trustworthiness either.
Blago told the AP that he had no idea what was in the boxes. Wrong answer: he has a duty to know where his client files are and that they are secure. He also said that he didn’t know he was in arrears at the storage facility. Also wrong: staying current with the bills was his responsibility as part of his duty to protect his clients’ confidences.
That a man who ignored his duty to the public, and tried to use his power to appoint a U.S. Senator for personal gain, was also cavalier with his ethical duties to former clients should come as no surprise. People who are unethical in one job are likely to be unethical in others. And Rod…well, I think it’s fair to say that Rod Blagojevich is likely to be unethical no matter what he does, including eating and sleeping.