Case Report – Sask. CA affirms law society’s right to demand access to privileged communications

21 Oct

On October 9th, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal held that the Saskatchewan Legal Profession Act authorizes the Law Society of Saskatchewan to demand production of records required for an investigation despite a claim to solicitor-client privilege.

The Court distinguished the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent Blood Tribe decision and held that section 63 of the Saskatchewan Act clearly contemplates that privilege will be abrogated by a proper demand.  Since the respondent law firm conceded the Law Society’s production demand was sufficiently tailored, the Court held that it could lawfully seize the disputed records.

Notably, the Court also rejected a broader argument by the Law Society that the common law “extends the envelope of solicitor-client privilege” to include law societies.  The Law Society relied heavily on United Kingdom jurisprudence and, in particular, on a 2002 House of Lords decision called Morgan Grenfell & Go. Ltd.  The Court explained that the cases raised by the Law Society did not support its broad proposition, and stressed that the basis for the solicitor-client privilege must be assessed through the eyes of the client:  “Disclosure of privileged communication to the Law Society would surely, to most clients, represent an infringement of confidentiality.”

Law Society of Saskatchewan v. E.F.A. Merchant Q.C., [2008] S.J. No. 623 (C.A.) (QL).

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