Evidence – Attorney-Client Privilege – Communications Relating to Future Criminal Transactions

Defendant was subpoenaed in connection with a grand jury investigation of gambling and corruption of public officials. He had been retained by one ‘Willie” Moretti as attorney for five of his associates in October, 1950 after a complaint charging a gambling conspiracy had been filed against them. During some two hundred conferences with Moretti in the following year, defendant learned that protection money was being paid to certain high ranking state officials, Moretti at one point complaining of the frequent demands of these officials for more· money. Moretti also discussed with defendant a visit he had paid to the home of one Dickerson, a prominent political figure, twelve days after the aforementioned complaint had been filed. With respect to this visit, Dickerson testified that Moretti had complained that people who had paid protection money were being “pushed around,” and that he (Moretti) had paid protection money. Dickerson interpreted these remarks as an attempt to pressure him into interceding with the grand jury on Moretti’s behalf. Moretti himself was a witness before the Kefauver Committee in 1951, and was indicted after his death in 1951 for conspiracy to obstruct justice. Upon being asked to disclose the names of the people, who, according to Moretti, had received protection money, and to state whether Moretti had told him that he had been to Dickerson’s home and had a conversation, defendant claimed the attorney-client privilege and refused to answer. Upon an order to show cause why defendant should not answer the above questions, the trial court sustained the claim of privilege and the appellate division affirmed. On appeal, held, reversed, three judges dissenting. The two hundred unexplained conferences within a year, the visit to Dickerson, and Moretti’s complaint about the greed of public officials constitute prima facie evidence that Moretti consulted defendant with regard to future criminal transactions, to which the privilege does not attach. In re Selser, (N.J. 1954) 105 A. (2d) 395.