Evidence–Attorney-Client Privilege — Identiy of Client Held Privileged

Petitioner attorney was retained by an organization of fruit merchants to investigate parking conditions on the New York piers which prevented its members from attending the daily fruit auctions, and to take steps to remedy this situation. During his investigations petitioner learned from one of his employers that two local politicians were being paid to allow certain large trailer trucks to continue parking illegally on the piers. The attorney reported this information to city officials. He was subsequently subpoenaed to testify on the matter before respondent, New York City Commissioner of Investigation, who was conducting an inquiry into waterfront conditions. At the hearing, petitioner refused to identify the persons who had retained him. On appeal from affirmance of an order for his arrest for contempt, held, reversed. Since the communication had been made in aid of a public purpose and had been disclosed to the public authorities, and since the existence of an actual attorney-client relationship had been otherwise established, the privilege should extend to cover the client’s identity. In re Kaplan, 8 N.Y.2d 214, 168 N.E.2d 660, 203 N.Y.S.2d 836 (1960).