New Legal Developments

Legal Advice is Privileged even if Client Uses It for Wrongful Purpose — California Attorney Ethics — Civil

Contreras v. Dowling (2016) 4 Cal.App.5th 774

Tenants built an illegal in-law in landlord’s garage, and rented the in-law to Contreras. Landlords permitted Contreras to occupy the in-law for 18 months. Then when the Tenants moved out, the landlords sued unsuccessfully to evict Contreras. Contreras sued the landlords and landlord’s first attorney for harassment, and then sued the landlords and their second attorney for harassment. Second attorney was alleged to have conspired with the landlords by giving legal advice to commit what Contreras contended were illegal acts (entry without notice, damaging locks).
Held: Landlord’s anti-SLAPP motion improperly denied; case dismissed. The giving of legal advice by the second attorney was not “illegal as a matter of law”, thus distinguishing this case from Flatley v. Mauro (2006) 39 Cal.4th 299, where the attorney’s demand letter itself constituted extortion.