“The focus of the crime fraud exception is on the intent of the client (citation omitted), not the legitimacy of the services provided by the attorney. An attorney may be completely innocent of wrongdoing, yet the privilege will give way if the client sought the attorney’s assistance for illegal ends.” People v. Radojcic, 2013 IL 114197, ¶ 49.
A lawyer’s participation in intentional breaches of fiduciary duty triggers the crime-fraud exception even though a fiduciary breach is no necessarily a crime or act of common law fraud. Intentional fiduciary breaches are regularly called constructive fraud however and give rise to the crime fraud exception. See Mueller Indus., Inc. v. Berkman, 399 Ill.App.3d 456, 469-73 (2d Dist. 2010) abrogated by People v. Radojcic, 2013 IL 114197 on other grounds (“In concluding that an intentional breach of fiduciary duty may serve as the fraud necessary to establish the crime-fraud exception, we take note of Steelvest, Inc. v. Scansteel Service Center, Inc., 807 S.W.2d 476 (Ky.1991). … The Kentucky Supreme Court held that the breach of fiduciary duty was ‘on an equal par with fraud and deceit.”’) Lawyers who aid and abet fiduciary breaches and other torts are subject to suit. As Thornwood, Inc. v. Jenner & Block, 344 Ill. App. 3d 15, 28–29 (1st Dist. 2003), as modified on denial of reh’g (Nov. 10, 2003) recognized, a lawyer may not “escap[e] liability for knowingly and substantially assisting a client in the commission of a tort.” Continue reading ›