Lyndhurst, NJ – August 20, 2019 - In a precedent-setting case involving government overreach and the preservation of the sanctity of attorney-client privilege, Scarinci Hollenbeck attorneys Raymond M. Brown and Rachel E. Simon were successful in representing NJ Criminal Defense attorney Landry Belizaire. Mr. Belizaire is a Bergen County, NJ criminal defense attorney who was subpoenaed by the State to testify against a former client of his and relinquish privileged communications between him and his former client. On Thursday, August 15, 2019, the Hon. Margaret M. Foti, P.J.Cr., ultimately struck down the State’s motion to compel Mr. Belizaire’s compliance with the subpoena.
“We are pleased with the result. The system of justice cannot function unless it protects communications between clients and their lawyers. We were happy to play a role in this matter due to its implications for the sanctity of attorney-client privilege and to uphold the Rules of Professional Conduct in a meaningful manner,” stated Partner Raymond M. Brown.
Mr. Brown was brought into this case due to his nuanced experience in handling complex criminal defense and ethics matters. Over the years, Mr. Brown has appeared in numerous high-profile proceedings on various criminal defense and litigation teams and has amassed an impressive track record for achieving successful results on behalf of his clients. Mr. Brown’s insight—in conjunction with Senior Associate Rachel E. Simon’s assistance in shaping the team’s legal strategy—proved vital in effectively addressing this matter.
Background of the Case
In late March 2019, Mr. Belizaire briefly represented a defendant who was facing charges of first-degree sexual assault with a weapon stemming from an incident that occurred in 2005. In collaboration with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office (BCPO), Mr. Belizaire arranged a voluntary self-surrender on behalf of his client. On the day of the scheduled self-surrender, the defendant, instead of arriving at the agreed-upon location, was arrested at JFK International Airport aboard a plane headed to Jamaica.
Shortly thereafter, the BCPO served Mr. Belizaire with a subpoena duces tecum. The subpoena requested testimony against the defendant and requested documents that included privileged communications between Belizaire and the defendant. In response, Belizaire cited the Rules of Professional Conduct, maintaining that granting the BCPO’s requests would violate attorney-client privilege. In spite of this, the BCPO filed a motion to compel Mr. Belizaire’s compliance with its subpoena.
Before the Hon. Margaret M. Foti, P.J.Cr., the State maintained that the crime-fraud exception applied in this matter and that the procurement of Belizaire’s testimony as well as the privileged communications was necessary to indict the defendant.
On behalf of Belizaire, Scarinci Hollenbeck made the case that the State had more than sufficient non-privileged evidence. In addition, the defense cited the Rules of Professional Conduct as well as the ABA Formal Opinions and NJ Supreme Court decisions incorporating them as binding authority in this matter. Ultimately, Judge Foti agreed with the defense in ruling that the BCPO had failed to comply with the Rule of Professional Conduct that requires prosecutors to use available, non-privileged evidence before seeking to subpoena an attorney to testify against a former client.
Scarinci Hollenbeck attorneys Raymond M. Brown and Rachel E. Simon represented Mr. Belizaire in this matter. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey appeared as friends of the Court, further highlighting the importance of the issues raised by Belizaire through Scarinci Hollenbeck.
Raymond M. Brown, Partner, concentrates his practice in white collar criminal defense, international human rights issues, internal investigations and complex commercial litigation. He has defended clients in state and federal courts and before administrative tribunals. He is a leading figure in the developing area of law related to the regulation and enforcement of business requirements for human rights compliance.
Email: email@example.comPhone: 201-896-7083
Rachel E. Simon, Senior Associate, is a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Litigation practice group. Ms. Simon currently devotes her practice to handling complex litigation matters for public and private sector clients in both the Federal and State courts of New Jersey. A seasoned litigator, Ms. Simon has practiced as a criminal defense attorney, civil plaintiffs’ attorney, and municipal prosecutor. In her first four years of practice, Ms. Simon represented clients before every level of the Federal and State courts in New Jersey, including the United States Supreme Court and New Jersey Supreme Court.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgPhone: 201-896-7130