Public Body Must Reveal Information from its Attorney’s Bill

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Public Records Law requires public body disclosure of more detail from attorney’s billing statements, ruled the Kentucky Attorney General.

The request came from the editor of the College Heights Herald to Western Kentucky University seeking billing and payment records between the University and a law firm. WKU produced a heavily blacked-out version of the billing statement.

WKU argued redactions were appropriate to preserve the information protected by the attorney-client and work-product privileges.

The attorney general’s opinion sets forth the following points:

  • The attorney-client privilege is limited.  It covers only a communication that is confidential and relates to the rendition of legal services.
  • Information about payment of fess is not a confidential communication.
  • Public bodies may not black out general information such as the words “research,” or “witness interviews” or “discussion with client” or “continue draft of letter to client.”
  • Public bodies must produce records on billing rates, hours worked, money spent because such information is not privileged.

A summary of aggregate billing information rather than the records themselves did not comply with Kentucky’s Open Records Act. Summaries are not a substitute for providing access to the documents.

Under Oregon’s Public Records Law, exemptions or privileges must be construed narrowly. Public officials must separate privileged confidential communications from information that does not disclose secrets and then produce the non-privileged information.  Advocates for those seeking public records can draw from the great body of law on attorney-client and work-product privileges when making their cases.

Jeff Merrick, Attorney
© 2018 by Jeff Merrick and Merrick Law, LLC.

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