Purcell v. District Attorney
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
676 N.E.2d 436 (Mass. 1997)
In June 1994, Joseph Tyree received a court order to vacate his apartment, which was located in the complex where he worked as a maintenance man. Tyree consulted with Jeffrey Purcell (plaintiff), an attorney who represented low-income individuals, about the order to vacate. During the meeting, Tyree expressed to Purcell that he may burn down the apartment building. After giving it thought, Purcell advised the police of Tyree’s threat, as permitted by the disciplinary code. Police officers evicted Tyree the next day and searched his apartment, where they found materials to start a fire. Tyree was arrested and charged with attempted arson. At trial, the district attorney (defendant) subpoenaed Purcell to testify about the conversation between Tyree and Purcell. Purcell moved to quash the subpoena, and the trial court granted the motion. The trial ended in a mistrial, because the jury could not reach a verdict. The state tried Tyree a second time and again sought Purcell’s testimony. In the second trial, the judge found that Tyree’s statements to Purcell were not protected by the attorney-client privilege and ordered Purcell to testify. Purcell filed a motion to quash the subpoena, and the trial court denied the motion to quash. Purcell appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Wilkins, C.J.)
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