On July 13, 2021, the Swedish Supreme Court held that an attorney who had passed along information from an arrested client “with full restrictions” had seriously breached proper attorney conduct (på ett allvarligt sätt åsidosatt god advokatsed) and should be disbarred. (Supreme Court, Ö 5090-20, July 13, 2021 (Case).) According to the Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure (Rättegångsbalken), clients arrested “with full restrictions” are allowed contact with the outside world only through their attorney under the principle of enrumspriviligetet (literally “one-room privilege”), which requires that the attorney not pass along information from meetings with the client to anyone else. (24 kap. 5 § Rättegångsbalken (SFS 1942:740).) The Supreme Court reviewed the case after the chancellor of justice (Justitiekanslern (JK)) appealed an unpublished Attorney Bar Disciplinary Board decision.
Advokatsamfundets Disciplinämnd (the Attorney Bar Disciplinary Board) had issued a warning to attorney ES and a fined him 50,000 kronor (about US$5,800) for violating proper attorney conduct (god advokatsed) when he passed along information from a client arrested with full restrictions. Specifically, the criminal defense attorney had represented individuals who were part of the criminal network Ali Khan and had been arrested with full restrictions. The attorney, however, in two instances improperly contacted persons after conferring with his clients. In one instance, the attorney contacted an individual and told him the defendant was using the individual as an alibi for the night of the crime. The police interviewed the individual about his whereabouts on the night of the crime only later—after the individual had been informed by the attorney about the defendant’s alibi claim.
In the other case, the attorney passed information between the client and his life-partner.
The JK appealed the disciplinary board’s decision of warning directed at the attorney and instead cited the legal provisions found in 8 ch. 7 § 2 para. of the Code of Judicial Procedure to argue that the conduct was so serious that the Supreme Court should disbar the attorney. In accordance with the procedural code, disciplinary actions against attorneys are appealable by the JK directly to the Supreme Court. (8 kap. 8 § Rättegångsbalken.) Attorney ES responded by appealing the warning and the monetary fine. However, the court held that the procedural code did not allow it to hear ES’s appeal of the warning and monetary fine, because only disbarment and not a warning or a fine is directly appealable to the Supreme Court by an aggrieved attorney. (Case ¶ 18.) Thus, ES’s appeal was dismissed. (¶ 19.)The court proceeded to hear JK’s appeal and found that “ES has seriously violated proper attorney conduct. Violations of the kind he has committed risk undermining the trust of the legal profession to the detriment of suspects and persons under arrest.” (Supreme Court, Ö 5090-20, July 13, 2021, ¶ 37.) The court found that the circumstances were particularly aggravating and that ES must therefore be disbarred, thereby overturning the disciplinary board decision. (¶ 38.) Thus, similar behavior must in the future be considered a serious violation of proper attorney conduct, warranting disbarment. (8 kap. 7 § Code of Judicial Procedure.)