Van De Kamp, 032084 CAAGO, AGO 83-1107

Docket Nº:AGO 83-1107
Case Date:March 20, 1984
Court:California
 
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JOHN K. VAN DE KAMP Attorney General
CLAYTON P. ROCHE Deputy Attorney General
AGO 83-1107
No. 83-1107
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
March 20, 1984
         THE HONORABLE ADRIAN KUYPER, COUNTY COUNSEL, ORANGE COUNTY, has requested an opinion on the following question:          Is an advisory committee which has been created by the Board of Supervisors to advise it on airport matters entitled to meet in closed session with counsel with respect to litigation to which the board is the sole party representing the interests of the county?          CONCLUSION          Assuming that such a meeting with counsel which is held by the advisory committee properly relates to its powers and duties to advise the Board of Supervisors on airport matters, such committee may meet with counsel in closed session to discuss litigation to which the board is the sole party representing the interests of the county.          ANALYSIS          Orange County has by ordinance established an Airport Commission ("Commission") to advise it on airport matters.1 Apparently the Board of Supervisors ("Board") is involved in litigation involving airport matters where it is the sole party representing county interests. The question presented for resolution herein is whether the Commission is entitled to meet in closed session with counsel with respect to this litigation.          We conclude that assuming such a meeting properly relates to its powers and duties to advise the Board on airport matters, the Commission may meet with counsel to discuss such litigation.          Advisory commissions such as the Commission are "legislative bodies" within the meaning of the Ralph M. Brown Act, Government Code section 54950 et seq. (Gov. Code, § 54952.3.) Accordingly, their meetings are required to be open and public unless otherwise specifically provided in the act or as may be implied from some other provision of law such as the attorney-client privilege. (Gov. Code, § 54953; 65 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 412, 413 (1982).)          The suggestion has been made that since the litigation names only the Board, and since the Board has the duty to "direct and control the conduct of litigation in which the County . . . is a party" (Gov. Code, § 25203), only the Board may properly meet with counsel in an attorney-client relationship. We, however, do not believe that the attorney-client relationship at the county level need be so narrowly applied. In reaching our conclusion we will first analyze the attorney-client privilege in the county context and then analyze the implied exception carved out by case law for such privilege in relation to the Ralph M. Brown Act.          An examination of both the statutory law and the case law leads us to conclude that when an action is brought against only the Board as a board, and not in their individual capacity, the "client" for purposes of the attorney-client privilege is in reality the county as an entity, and not merely the Board. From this conclusion, it follows that any county board, commission, committee or officer having a legitimate official interest in a particular lawsuit may confer with counsel in an attorney-client relationship.2To illustrate, a committee such as the Commission involved herein could be replete with expertise which could be of invaluable aid to the Board in advising it with respect to the possible conduct of litigation or the settlement of such litigation.          As to the statutory law, the attorney-client (or "lawyer-client") privilege is codified in section 950 et seq. of the Evidence Code. "Client" is defined in section 951 as follows:
"As used in this article, 'client' means a person who, directly or through an authorized representative, consults a lawyer for the
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