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Michigan: suit claims dead lawyer breached attorney-client privilege

The Macomb Daily reports: An indicted real estate agent in a high-profile corruption case is suing a deceased lawyer and some of his law firm associates, for an alleged breach of attorney-client privilege.

Ralph Roberts and his wife, Kathleen, seek damages of $10 million or more in a lawsuit filed Friday in Macomb County Circuit Court against an estate for the late William E. Bufalino II and his law partner, Frank Palazzolo, along with an associate or affiliated attorney named Eric Biretta.

At issue is a February 2003 conversation Bufalino allegedly had with former Macomb County Chief Trial Attorney Eric Kaiser about recorded telephone conversations that Roberts had turned over to the law firm involving himself and then-Prosecutor Carl Marlinga. Kaiser then mentioned the tapes to federal agents who seized them and used them in a subsequent federal indictment against both men.

"As a direct result of the betrayal of confidentiality, and of Biretta's improper and inadequate advice concerning (a subsequent FBI) interview, Roberts was indicted for campaign finance law violations," the lawsuit states. "Palazzolo owed a duty to (the Robertses) to provide competent legal advice (and) to properly assign and oversee those client matters he referred to other attorneys in the law firm."

Roberts, 48, of Clinton Township, and co-defendants Marlinga, 57, of Sterling Heights, and state Sen. James Barcia, D-Bay City, together face a nine-count federal indictment for conspiracy and fraud against the "honest use" of the prosecutor's office, false statements to federal investigators and skirting federal election law that sets limits on campaign contributions. -- Macomb Daily : Ralph Roberts sues his deceased lawyer 02/26/05