In a case of first impression, the Los Angeles-based Second District Court of Appeal ruled Monday that Southern California lawyer Mark Smith did nothing wrong when he told prosecutors that client Chanh Minh Dang had told him he planned to “whack” witnesses he couldn’t buy off.

Dang’s lawyers had argued that Smith’s action, and his subsequent testimony at trial, violated the attorney-client privilege. But the Second District ruled unanimously that Smith’s actions were protected by Evidence Code Section 956.5, which permits lawyers to disclose confidential information if necessary to prevent a client from committing a criminal act that could result in death or bodily harm.

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