Norm Rosen, who served as the divorce mediator for Susan and Peter Keegan, has finally been served with a search warrant related to the case. In February 2016, lawyers arrived at his office armed with the legal authority to gather and remove relevant documents. Presumably those documents are, or will soon be, in the hands of the Mendocino County District Attorney.
That information comes from the Anderson Valley Advertiser: read the full story here. It gives credibility to the DA’s often-repeated assertion that the Keegan homicide case remains under active investigation, and it gives renewed hope for justice to still-grieving family and friends.
The day before Susan died, Dr. Keegan “went ballistic” (in Susan’s words, as reported by two friends) in Norm Rosen’s office upon learning what his financial obligations would be once the couple split up. Rosen’s notes may contain important information relevant to character, motive, or intention, and Justice4Susan.com has repeatedly called on the DA to compel his testimony. Read our earlier blog about this issue here.
Mr. Rosen has claimed that attorney/client privilege prevents him from surrendering any documents or describing what happened in his office that day. However, as our blog points out, Rosen was acting as a mediator, where legal precedent offers substantially more wiggle room on issues of confidentiality, especially when one of the parties to the mediation is dead. In one California case (Olam v. Congress Mortgage Company), the court compelled a mediator’s testimony, acknowledging the potential harm “to the values that underlie the mediation privilege” but concluding that the testimony offered “a contribution of sufficient magnitude” and was “essential to doing justice.”
According to the February 24, 2016 issue of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, the process of securing and executing the recent Rosen search was complex and time-consuming. It took months to get judicial approval to issue a warrant and the search itself took place under the watchful eye of an impartial attorney assigned by the judge to ensure that it was carried out appropriately. Once the documents were removed from Rosen’s office, they were brought directly to the judge’s chambers, and Rosen was given a closed-door opportunity to challenge the validity of the search. The evidence may still be working its way through the legal system, but it will surely reach the prosecutor in due time.
All of that is good news, including the meticulous judicial process that resulted in the search. We would expect Dr. Keegan’s attorney, Keith Faulder, to go after Rosen if he had released the information without a fight. Indeed (solely our speculation), we would guess that Faulder has already threatened Rosen with a legal imbroglio if he releases it at all. That’s why every measure should be taken to ensure the evidence-gathering process withstands any legal challenge and everything is admissible when a trial gets underway. We want caution and careful adherence to the rule of law.
What we do not want is obstruction of justice. The line between standing in the way of a homicide investigation and protecting client confidentiality is thin indeed. While there is substantial debate about just where that line lies, the American Bar Association’s own rule (Rule 3.4: Fairness to Opposing Party & Counsel) states clearly: “A lawyer shall not unlawfully obstruct another party’ s access to evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy or conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value.”
Of course, Dr. Keegan could settle the whole issue by simply authorizing Rosen to release any documents still in his possession. After all, Keegan did not hire Rosen as his defense counsel in a homicide case, but merely used him as a non-binding mediator in a divorce.
Since he has declined to do so, it is reassuring to finally see the judicial system take measured steps to add to the weight of the evidence. We are grateful to see movement in this case.