The Board of Directors recognizes that clients and those persons who apply for legal services from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. have the right to discuss their legal problems in an atmosphere that protects the confidentiality of all communications and that preserves the attorney-client privilege from inadvertent or unintended breaches. To preserve those privileges and to protect confidential communications, the Board hereby declares as a matter of program policy that:
- Only TRLA employees may request or solicit information from clients or applicants for legal services that may pertain to their legal problems, eligibility, or any identifying information, including names, addresses, or social security numbers. Exceptions to this policy may be made for an attorney in private practice who is providing legal services under a Private Attorney Involvement arrangement with TRLA, a consultant working under contract with TRLA or under the supervision of TRLA staff, or authorized volunteers engaged in the delivery of legal services under the supervision of a TRLA employee.
- No member of the public or of the TRLA Board of Directors nor any member of a Board committee, an advisory committee, or similar body shall have access to confidential or privileged communications between TRLA employees and clients or applicants for legal services, including identity information, nor may a Board or committee member solicit information regarding a clients case from a client or applicant, unless such client or applicant voluntarily consents to provide confidential or privileged information after a TRLA attorney has fully explained the rights that might be waived or jeopardized by providing confidential or privileged information to any person or entity not subject to the attorney-client relationship.
- A member of the Board of Directors who seeks to obtain information or documents regarding program operations beyond that information provided generally to all members in their official governing capacities shall first submit such requests to the President of the Corporation. The President shall determine whether such request is appropriate, including the time and expense to program staff in responding to the requests, and if deemed appropriate, he or she may direct management to produce all or part of the requested information or documents, provided that no documents or information that is subject to the attorney-client privilege or that would tend to reveal the secrets or confidences of clients or applicants for legal services shall be released. The determination of the President may be appealed to the Executive Committee by program management or the requesting Board member.
- TRLA requests social security numbers of applicants for legal services in order to better identify those applicants and to assist in complying with funding regulations. In certain instances the social security number is needed in order to resolve the clients case. Such information is collected at time of intake, and entered into the client database. Access to the personal information is limited to those persons referenced in number 1 above.
- Client files may be destroyed after having been closed for at least five years. This applies to all files, regardless of the type of service provided. However, if the documents have been scanned into the client record on the CTS, the originals can be destroyed upon file closing. Any documents being destroyed which include a clients or an applicants identifying information must be shredded.
- This policy shall be made available to TRLA applicants and clients.