Key point 3-08.12. The clergy-penitent privilege may continue to protect communications made to a minister even after the counselee's death.
The United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in 1998 suggesting that the clergy-penitent privilege may survive a counselee's death.  Swidler & Berlin v. United States, 118 S. Ct. 2081 (1998). While the case involved the attorney-client privilege, the court's reasoning applies equally to the clergy-penitent privilege. The case involved several pages of notes taken by an attorney during a meeting with President Clinton's counsel Vince Foster. Following Foster's suicide, an independent counsel subpoenaed the attorney's notes. The attorney refused to turn over his notes, claiming that they were protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege. The independent counsel insisted that the privilege no longer applied after the client's death. ...
This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."
Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.