Legal Ethics

Ohio Officials Recommend Public Reprimand for State Lawyer Who Intercepted Emails

A former Ohio state lawyer who was fired for intercepting emails between public safety employees and investigators should be publicly reprimanded, disciplinary officials said Wednesday.

A hearing panel found that the lawyer, Joshua Engel, violated two ethical rules: one prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and one prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice, the Associated Press reports.

Engel, then chief counsel for the public safety department, was accused of setting up filters on all staff computers to automatically forward emails between the state inspector general’s office and certain employees involved in confidential investigations on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Justice Department.

He said he set up the filters because he was concerned about numerous leaks to the media and others during confidential investigations.

Engel pleaded guilty last year to three misdemeanor counts of disclosing confidential information. He was fined $750 and received a suspended 30-day jail sentence. He also agreed to cooperate with state investigations regarding the email interceptions and a botched drug sting at the governor’s residence.

Larry James, Engel’s lawyer, said his client was satisfied with the recommendation.

“That’s what we agreed to,” he said.

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