Legal Ethics

Lawyer is accused of getting opposing counsel's trial questions from emails hacked by client

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The Missouri Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments this month in an ethics case against a lawyer accused of using information obtained by his divorce client by guessing his wife’s email password.

The lawyer, 70-year-old Joel Eisenstein, is a part-time prosecutor, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The disciplinary counsel is seeking an indefinite suspension, with leave to apply for reinstatement after a year.

Ethics officials say Eisenstein saw two documents obtained by his client: a payroll document for the client’s wife and a list of direct examination questions prepared by the wife’s attorney for the upcoming divorce trial.

Eisenstein allegedly used the payroll document during a settlement conference in July 2013 without disclosing he had it, according to a brief filed by the chief disciplinary counsel.

Opposing counsel learned Eisenstein had the list of questions in February 2014 when it was included in a stack of exhibits that Eisenstein gave the lawyer. When opposing counsel asked Eisenstein why he had the list, he replied it contained a lot of leading questions and he planned to object to them, the disciplinary counsel alleges. Eisenstein later said his paralegal had placed the questions in the stack of exhibits, and he was joking when he remarked on the leading questions.

In a conference in the judge’s chambers, Eisenstein initially said he had not seen the questions list before that morning, then admitted he had seen it but didn’t read it, the disciplinary counsel’s brief alleges. On the record, Eisenstein’s client said he had obtained the documents by accessing his wife’s personal email account.

Afterward, Eisenstein is accused of sending the opposing counsel an email that read: “Rumor has it that you are quite the ‘gossip’ regarding our little spat in court. Be careful what you say. I’m not someone you really want to make a lifelong enemy of, even though you are off to a pretty good start. Joel”

Eisenstein’s lawyer, Alan Mandel, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch there was “no misconduct at all” and the case amounted to an “unfortunate mischaracterization of the facts.” He also said Eisenstein was a war hero who earned a Silver Star with the Marine Corps in Vietnam.

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