Can Divorce Lawyer for Defendant's Wife Be Subpoenaed in Murder Case? Defense Counsel Says Yes

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Can a lawyer representing a murder defendant’s wife be required to testify in the husband’s criminal trial?

That is the question a Georgia judge must answer after hearing arguments concerning a motion to quash a witness subpoena for attorney Esther Panitch.

Although information Panitch got from her client for the purpose of providing legal advice presumably is protected from disclosure by attorney-client privilege, counsel for the defense is contending that Panitch has material information obtained independently of her representation of Ariela Neuman, according to the Dunwoody Crier.

What exactly that material information allegedly may be isn’t clear from the article and, it appears, hasn’t been disclosed by the defense, according to the newspaper. Panitch served as Neuman’s divorce attorney and is now advising her concerning the murder trial of her husband, Hemy Zvi Neuman.

DeKalb Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams heard arguments on the subpoena issue last week. One issue is whether the defense must further explain what information it is seeking from Panitch.

Her lawyer and law firm colleague, James R. Hodes, said Panitch doesn’t have any direct evidence concerning the murder case and argued that allowing her to be subpoenaed as a witness interferes with her ability to represent her client.

However, defense counsel Robert Rubin says facts Panitch learned while representing Ariela Neuman in an earlier legal separation case are at issue.

“We anticipate calling her as a witness, not because we are trying to get to information that she talked to Ms. Neuman about, but because we think she has independent facts that may be important in the case,” Rubin argued, adding: “There is a legitimate basis for this subpoena, and I want to hold out the possibility that we may need to call her.”

An earlier WSBTV article provides additional details about the murder case against Hemy Neuman, who is in his late 40s. He is accused of killing Russell “Rusty” Sneiderman, 36, in November 2010, after the younger man dropped off his 2-year-old at a Dunwoody day care center.

Neuman employed Sneiderman’s wife, and investigators say the two had been having an affair, the Associated Press reports in an article published by WXIA.

Updated on Jan. 31 to clarify that the defense sought to call Panitch.

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