Lawyer Suspended for Using Illicitly Obtained Privileged Info

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on April 14, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In the lawyer game, you may be tempted to use every single advantage you can get your hands on. But if you break the rules, you'd better be willing to face the consequences.

Case in point: Joel Eisenstein of Missouri. This experienced lawyer was suspended by the state's supreme court after using confidential information obtained by his client of the opposing side. He got caught because he sent that information back to opposing counsel.

Dubious Discovery

There's formal discovery, where the other side knows you're looking at certain materials; and then there's not-so-formal discovery. In the case of Eisenstein, his client in a divorce case obtained the client's wife's payroll information by guessing the wife's email password, according to St. Louis Today. Another nice little treat was a list of the direct examination questions prepared by opposing counsel. The client passed this information on to Eisenstein in 2013.

But Eisenstein blundered and included this pilfered information in a stack of exhibits that Eisenstein gave the opposing lawyer during trial. Oops.

In a subsequent hearing, Eisenstein admitted that he viewed the confidential information and did not immediately disclose it. Missouri ethics required him to do. This is pretty much consistent with ethics rules across the country.

Lenient Suspension

Justice was swift but lenient towards Mr. Eisenstein. He was suspended for six months with leave to reapply for reinstatement in six months. Some dissenting justices wanted a year. This result is pretty good considered Eisenstein reached out to the bar and judiciary to call in favors with Missouri's State Supreme Court for leniency. Of course, in his case, his plea for help was an email entitled "I'm too old for this sh*t!!"

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