Missouri Lawyer Suspended After Using Confidential Information Obtained By Husband Who Guessed Estranged Wife’s Password

Seal_of_Missouri.svggavel2There is an interesting decision out of the Missouri Supreme Court where lawyer Joel Eisenstein has been suspended with leave to file for reinstatement in six months. Eisenstein used information obtained by his divorce client by guessing his wife’s email password, including confidential information given by his wife’s lawyer. It is equally incredible to see how Eisenstein was found out.

Eisenstein was able to get the wife’s payroll documents and a list of direct examination questions prepared by her lawyer for an upcoming divorce trial. He used the information during a settlement conference. Then, in February 2014, the opposing lawyer discovered his list of questions in a stack of trial exhibits from Eisenstein.

Eisenstein admitted to having and using the information. What followed the disclosure was equally troubling. Eisenstein sent 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”

So Eisenstein first commits an unethical act of nondisclosure and then follows with a threat against the attorney who was compromised. Two dissenting justices in the opinion below insisted that Eisenstein should be prevented from reapplying for 12 months at least.

The dissenting judges also noted that Eisenstein’s effort to gather support after the charges showed unprofessional conduct:

Five months after the DHP’s decision, and barely three weeks before the argument date in this Court, Respondent solicited letters of support from members of the bar and judiciary. One of these solicitations took the form of an email titled: “I’m too old for this xxxx!!” [Expletive deleted.] Included with this email was Respondent’s four-page “complete history” of the charges and the DHP decision. This explanation varies greatly from the facts found by the DHP five months earlier, misstates that only two of the three members of the DHP found against the Respondent, and concludes by stating that Respondent had “appealed” the matter to this Court and the argument was set for February 24, 2016.

The dissenting judges take Eisenstein for his portrayal of the claims and the fact that:

“[…]thirty-five attorneys and three sitting Missouri judges sent letters to the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel (“OCDC”). None of these letters purport to offer any first-hand knowledge of the facts charged by the OCDC and found by the DHP.” On that point, I tend to favor Eisenstein. He is allowed to give his side (though the error in the number of members ruling against him is problematic) and I certainly do not see anything wrong with submitting such letters on his good character or prior practice. Nevertheless, after criticizing his failure to properly make the letter part of the record, the dissenting judges note that “it is not sufficient merely to note the futility of Respondent’s letter-writing campaign. Instead, this Court has made it plain in the past that such letters demonstrate a lack of understanding of the process spelled out in Rule 5 and a lack of respect for the canons of judicial ethics.”

What do you think? Do you agree that six months is sufficient as opposed to twelve months?

Here is the opinion: Eisentein opinion

14 thoughts on “Missouri Lawyer Suspended After Using Confidential Information Obtained By Husband Who Guessed Estranged Wife’s Password”

  1. Saint Louis County needs to eliminate its “municipal courts”. How? Have a municipal division in the county courthouse in Clayton handle all of the driving while impaired and traffic violations. The County Executive appoints that judge and prosecutor. Model it on the set up in the City of Saint Louis which is just to the East but not quite like the beast of Saint Louis County. Confused? These are two separate entities: City of St. Louis and St. Louis County. Each is a “county”. Some propose a merger. That would be a mistake.

  2. If you are 70 years old you should consider taking down the shingle. This guy is one of those dorks in Saint Louis County who is involved in the municipal court interplay. Some are acting as defense lawyers in Ladue, prosecutors in Berkeley, and judges in Florissant. That last town is the one you go to if Saint Peter sends you to Limbo not Hell or Heaven.

  3. with that record of unprofessional conduct and the light consequences he received, it seems that this one should have been disbarred. I was active in private practice and as a prosecutor for nearly 36 years and no action by the bar at all. Its not that difficult to stay on the right side of the ethical track…

  4. I am rather skeptical of the legal profession disciplining their own since such sentences as this are routine. Then we have the silence that I have seen on this site about the AG of Texas who has been charged with numerous felony charges in both state AND now Federal courts. Yet our Republican governor and the whole Party have said NOTHING about his resigning or even suggesting that he should leave office.Yet we had a fun time blasting a county DA who got busted on a DUI charge, a misdemeanor. Our Guv Perry at the time demanded she resign so he could close the investigation of his malfeasance in office of the Enterprise fund he used as a political slush fund for his donors. Why the silence here? Double standard? Of course!

    We only had Prof Turley come to Perry’s defense when he offered another office, and other perks to her to leave. Perry then destroyed the office of ethics in the Travis County in political retaliation, and Turley defends that. We have now moved all such investigations back to local counties where the local politicos can keep their buddies out of prison. So this instance in MO is a rather minor dust-up compared to other misconduct in legal affairs.

  5. KCF, I have observed that many attorneys don’t know when to retire. Actually, they are not emotionally equipped to retire. Being an attorney, for too many, becomes who they are as opposed to the much healthier what they do. Many of these old timers don’t continue out of love for what they do but fear of losing their only identity and self esteem. This guy is 70. Time to hang up the double billing book!

  6. I thought everything is fair in divorce and war. Is there a such thing as judicial ethics? Is that like the refusal of the SCOTUS to hear the right to petition case. The Judiciary is the protection arm of our ruling mafioso. It has to slap the hand of their own every now and then to make them look fair and impartial to the naive.

    Have you ever wondered why recordings are not admissible as evidence unless via a court order. There would be a lot more whistle blowers and a lot more government corruption prosecuted.

    Should government officials be made to use the same official email servers other government officials are required to use? And she could be our next President? Should government officials and officers of the court, our public servants have the same privacy rights as we Citizens?

    When I read about crap like this it kind of makes me sick of all the hypocrisy in our society. Unethical judges administering justice. Quite discouraging for the majority of us common folks.

  7. “Eisenstein has been disciplined five times before. In 1991 and 1999 he was admonished for ex parte communications with a judge. In 1997 he was suspended after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for failing to file a tax return. In 2001 he was admonished for failing to respond to a request for information regarding an ethics complaint. And he was admonished in 2004 for failing to inform a court of material facts relevant to a pending issue.”

    He keeps doing these things because for the most part he gets away with them.

  8. All attorneys take care of their own. It has been my experience Missouri is near the top of the list of states that coddle their brothers. I like Olly’s pro bono suggestion. One year suspension to be served doing pro bono work in his specialty.

  9. Being a lawyer is analogous to being a plumber. A plumber should not lower his/her self to cleaning outhouses and a lawyer should not do divorces.

  10. A dork is a dork, a dork of course.
    Unless of course the dork is named Mister Ed!

  11. I think he needs to be assigned pro bono work in a majority-Somali community defending victims of rape. Perhaps he’ll develop some humility and ethics.

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