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  1. #1
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    Sep 2017
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    Default If You Read the Other Party's Attorney-Client Mail, Can You Tell Your Lawyer

    My question relates to legal practice in the state of: Mass.

    My husband and I are in the midst of a divorce. I haven't hired a lawyer yet, but he has, and I just read some letters between him and his lawyer that he left in the hallway, undoubtedly by mistake (he's in the process of moving out) that discuss strategy they're considering in going after me. I know the correspondence was private, but it really was left out in the open. I know I need to hire a lawyer asap, but I'm wondering what to do about this information. Can I tell my lawyer what I know? Or are there ethical concerns? Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Mar 2013
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    Default Re: Can I Tell My Lawyer About Private Info. I Read Between My Adversary and His Lawy

    Tell your lawyer. Let him decide.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Can I Tell My Lawyer About Private Info. I Read Between My Adversary and His Lawy

    Ok, but I haven't hired anyone yet, and what if he or she says they're not supposed to hear it. Do I interview one lawyer after another until one finally agrees to hear the info.? I'm not trying to put a lawyer in a bad spot, but I don't know how I can go forward without using the info. I gleaned.

  4. #4
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    Oct 2014
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    Default Re: Can I Tell My Lawyer About Private Info. I Read Between My Adversary and His Lawy

    Quote Quoting CupOfCoffee
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    Ok, but I haven't hired anyone yet, and what if he or she says they're not supposed to hear it. Do I interview one lawyer after another until one finally agrees to hear the info.? I'm not trying to put a lawyer in a bad spot, but I don't know how I can go forward without using the info. I gleaned.
    You and your lawyer cannot use confidential communication between your husband and his lawyer. That information is privileged under the rules of evidence and not admissible in court. Moreover, revealing in court that you are snooping in your husband’s mail puts you in a bad light. By all means feel to tell you lawyer of it, but it’s not going to do you any good regardless.

  5. #5
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    Sep 2017
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    Default Re: Can I Tell My Lawyer About Private Info. I Read Between My Adversary and His Lawy

    But it's not evidence that I learned about, but rather strategy. I'm trying to figure out how to plan my own strategy based on learning what they're considering, and wanted to share this with any lawyer I hire. Is that allowed? In other words, I can't imagine any scenario where the court will ever find out I was "snooping" in my husband's mail. He doesn't know I read it, and if he suspects, I'm not sure what he can do.

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
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    By all means feel to tell you lawyer of it, but it’s not going to do you any good regardless.
    So I can tell my lawyer? Using it is another matter? (I'm trying to avoid a situation where the lawyer says he/she can't hear it).

  6. #6
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    Oct 2014
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    Default Re: Can I Tell My Lawyer About Private Info. I Read Between My Adversary and His Lawy

    Quote Quoting CupOfCoffee
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    But it's not evidence that I learned about, but rather strategy. I'm trying to figure out how to plan my own strategy based on learning what they're considering, and wanted to share this with any lawyer I hire. Is that allowed? In other words, I can't imagine any scenario where the court will ever find out I was "snooping" in my husband's mail. He doesn't know I read it, and if he suspects, I'm not sure what he can do.

    So I can tell my lawyer? Using it is another matter? (I'm trying to avoid a situation where the lawyer says he/she can't hear it).
    You obtained that information wrongfully and the communications are confidential. Your lawyer should not use it. Any ethical lawyer should tell you that, and you don’t want to hire an unethical one.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Default Re: Can I Tell My Lawyer About Private Info. I Read Between My Adversary and His Lawy

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
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    You obtained that information wrongfully and the communications are confidential. Your lawyer should not use it. Any ethical lawyer should tell you that, and you don’t want to hire an unethical one.
    I honestly disagree with you a bit. The information was left open and available in the marital home. I agree that it started out as confidential information but if it was left in the open for anyone to access then that changes the nature of the information.

    What I do agree about is that once the OP shares that information with her attorney, the attorney will decide whether or not the information can be used. I do not think that you are correct in implying that any attorney using the information would be doing so unethically.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Can I Tell My Lawyer About Private Info. I Read Between My Adversary and His Lawy

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    I honestly disagree with you a bit. The information was left open and available in the marital home. I agree that it started out as confidential information but if it was left in the open for anyone to access then that changes the nature of the information.
    That's what I thought. I concede that the letters were not for my eyes, but to say I was "snooping" felt a little unfair, as they were left out in the open (albeit by mistake) in my own home.

    Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  9. #9
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    Oct 2014
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    Default Re: Can I Tell My Lawyer About Private Info. I Read Between My Adversary and His Lawy

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    I honestly disagree with you a bit. The information was left open and available in the marital home. I agree that it started out as confidential information but if it was left in the open for anyone to access then that changes the nature of the information.
    I disagree. It was mail that was not addressed to her. It was not meant for her to see. And her delving into his personal and private mail is, IMO, snooping and improper.

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    I do not think that you are correct in implying that any attorney using the information would be doing so unethically.
    If the lawyer knows in advance that the communications are privileged, he is not to use them. Consider a DC Bar ethics opinion on a similar situation:

    Where a lawyer has inadvertently included documents containing client secrets or confidences in material delivered to an adversary lawyer, and the receiving lawyer in good faith reviews the documents before the inadvertence of the disclosure is brought to that lawyer’s attention, the receiving lawyer engages in no ethical violation by retaining and using those documents. Where, on the other hand, the receiving lawyer knows of the inadvertence of the disclosure before the documents are examined, Rule 1.15(a) requires the receiving lawyer to return the documents to the sending lawyer; the receiving lawyer also violates Rule 8.4(c) if the lawyer reads and/or uses the material.


    Ethics opinion 256. In a similar vein is NY City Bar Formal Opinion 2003-04:

    QUESTIONS: What are the ethical obligations of the lawyer who receives a misdirected communication containing confidences or secrets? Must the lawyer notify the sender? Must the lawyer return the communication and/or destroy all copies? May the lawyer review the communication? May the lawyer use information learned from the communication?

    OPINION: A lawyer who receives a misdirected communication containing confidences or secrets should promptly notify the sender and refrain from further reading or listening to the communication, and should follow the sender's directions regarding destruction or return of the communication. However, if there is a legal dispute before a tribunal and the receiving attorney believes in good faith that the communication appropriately may be retained and used, the receiving attorney may submit the communication for in camera consideration by the tribunal as to its disposition. Additionally, the receiving attorney is not prohibited as an ethical matter from using the information to which the attorney was exposed before knowing or having reason to know the communication was inadvertently sent. However, it is essential - as an ethical matter - that the receiving attorney promptly notify the sending attorney of the disclosure in order to give the sending attorney a reasonable opportunity to promptly take whatever steps he or she feels are necessary.

    While they deal with inadvertent disclosure directly to the attorney, I see no logical reason that the attorney’s ethical obligations should be any different when the confidential communication is provided to him/her indirectly by his/her client under circumstances in which the client should not have obtained that communication (e.g. snooping into mail not addressed to her).

  10. #10
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    Jan 2006
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    38,727

    Default Re: Can I Tell My Lawyer About Private Info. I Read Between My Adversary and His Lawy

    Quote Quoting CupOfCoffee
    View Post
    That's what I thought. I concede that the letters were not for my eyes, but to say I was "snooping" felt a little unfair, as they were left out in the open (albeit by mistake) in my own home.

    Thanks for adding to the discussion.
    if you knew what it was or once you realized what it was and continued reading, you were snooping. You can try to spin it anyway you want but snooping is snooping and you were snoopong.


    heres an example that helps you see the problem:

    if you're on your computer and you click a link that you think takes you to pictures of Bali but realize it's child porn, if you back out immediately you have not committed a crime. If you stay on the site and continue to watch child porn, you have committed a crime.

    We are inadvertently exposed to things we arent supposed to see or read. It's what you do once you discover you weren't supposed to see it that makes a difference. You kept watching. That is when your offense took place.

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