Thursday, August 7, 2008

Unauthorized Disclosures

The Arizona Disciplinary Commission recently approved a hearing officer's report that had recommended censure of an attorney who had retained a doctor to research and review medical records of cases involving his clients and potential clients. The doctor sued the lawyer for payment of her bill, which the lawyer contended "was for an amount far in excess of the agreed upon amount." The lawyer's answer to the suit contained 55 exhibits that revealed personal and confidential information, such as "medical information, diagnoses and medical histories, phone numbers, email addresses, and home addresses" as well as "obstetrical and gynecological details" concerning the clients and prospective clients. Attached also were emails that disclosed the doctor's opinion on the merits of cases and a settlement letter that contained confidential information.

After notice of a charging letter from the State Bar, the attorney sought an order sealing the exhibits, which the court "[f]or some unknown reason" had denied. The attorney was remorseful and had agreed to the discipline. Nonetheless, "[a] lawyer with those years of experience [admitted in 1999] is expected not to supply confidential information as an exhibit to a court pleading without taking precautions such as filing the documents under seal." (Mike Frisch)

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