Snoopy Lawyer Sent to the Woodshed

Talk about nerve! Or addiction?  Excitement? Thrill of getting away with something? The ABA reported that a West Virginia lawyer has been suspended for e-mail snooping. Apparently, the lawyer accessed his wife’s e-mail account at the law firm at which she worked as an associate along with eight other lawyers at her firm at least 150 times over a two-year period.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals imposed the sanction against Charleston lawyer Michael Markins in an opinion issued Friday, as reported by the Legal Profession Blog.

At first, Markins accessed his wife’s e-mail account in an attempt to learn whether she might be having an affair.  He figured out the firm’s uncomplicated e-mail password system, and “his curiosity got the better of him” causing him to access the e-mail of eight other lawyers at his wife’s firm on almost a daily basis.

At the time, Markins worked at Huddleston Bolen and his wife worked at Offutt, Fisher and Nord. Both lost their jobs.

Markins accessed personal information and confidential financial information intended only for Offutt Fisher’s partners. It’s questionable whether he would have stopped.  However, upon learning the firm’s computer experts were on the verge of discovering that he was behind the unauthorized e-mail intrusions, Markins came forward. There is no evidence that information concerning the case had been compromised, according to the opinion.

Nor is there any evidence that Markins misused the information he accessed, the opinion says. Still, the court said it needed to impose an effective sanction as a deterrent to other lawyers and to reassure the public.