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Can a Georgia divorce lawyer testify in murder case?

A recent article on ABAJournal.com recently reported how one Georgia court is currently wrestling with a tough a question: can a divorce attorney representing a murder defendant’s wife be made to testify in the husband’s criminal trial?

Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams of DeKalb County Superior Court must now rule on the issue after hearing arguments regarding a motion to quash a witness subpoena for the wife’s attorney Esther Panitch. Though any information gathered by Panitch for the purpose of providing legal advice to her client will remain confidential due to attorney-client privilege, the defense counsel argues Panitch possesses material information separate from her representation of the wife.

Precisely what that information is has yet to be revealed by the defense. The defense counsel said that he anticipates “calling her as a witness… because we think she has independent facts that may be important in the case,” adding: “There is a legitimate basis for this subpoena, and I want to hold out the possibility that we may need to call her.”

Panitch originally served as divorce attorney and now acts as an advisor to the wife, Ariela Neuman, for the murder trial of her husband, Hemy Zvi Neuman.

Her attorney and business partner, James R. Hodes, argued that Panitch does not have any relevant evidence concerning the murder case of her client’s husband and argued that subpoenaing her as a witness interferes with her ability to counsel her client effectively.

The case, currently in the middle of trial, revolves around a murder allegedly committed by Henry Neuman, a father of three, who is accused of killing Rusty Sneiderman on November 18, 2011, after Sneiderman dropped off his 2-year-old at Dunwoody Prep Pre-School. Investigators believe Neuman and Sneiderman’s wife may have been having an affair.

By Connor Alexander, Law Clerk, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC

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