California lawyer accused of plotting to hack judge’s emails and phones

The lawyer allegedly contacted an Israeli computer expert for 'human intel on the ground'

California lawyer accused of plotting to hack judge’s emails and phones

Michael Jacob Libman of Tarzana, California, faces disciplinary charges for allegedly planning to hire Israeli hackers to access the personal email and phone accounts of Judge Elihu Berle and lawyer Brian S. Kabateck, the ABA Journal reported.

The State Bar of California’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel filed the charges on June 6. Libman reportedly sought assistance from New York lawyer Paul Paradis, who was acting as a confidential FBI informant. Paradis recorded phone calls and meetings with Libman as part of his informant role.

The charges claimed that Libman wanted Paradis to share the costs of hacking Judge Berle and Kabateck. Judge Berle had appointed Kabateck as new class counsel in a lawsuit partly brought by Libman in April 2019. According to the allegations, Libman asked Paradis to use encrypted messaging, obtain burner phones, and acquire firearms, including “shotguns and some high-power rifles.”

In April 2020, Libman allegedly contacted an Israeli hacker named “Ben,” said to be affiliated with the Israeli company Black Cube. Black Cube, reportedly run by former Mossad and Israeli intelligence officers, was approached for hacking services and "human intel on the ground."

The case's background involves a class action suit against the city of Los Angeles for billing errors affecting utility customers. Paradis recruited Libman and another lawyer to file the class action suit, which was allegedly collusive. At the time, Paradis represented the city in a separate lawsuit against the company that implemented the billing system. The suit filed by Libman settled on terms favourable to the city.

Judge Berle appointed Kabateck to evaluate the settlement’s fairness after discovering Paradis' involvement in recruiting Libman. Libman believed that Judge Berle and Kabateck were engaged in inappropriate conduct and sought to expose them through hacking.

Libman’s lawyers have denied all charges, stating, “Although Mr. Libman is a citizen of both the U.S. and Israel, Mr. Libman denies in the strongest possible words that he has any affiliation with Israeli military intelligence or cyber espionage agencies or agents as suggested by the state bar’s absurd accusation, including Mossad. Also, Mr. Libman was not involved in any way in actual ‘hacking’ or purchase or ownership of illegal firearms.”

Libman is represented by California lawyers Stephen Yagman and Kevin P. Gerry and Georgia lawyer Megan E. Zavieh. The State Bar of California’s investigation continues as they address the allegations against Libman.

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