Defense Attorney Mark Eiglarsh Reps the Notorious—but He Just Wants You to Be Happy

Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images, Reuters and @markeiglarsh/Instagram
Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images, Reuters and @markeiglarsh/Instagram

As Broward County Assistant State Attorney Steven Klinger made his way from the prosecution table last week to start his opening statement to a packed courtroom, his opponent suddenly grabbed him by the forearm.

Mark Eiglarsh, the defense attorney for Scot Peterson—a former career law enforcement officer on trial for allegedly failing to confront the teenage gunman at the 2018 Parkland school shooting—got very close to Klinger to utter a few surprising words.

“I said, ‘Take a deep breath, you’ve got this. You’re going to do a great job. Don’t worry. Don’t you fear,’” Eiglarsh told The Daily Beast, explaining that he stopped his legal opponent because Klinger “was stressed out.”

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Eiglarsh’s gesture might seem unusual among courtroom foes—after all, Klinger was just about to tell the jury why they should convict Eiglarsh’s client. But for the lawyer, the outreach was just an example of the tools he promotes in his self-help 2019 book, Be Happy by Choice: Happiness Guaranteed or Your Misery Back.

“I am trying to make everyone around me better too, believe it or not,” he said. “Every single morning I get out of bed, I ask my higher power, ‘How can I be of service? How can I assist?’”

Born and raised in Miami, Eiglarsh served as a Miami-Dade County prosecutor for several years before turning to criminal defense. Throughout his career, he has been involved in several high-profile cases, including representing Dalia Dippolito, the Florida woman convicted of a failed murder-for-hire plot against her now ex-husband and who was infamously arrested on Cops. Eiglarsh has also been featured on HLN, CNN, E!, 60 Minutes, and The View. His latest job is defending Peterson, who has been dubbed “the coward of Broward” and who faces a maximum sentence of nearly a century in prison if convicted.

But after nearly three decades in a career dedicated to “solving everyone else’s problems,” Eiglarsh said he began to look internally about why he was “so unhappy.” He had a demanding career centered on “other people’s problems,” one that left little time to deal with his own internal struggles.

“I think all growth comes from pain. You know, when you have decades of challenges and you get tired of feeling everyone around you is going to dictate how you are going to feel. So I decided to figure out and study how I could take charge of my thoughts to be able to control how I feel and how I show up,” he said. “I am not perfect at it, but I am a lot better than I ever have been.”

The self-discovery journey served as an inspiration for the book he wrote in 2019—and his motivational speaking engagements since then. The “Eiglarsh Happiness Systems” detailed in his book, he said, are geared to helping readers find “happiness and joy and abundance for better energy.”

Since publishing his book in 2019, Eiglarsh said, he has started a motivational speaking program about his tools for “choosing happiness.” His personal website boasts that he has presented his “keynote addresses to thousands with rave reviews. Among his speaking topics, according to this website, include: “Happiness For Lawyers Guaranteed… Or Your Misery Back,” “Decrease Stress, Increase Success,” and “Expanding Your Business by Expanding Your Mind.”

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“Mark has passionately made it his life mission to share with others how they can lead happy, healthy and successful lives, in spite of whatever challenging circumstances they may be facing,” the website adds. “His unique formula causes audience members to have reduced stress, increased sales and productivity, and better tools to assist in obtaining their goals. He dazzles audiences with his infectious enthusiasm, unique humor and heartfelt authenticity.”

Eiglarsh said he is using his own tools while preparing for his case in defense of Peterson, whom prosecutors say did not follow his active shooting training when he remained outside the three-story Parkland school building for 48 minutes while Nikolas Cruz fatally shot 17 people inside.

And Eiglarsh even sent out an inspirational video ahead of his appearance in court.

“I’m here at the Broward County courthouse, where I am choosing on this Monday to change fear to excitement. It’s the same energy, you might as well go with something that serves you well,” the lawyer said in a selfie-style Instagram video inside the bustling government building. “So today, it’s all about excitement. Enjoy your day, I hope you choose to have a wonderful day.”

During an impassioned opening statement that set the internet ablaze last week, Eiglarsh insisted that Peterson is merely a scapegoat for law enforcement failures during the Feb. 14, 2018 mass shooting. (Gunman Nikolas Cruz was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole last year.) Peterson has pleaded not guilty to several charges, including child neglect and perjury.

Eiglarsh noted to The Daily Beast that over the past week, his team has seen some wins during cross-examination to prove how chaotic the mass shooting even was—and how his client was not merely just hiding out and ignoring his duties. Those wins, he said, have come after hours of preparation that often come at the expense of sleep. Still, he said, he remains dedicated to his meditation and self-reflection.

That said, Eiglarsh admitted his client is not immune to the emotions of being dubbed a “coward” after a long career as a law enforcement officer—or the weight of knowing that his trial could have implications on police culpability during mass shooting events.

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“Calling him a coward is probably the worst thing someone can do,” Eiglarsh said. “My spiritual tools are not going to convince him that shit is not being thrown at him. My spiritual tool is to say you’re having shit thrown at you, you can’t stop it, so it’s about how you react, having shit thrown at you.’”

Peterson, he said, is eager to take the stand and shut down allegations of wrongdoing, though it is not a practice Eiglarsh recommends for his clients because of the fear of cross-examination. So as the defense team decides whether it is wise to put Peterson on the stand—a choice Eiglarsh stressed is ultimately up to the former officer—his client is focusing on “choosing happiness” and putting his faith in his lawyer.

“Scot does not hide his gratitude about what I’m putting into this case. Everyday, Scot is saying what an unbelievable gift that I have and that he is so grateful that I am sharing my gift from him,” Eiglarsh said. “And that is not from a place of ego.”

The prosecution is set to wrap its case against Peterson by next week. Then, the defense will have their turn in court, when they are preparing to call over two dozen witnesses to the stand before the trial concludes in August.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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