Lawyers and Social Media: A Force for Good or 'Evil'?
An article in Saturday's New York Times highlighting the hazards of attacking a judge in a law blog has sparked a variety of reactions from lawyers. Back in 2006, criminal defense attorney Fred Conway lashed out at a Florida state judge, labeling her an "EVIL, UNFAIR WITCH" and "seemingly mentally ill" in this post on JAABlog, which covers the Broward Country court system. This bit of free expression earned Conway a reprimand and a $1,200 fine from the Florida Bar earlier this year, and also set off a First Amendment battle in the Florida Supreme Court.
A search for "evil witch" in the Quest search box at the top of this page shows a range of reactions this week among fellow legal bloggers. Kevin O'Keefe, CEO of LexBlog, believes the article was a "disservice to the American lawyer and the public we serve" because it flagged "isolated incidents where
lawyers have run into trouble because of ill-advised blog posts." Kevin writes that, notwithstanding these isolated examples, "the
good things achieved by lawyers through the use of the net and social
media far outweigh the bad." The WisBlawg had the opposite reaction, observing that "the type of comments made by Conway were not isolated, as the article reveals, and this is an issue that isn't going away any time soon."
Over on the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog, the reaction was that
As the New York Times article points out, your “freedom to
gripe is limited by codes of conduct.” Thus, criticizing the court or
revealing client details online -- even if the lawyer thinks she’s
veiled the true subject -- can cause trouble for a lawyer because she
runs the risk of violating rules of professional responsibility.
Finally, the Wise Law blog went straight to the point, reminding us all:
Bottom line - don't refer to a judge as an "Evil, Unfair Witch"... Or
to state it more simply, if a lawyer ought not to make a specific
comment in a public speech or debate, he or she ought not to say it
What do you think?
[If you'd rather listen to a debate on social media and lawyers instead of reading one, check out NPR's recent "Talk of the Nation" conversation with Nevada Judge Gary Randall and attorney Michael Downey.]
Posted by Bruce Carton on September 18, 2009 at 04:43 PM | Permalink
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