Just so you know that attorneys are not the only legal professionals that sometimes stumble on social media…yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Law Blog highlighted an article in the Texas Bar Journal by trial attorney John G. Browning and Texas Supreme Court Justice Don R. Willett about common mistakes judges make on social media.
Some of the blunders by jurists include:
A Minnesota judge was reprimanded for a Facebook posts he wrote about trials he was presiding over, including a sex-trafficking trial where he implied the defendant was guilty. The prosecution found the post and advised the defense; a vacated verdict was the result. The judge’s explanation was that he did not realize his posts were “public” and thought they could only be viewed by friends and family.
A Louisville judge who is African-American posted his opinion that a local prosecutor seemed to prefer all-white juries. The judge later issued a statement saying his posts were “not intended to personally criticize” the prosecutor.
A decision by a district court judge in California is on appeal with the Ninth Circuit due in part to several tweets by the judge during and after the trial that the appellant alleges were prejudicial and biased. In addition, the judge followed the federal prosecutors on the case on Twitter.
A New Mexico judge resigned in 2013 after charges were brought against him for violating the court’s computer and Internet-use policy. The judge’s wife also worked at the courthouse and he allegedly sent her many instant messages during work hours intimating that “he had or would be having sexual relations with her during the workday and/or on courthouse premises.” According to copies of the chats filed with the petition, one message said, “Don’t come knocking if the jury room is rockin’.”
The article went on to offer the same advice that I have often given attorneys: follow the ethics rules no matter what the medium. Don’t post about pending cases. Don’t discuss other legal professionals. A good rule of thumb is, if a post gives you pause, delete it.
If you want to know the best uses of social media for attorneys, attend an upcoming Rainmaker Retreat. Our next session is in Dallas — click below for details.