Social Media Fallout: Attorneys’ Posts Cause Career Crises

Social Media Fallout: Attorneys’ Posts Cause Career Crises

Social Media and Internet use has continued to grow over the past year. As these sites become more popular, it seems that more attorneys are finding themselves in hot water over Internet posts.  Just last week a New Orleans federal prosecutor, Jan Mann, who was second in command to U.S. Attorney Jim Letten was demoted after admitting she posted anonymous comments on a newspaper website. The announcement was made after a defamation lawsuit was filed earlier this month. The suit alleges that Mann used the online alias of “eweman” to criticize a landfill operator whose business is the subject of a federal probe. For more info see: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/anonymous_blog_comments_snag_another_us_prosecutor_suit_cited_superfluous/.

Mann’s demotion follows the March resignation of another New Orleans federal prosecutor, Sal Perricone, who admitted to making hundreds of posts at NOLA.com using the name Henry L. Mencken1951. Visit the ABA Journal for more information at: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/federal_prosecutor_kicked_off_some_cases_for_anonymous_online_comments/.

Similarly, a few months ago, a Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge declared a mistrial in the case of the defendant, who is accused of stabbing his girlfriend to death in 2010.

Here’s what apparently happened…A defendant’s family brought him clothes to wear to his trial. His public defender took a photograph of the leopard-print underwear included in the bag. She then posted the picture on her personal facebook page with a caption commenting upon the family’s belief that the underwear  was “proper attire for trial.” There was another post that seemed to question the defendant’s innocence.  Even though the attorney’s facebook page is private and only her “friends” can see the content, the incident was reported to the Judge who subsequently declared a mistrial.  The public defender was terminated.

Social media has become a reoccurring problem in the criminal justice system. Judges routinely warn jurors of their use of social media such as facebook and Twitter during trials. Tamara Rice Lave, a University of Miami Law School professor, commented that “attorneys should be aware that their social media posts can damage their career because a lawyer’s integrity and reputation are everything.” For more information visit the Miami Herald’s website at: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/09/12/2999630/lawyers-facebook-photo-causes.html.