Three Strikes! Lawyer Lacking Mindful Boundaries is Suspended for Facebook Message

A Kansas attorney has been suspended for 6 months for his inappropriate Facebook message to the unrepresented biological mother in a termination of parental rights case in which the lawyer represented the biological father. He urged the mother to reconsider her decision to relinquish her rights in a heavy-handed Facebook message that the lawyer conceded  that “[i]n hindsight, it was a communication that was hastily drafted and sent without proper revision.”

The hearing panel characterized the message as “emotional blackmail” and a “bullying  tactic” that directly reflects on the attorney’s fitness to practice law thereby warranting a 60 day suspension.

The Kansas Supreme Court agreed that a suspension is appropriate, but ordered a 6 month suspension.

The court found, “Despite the respondent’s abysmal attitude, absent the prior discipline, the hearing panel may have been inclined to recommend a censure to be published in the Kansas Reports. However, the misconduct in this case occurred just a few short months after the respondent was strongly admonished by the previous hearing panel. The respondent’s misconduct in all three of the attorney disciplinary cases is linked by the respondent’s overreaching approach and failure to recognize reasonable boundaries.” (emphasis added)

The court will consider reinstatement contingent upon the attorney’s ability to demonstrate that he understands the gravity of his conduct and that he has completed an anger management course and any other therapy that is recommended by a physical or mental healthcare professional.

This case provides another troubling reminder that lawyers who fail to pause and consider the repercussions of their actions, especially on social media, often trip on ethical land mines that damage their reputations and their careers.

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