The defendant’s public defender posted a photo of his leopard print underwear on her personal Facebook page. The Judge declared a mistrial in the Miami-Dade case, and the attorney was fired. The Attorney reportedly snapped the photo of the briefs as a corrections officer held them up for a quick inspection while going through a bag of clothing that the defendant’s family had brought for him to wear at trial. The caption read ”proper attire for trial”.
Ms. Skinner—only Georgia attorney disciplined. She may have thought she was okay under the above. The facts that are not in the published opinions are that the client wrote four negative reviews pretending to be four different clients. The client was nasty and vindictive. Ms. Skinner was able to obtain the IP addresses of each post to confirm it was the same address. That is why Ms. Skinner did not receive more severe discipline.
What if you know that your are FaceBook friends with the Judge before whom you are appearing that morning?
The Ethics of Social Media for Family Law Attorneys
THE ETHICS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
By: Melody Z. Richardson
It does not pay!
• Review the rules of professional conduct
before posting to social media.
RULE 1.6 CONFIDENTIALITY OF
• A lawyer shall maintain in confidence all information
gained in the professional relationship with a client,
including information which the client has requested to
be held inviolate or the disclosure of which would be
embarrassing or would likely be detrimental to the
client, unless the client gives informed consent, except
for disclosures that are impliedly authorized in order to
carry out the representation, or are required by these
Rules or other law, or by order of the Court.
• The maximum penalty for a violation of this Rule is
• Violation of this rule seems to be the most
common error when using social media
• What may seem funny is probably a violation
“Proper Court Attire”
Lawyer Puts Photo of Client’s Leopard Print Underwear
Fired, Suspended, Mistrial
The consequences of a thoughtless post can be dire!
The Public Defender who posted a photo of her client’s underwear suffered all of
those consequences, even though no name was mentioned in her post.
EXCEPTION TO MAINTAINING CLIENT CONFIDENCE:
A lawyer may reveal information covered by paragraph (a) which the lawyer believes
necessary to establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy
between the lawyer and the client, to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil
claim against the lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved, or to
respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer's representation of
Can you post client confidences in
response to a negative post by a
client on a consumer social media
page under the exception?
APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO BAD REVIEW ON SOCIAL
If you feel a response is necessary,
make it innocuous
Warn your clients against posts on
social media that can hurt their case
• An attorney may not advise a client to take
down a post or to become inactive to try to
hide posts that may be harmful
• See Georgia Rule of Professional Conduct
• Attorney who advised his client to remove a
post and hide the evidence fined over half a
Counsel your Clients against Thoughtless
Add the warning to use good
judgment on social media to your
Client agrees to exercise good judgment when using any social media,
such as Facebook. Client understands that posts on social media are
permanent and can have a negative impact on the outcome of the
Client’s case. Client further understands that the Firm is not permitted
to hide or delete such posts, and that the Client may suffer from
adverse consequences if the Client does not exercise good judgment
and decorum on social media.
Think before you hit “Post”
I would advise against the
Is this post within the bounds of Georgia’s
Rules of Professional Conduct?
Is this post within the bounds of
Georgia’s Professionalism Rules?
What about Avvo?
Rule 7.1(a)(2) that says a communication is false, fraudulent or misleading if it
is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can
achieve . . . .
If you have client recommendations,
put a disclaimer that results vary
based on the facts and circumstances
of the case somewhere on the