September 16, 2009
Horror Stories: "When you become an officer of the court, you lose the full ability to criticize the court" on social media sites
A September 12, 2009 article in the New York Times, A Legal Battle: Online Attitude vs. Rules of the Bar by John Schwartz reviews recent disciplinary proceedings against practicing attorneys. One case involved a blogging criminal attorney who questioned the motives and competence of a judge. Another and more serious example involves a former Illinois public defender who is charged with disclosing confidential client information that might also constitute “assisting a criminal or fraudulent act.” About all this, Schwartz quotes Michael Downey, who teaches legal ethics at the Washington University law school: “When you become an officer of the court, you lose the full ability to criticize the court."
The WSJ Law Blog and the ABA Journal pounced on the New York Times article with an unmatched furrosity for not breaking the developing story. Maybe the authors should read Legal Profession Blog where Mike Frisch (Georgetown Law Center) broke the public defender story in his September 9, 2009 post, Blogging Lawyer Charged with Confidentiality Violations. The attorney lost her job as an assistant public defender after 19 years of service over her blog postings. Frisch reported that the Administrator of Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission had filed and published charges against and her. See his post for blog excepts quoted in the complaint [Text of Complaint].
See also Danielle Citron's Concurring Opinions post, Professional Responsibility Meets Facebook, Another Oops the Bar and the comments to Above the Law's Lawyers’ Social Media Horror Stories. [JH]