Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Federal judge uses Facebook to investigate party-witness

There have been several stories over the past few years about what a discovery bonanza Facebook and other forms of social media can be to lawyers looking to dig up dirt on a litigant or witness. We've even heard stories about the inappropriate use of social media (such as texting and Twitter) by jurors sitting for a case. But this is the first time I've read about a judge using Facebook to investigate a witness appearing before her (though this practice will undoubtedly become more common). That's what happened in Purvis v. Commissioner of Social. Sec., C.A. No. 09-5318 (D.N.J., Feb. 23, 2011). From the blog Internet Cases:

[T]he question before federal judge Susan Davis Wigenton was whether the plaintiff had been wrongfully denied Social Security benefits. Ultimately the judge determined that the question of whether plaintiff’s asthma made her disabled needed to go back to the Social Security office for further proceedings. But the judge had some pretty severe skepticism about the merits of the plaintiff’s claim, expressed in this footnote:

"Although the Court remands the ALJ’s decision for a more detailed finding, it notes that in the course of its own research, it discovered one profile picture on what is believed to be Plaintiff’s Facebook page where she appears to be smoking [link to Facebook page omitted because it's broken] . . . . If accurately depicted, Plaintiff’s credibility is justifiably suspect."

You can access the full decision here via Google Scholar.

Hat tip to the ECommerceLaw Blog.



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