Monday, August 5, 2013
Social media continues to be a minefield where lawyers encounter ethics issues of types not seen in the traditional practice of law.
Aaron Brockler, an Ohio prosecutor, was fired after it was revealed that he
posed as an ex-girlfriend of a defendant in a Facebook chat with an alibi
witness, attempting to persuade her to change her testimony. He spoke to both
women the next day, without revealing what he had done, and they both changed
their stories. The ruse came to light when another prosecutor who handled the
file while Brockler was on medical leave discovered transcripts of the chats in
the file, and contacted Brockler to find out what the transcripts represented.
When Brockler informed the colleague that he was the actor in the transcripts,
his colleague reported the conduct to supervisors, who transferred the case to the
Ohio Attorney General’s office and began the process that led to Brockler’s
Virginia lawyer Daniel J.
Miller faces a defamation lawsuit after he posted an unflattering
picture of a criminal defendant on Facebook, with an off-color and derogatory
joke about another attorney who was representing the client. Miller’s counsel
claims the comment was just “some good-natured jesting with a colleague,” but
the subject of the jest disagrees and is seeking damages for harm to his
reputation. The incident also led the court to impose new restrictions on the
use of cellphones by attorneys and others allowed to bring such devices into
the courtroom, a privilege denied the general public.