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Thursday, May 29, 2014

$50 Citation for Facebook Post Rescinded

On May 20th, a Will County Forest Preserve District officer issued a $50 citation to a woman who had posted the following on Facebook:

I was feeling bad that I haven’t bought a pass and been bringing Ginger there but I’m pretty glad I haven’t. So not going to worry about it until later. I hope all the doggies get better soon.
The comment was posted in response to concerns some dog owners had posted about kennel cough among some dogs at a dog park in Will County.  A county employee noticed the comment and forwarded it to an officer, who interpreted the comment to mean the woman was using the dog park without a permit and issued her the citation.

After receiving the citation, the woman posted on the dog park Facebook page that she had not been to the dog park since 2013.  Shortly thereafter, the county rescinded her citation and stated that the county does not monitor social media in search of potential law breakers nor is it county policy to issue tickets for social media posts.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Another Attorney in Trouble on Facebook

Social media is getting a lot of people in trouble, and lately the "troublemakers" seem to be attorneys.  An Indiana attorney recently found himself charged with felony intimidation (which could result in jail time) after he posted the following message on his client's ex-husband's Facebook page:
You pissed off the wrong attorney. You want to beat up women and then play games with the legal system … well then you will get exactly what you deserve. After I get [my client] out of jail I’m going to gather all the relevant evidence and them I’m going to anal rape you so hard your teeth come loose. I tried working with you with respect. Now I’m going to treat you like the pond scum you are. Watch your ass you little [expletive deleted]. I’ve got you in my sights now.
The attorney had represented his client in both the divorce and the misdemeanor domestic battery case brought against her by her ex-husband. When questioned about his social media post, he defended his conduct, saying that he was not threatening the ex-husband, just trying to convey how zealously he was going to defend his client.

Friday, May 23, 2014

ASA May Be In Trouble for Facebook Posts

Another story about employees/lawyers behaving badly on social media comes this story about a Florida Assistant States Attorney.  ASA Kenneth Lewis is under fire for several Facebook comments, including the following posts:

On Mother’s Day, he posted: 
Happy Mother’s Day to all the crack hoes out there. It's never too late to tie your tubes, clean up your life and make difference to someone out there that deserves a better mother.
He also posted a photo of Justice Sonia Sotomayor with the following caption:
Reason enough why no country should ever engage in the practice of Affirmative Action again. This could be the result. Where would she be if she didn't hit the quota lottery? Here's a hint: 'Would you like to supersize that sir?' 
He also commented on a news article about an arrest for home invasion as follows:
They should have shot him in the head, anyone that invades another home in a violent manner should be executed on the spot." Yet another post complains that Florida is subject to a "constant flooding of the lowest common denominator from third world nations.
According to an ABA Journal article, immediately after his posts became public, he seemed unapologetic about his Facebook musings, stating “It's an inspirational message to do the right thing."  At a later press conference, however, he seemed to back off from his earlier statement, saying his posts were intended to get people talking about the issues and he was sorry if people were offended by his "poor choice" of words.  

The States Attorneys (his boss) issued a statement saying that while he didn't agree with his ASA's postings, his opinions were protected by the First Amendment.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

MAUIWatch Facebook Case Settles

We have reported previously on the lawsuit filed against the County of Maui by a County employee who maintains a MAUIWatch Facebook page where he posts news and other stories about Maui.  Mamuad v. County of Hawaii, Dist. (Haw. Mar. 3, 2014).  According to his lawsuit, the County told him to shut it down and when he didn't, he was subject to disciplinary action.  He was also the subject of a harassment complaint by a co-worker who claimed his Facebook activities amounted to cyber-bullying.  

This month, the parties agreed to settle the case before the court could hear initial arguments on the motion for a preliminary injunction.  The settlement requires the County to rewrite its anti-harassment policy to clarify that employees have First Amendment rights outside the workplace.  The County was required to expunge any record of disciplinary action against Mamuad, and pay his attorneys fees and damages in the amount of $25,000.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Arbitrator Upholds Teacher's Termination for Facebook Threats

A college fired one of its history instructors after discovering that the teacher had posted threatening messages to co-workers on his Facebook page.  He challenged his termination, and a hearing was held before an arbitrator in January.  The upheld his termination, rejecting his PTSD defense.

You can read more about the termination here.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Lawyers Should Not "Friend" Jurors But Can View Public Information

The American Bar Association recently issued Formal Opinion 466 concerning potential ethical problems with lawyers communicating with potential jurors through social media.  The opinion provides the following advice to lawyers:
  • A "passive review" of a juror's public social media site is not improper ex parte conduct, similar to driving down a juror's street to gather information about the juror.
  • Asking a juror for access to his or her social media account (i.e., "friending" a juror) is improper, much like stopping the car to ask the juror's permission to look inside his or her home.
  • The fact that a juror may become aware that the lawyer reviewed his public social media account does not constitute a communication from the lawyer. 
The opinion also recommends that judges and lawyers discuss the court's expectations concerning lawyer review of juror social media information, and suggests that courts issue an order or have standing rules in place to provide guidance to lawyers.

The opinion also recommends that jurors be instructed not to use social media to communicate about their jury service or a pending case.  If a lawyer becomes aware of juror misconduct, the lawyer may be obligated to take some remedial action, including reporting the juror's conduct to the court, depending on the nature of the communication.  For example, the opinion noted that a juror complaining about the qualify of the food at lunch is not likely to justify criminal contempt, but substantive communications about the trial could go to the integrity of the trial.


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