Attorney’s Tweet Leads to Sanctions

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Tweet with caution. It only takes 140 characters for professionals to embarrass themselves or worse. Social media has many advantages. No doubt. But, many users could benefit from an “unsend” option after their post has already infiltrated cyberspace. Of course this option doesn’t exist. We’ve all heard stories of the impulsive, ill-advised posts (like these), an embarrassing typo (like this) , or the heat of the moment tweet (like this) sent hastily without a second thought. In certain circumstances these posts go unnoticed but some professionals may not be so lucky. Take for example the attorney in Kansas who was sanctioned for blasting her opinions about pending cases on Twitter.

Recently, a three judge panel recommended an informal admonishment for a research attorney who made inappropriate tweets on her personal twitter account. The attorney, who was employed with the Kansas Court of Appeals, authored a variety of derogatory tweets about Kansas’s Attorney General who was facing an ethics hearing. The tweets encouraged individuals to watch the live hearing, predicted a sentencing outcome, and included her personal opinions as to the Attorney General.

In its recommendation, the disciplinary panel noted that the attorney’s prediction as to the outcome of the Attorney General’s hearing misrepresented the law and facts, and implied influence that she did not have. The disciplinary panel also wrote that her tone demonstrated “disrespect for a litigant before the appellate courts as well as a disrespect for the Supreme Court panel hearing the case.”

The lesson is that social media can lead to trouble. Be ever mindful when communicating personal opinions because it may be misinterpreted as a professional opinion or otherwise violate ethics protocols. To avoid problems, professionals should keep apprised of this evolving area of the law and, when in doubt, seek assistance from a local ethics authority or advisory board.