Today, everyone is a potential news source. Through a handheld device we can instantaneously upload photographs or content via social media to be delivered to an anonymous (and often eager) audience. In a sense, the world is shrinking due to instant access and connectivity. This technology has impacted the way we prosecute and defend cases. It plays into our strategy. Some attorneys use technology in an attempt to strengthen their case. But there are risks and limits. Take for example the Texas attorney who used Twitter to gain an arguably improper advantage.
In the recent Texas case, discussed here, the underlying defendant was the subject of public scrutiny, having been convicted for his role in a high-profile money-laundering scandal. The public followed the proceedings closely. Following his conviction, the defendant was the target of a civil suit. Presumably in an effort to develop his client’s case and to pressure the defendant, opposing counsel live-tweeted portions of the defendant’s deposition testimony word-for-word during the civil proceedings.
The court promptly put this practice to rest. Noting that “technology was far outpacing the ability to formulate rules,” the judge ultimately forbade the attorney from live-tweeting from the deposition table.
Attorneys are advocates permitted to promote their client’s interests within the boundaries of the rules of procedure and ethics. Some of those lines are clear, while others are not. This case provides an example of an attorney willing to push the envelope for the intended benefit of his client. Attorneys in a similar situation should pause and consider the potential consequences before engaging in conduct that could be considered an improper use of the various social media tools at our disposal.