For Lawyers, Facebook Friending Your Opponent Can Lead To Trouble

May 11, 2016

Whether it’s called mining or spying, becoming an adversary’s Facebook friend to obtain detrimental information that could be used in court crosses ethical boundaries, an attorney specializing in digital discovery says.

“What may be fine for other people is not fine for lawyers because we are guided by ethical rules. We are not supposed to engage in subterfuge,” J. Alexander Lawrence told Legal Newsline.

A partner at Morrison & Foerster in New York City, Lawrence advises clients and lectures aspiring attorneys on e-discovery issues and best practices. Social media has created new areas of concern regarding legal ethics, Lawrence said.

On April 19, the New Jersey Supreme Court cleared the way for the state’s Office of Attorney Ethics to consider disciplinary action against John J. Robertelli, who had represented the Borough of Oakland, N.J., the Borough of Oakland Police Department and a police sergeant in a personal injury case against them.

The lawsuit was brought by Dennis Hernandez, who alleged he sustained permanent injuries after being struck by a police cruiser.

“Robertelli directed a paralegal employed by his law firm to search the internet to obtain information about Hernandez,” a grievance Hernandez filed with the District II-B Ethics Committee said.

At one point, everything posted on the Facebook page was open to the public. Then Hernandez changed the privacy settings, and only friends were privy to some content.

Robertelli’s paralegal then submitted a friend request.

BY: Sharon Brooks Hodge

 

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