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370 Seventeenth Street | Suite 4500 | Denver, Colorado 80202-5647 | P 303.244.1800 | F 303.244.1879 | wtotrial.com Ethics, Social Media, and YOU Presented.

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Presentation on theme: "370 Seventeenth Street | Suite 4500 | Denver, Colorado 80202-5647 | P 303.244.1800 | F 303.244.1879 | wtotrial.com Ethics, Social Media, and YOU Presented."— Presentation transcript:

1 370 Seventeenth Street | Suite 4500 | Denver, Colorado | P | F | wtotrial.com Ethics, Social Media, and YOU Presented to ACC, Colorado Chapter December 4, 2013 Ed Stewart, Wheeler Trigg ODonnell LLP Craig May, Wheeler Trigg ODonnell LLP Jyll Lottner, Vail Resorts, Inc.

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3 Social Media – Not Just For Teenagers Anymore Jury Selection Discovery Employment 3

4 Interactions With Parties, Jurors, And Clients In The Facebook Age 4 4

5 Rule 1.1, Comment 6 instructs lawyers to keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice.... Rule. 1.1, Comment 5: competent handling of a matter includes…use of methods and procedures meeting the standards of competent practitioners Rule 1.3, Comment 1 requires acting with zeal and advocacy on client's behalf Do I Really Have To Know This? 5

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7 Or...VOIR GOOGLE 7

8 Research – An Option? A Right? A Duty? 8

9 Option? THE COURT: Are you Googling these people? COUNSEL: Your Honor, there's no code or law that says I'm not allowed to do that. I any courtroom THE COURT: Is that what you're doing? COUNSEL: I'm getting information on jurors we've done it all the time, everyone does it.... There's no rule.... THE COURT: No, no, here is the rule. The rule is it's my courtroom and I control it. So, therefore, my ruling is: close the laptop for the jury selection process... I can't control what goes on outside of this courtroom, but I can control what goes on inside the courtroom.

10 Right? A party must use reasonable efforts to examine the litigation history... of those jurors selected but not empanelled... To facilitate this search, the trial courts are directed to ensure the parties have opportunity to make a timely search prior to the jury being empaneled... Johnson v. McCullough MD (Supreme Court of Missouri)

11 Duty That Can Be Waived? We note that... the trial court suggested that the attorneys run jurors litigation histories electronically before the jury commenced deliberation... Given this set of facts, we cannot say the trial court abused its discretion in denying plaintiffs motion for a new trial. Tricam Industries v. Coba, (Florida Court of Appeals, 2012) 11

12 To Google or Not to Google During Voir Dire Pros: If court expressly allows, Rule 1.1 may impose duty to do so May expose biases, grounds for cause, evasive/untruthful voir dire responses More information almost never harmful Cons: Time constraints Distraction from effective traditional voir dire False positives Risks offending jurors if confronted with their social media postings Either way ASK (Sluss v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 381 S.W.3d 215 (2012))

13 Where Should You Check? 13

14 Investigating Jurors – Ethical Challenges Rule 3.5(d) prohibits ex parte communications with jurors during the course of proceedings Is social media research a communication? Obtaining generally accessible information usually is not Friend request by attorney or staffor one initiated by juror not permitted Search which itself imparts to juror knowledge that he or she is being investigated may be a communication E.g. New York City Bar Assoc. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Opinion

15 Know Your Technology! [I]t is an attorneys duty to research and understand the properties of the service or website she wishes to use for jury research in order to avoid inadvertent communications. (New York City Bar Assoc. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Opinion ) Facebook = OK to access public pages, but not to gain access to private pages or Friend Twitter = OK to read posts, but not to follow LinkedIn = OK to browse anonymously without leaving electronic footprint NOTE: You MUST change your privacy setting to completely anonymous in order to browse anonymously

16 Monitor During Trial? May reveal information withheld in voir dire that could lead to mistrial (e.g. are your jurors friends with Plaintiff?) May reveal juror misconduct (e.g. tweeting about case, conducting research, revealing juror deliberations) 16

17 It does in South Carolina Branham case 9 of 12 jurors discovered to be former clients of plaintiffs counsel It happens other places too! 17 Does This Really Happen?

18 Juror Conduct During Trial This trial is boring! I dont know which way to go, so Im holding a poll. Should I vote guilty or innocent? 18

19 State v. Dellinger (West Virginia Supreme Court,2010) Juror to Defendant on Myspace during trial: You might not understand why you are hurting right now but when you look back on it, it will make perfect sense. I know it is hard but just remember God is perfect and has the most perfect plan for your life. Talk soon. 19

20 Duty to Report Juror Misconduct? Old Rule (Code of Professional Responsibility) Lawyer had a duty to... reveal promptly to the court improper conduct by a venireman or a juror, or by another toward a venireman or a juror or a member of his family, of which the lawyer has knowledge. DR7-108 New Rule (Rules of Professional Conduct) No express duty But interests underlying Rules suggest duty to disclose, regardless

21 Social Media and Witnesses

22 Communicating with Represented Persons Cannot communicate about subject matter of representation with person represented by counsel (Rule 4.2) Applies even if contact initiated by the party Advice – no friending witnesses who are represented No using an employee to friend the witness for you Avoid "pretexting" Rule 8.4 expressly prohibits lawyers violating RPC through acts of another 22

23 Communicating with Unrepresented Persons Risky to communicate through social media No Pretexting Rule 4.3 prohibits lawyers, when dealing with unrepresented persons, from implying that he/she is disinterested No False Statements Rule

24 Social Media and Discovery Issues

25 Investigating Opposing Parties and Third Party Witnesses Social media can be rich source of discovery BUT - investigation must be done ethically

26 Investigate Your Client Research your client to gain important information for litigation Before filing suit (Rule 3.1, Meritorious Claims and Defenses) During suit (with or without discovery request) Before company witness depositions (as part of preparation)

27 Duty to Preserve Evidence Rule 3.4 prohibits altering or destroying evidence DO NOT instruct client to remove harmful information from social media site during or in anticipation of litigation Can you advise the client to change privacy settings?

28 What About Deactivating a Facebook Site? Taking down a site may result in the deletion of the account, and all of its content Example – plaintiff deactivated his Facebook site during the case, resulting in its deletion spoliation sanctions Can you adequately preserve all content of the Facebook account before deactivation? Know the technology!

29 Advising Client on Social Media Advising client to use highest possible privacy/security settings? Advise client to take down material from social media sites, while preserving relevant material for litigation? NOTE: client can be asked about any changes to social media Advise client to publish truthful, favorable information

30 Obtaining Social Media in Discovery Competing tests for compelling production Restrictive Test - Requires showing that: Public pages contain material contradicting claims; and Request is narrowly tailored to seek only relevant information Tapp v. New York State Urban Dev. Corp., 102 A.D.3d 620 (NY 2013); Tompkins v. Detroit Metropolitan Airport, 278 F.R.D. 387 (E.D. Michigan 2012) Example - Picture of slip-and-fall plaintiff holding a 2-5 lb. dog, attending a birthday party and pushing a shopping cart not inconsistent with injury claims

31 Obtaining Social Media in Discovery Permissive Test (FRCP) Any relevant, nonprivileged information is discoverable If in doubt, rules favor permissive discovery Reduced expectation of privacy where circle of friends is large E.g. Higgins v. Koch Development Corp., 2013 Westlaw (S.D. Indiana 2013); Reid v. Ingerman Smith LLP, 2012 Westlaw (E.D. New York 2012) Like a written diary, private Facebook posts are potentially relevant to a wide range of issues, such as emotional distress, etc..

32 Social Media in the Workplace Presented by Jyll Lottner, December 2013

33 Expression of political opinions Legal off-duty activities or lifestyle discrimination (e.g., California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York, North Dakota), which ban discrimination based on legal off-duty conduct Wrongful termination in violation of public policy (arrests, convictions, bankruptcy, workers comp. history) Whistleblowing (SOX, Dodd-Frank, Wage & Hour) Legal Constraints on Employee Discipline 33

34 National Labor Relations Act - Section 7 of the NLRA guarantees employees the right to engage in other concerted activities for purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection Applies to both union and non-union employees Legal Constraints on Employee Discipline 34

35 2+ employees acting to address a collective concern about terms and conditions of employment is considered protected concerted activity. 1 employee acting on behalf of others, initiating, inducing or preparing for group action, or who has discussed the matter with co-workers, can be engaged in protected concerted activity. Comments made solely by an employee related to employment but do not arise out of, or call for activity by other employees, are not protected concerted activity. Legal Constraints on Employee Discipline 35

36 Actions via social media taken for the purpose of improving working conditions such as: Pay Hours Workplace safety Workload Benefits Terms of employment (i.e. supervisor conduct, work satisfaction or dissatisfaction) Could be deemed protected, concerted activity Protected Activity 36

37 Real life examples: Employee at a BMW dealership fired for Facebook posts ridiculing the dealership for serving hot dogs during a sales event rather than more upscale food…concerted and protected because arose from discussions among several employees and hot dog cart could have turned off customers thereby impacting the employees commissions Employees at a clothing store fired for Facebook post criticizing and complaining about supervisors reaction to their complaints about working late…concerted and protected because it was a continuation of earlier discussions about employment conditions and was for the mutual aid and protection of other employees Protected Activity 37

38 The following actions via social media are likely not concerted, protected activity: posting secret, confidential or attorney-client privileged information (protects companys legitimate interests) discussing information relating to safety of companys product (not related to safety of the workplace) harassing, bullying, discriminating or retaliating posting anything in the name of the company or in a manner that could be reasonably attributed to, or to be on behalf of, company posting threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct Unprotected Activity 38

39 Protected Activity? 39 Craig May December 1 To whom this may concern: You know who you are – you cried and cried and cried like a little b**ch and got your f***ing way. Hes gone. Great job, youre the f***ing man! Pat yourself on the back you sissy. I hope things were really that bad for you, you deserve it, you loser. Instead of crying like a little b**ch, why dont you try confronting the person who you feel has done you wrong? Why dont you act like a real man and own up to what you claim happened. Instead, you hid behind mommy and took the chicken sh*t way! You shouldn't be allowed to hide behind mommy, no one should ever. EVER. Stand up for yourself you f***ing crybaby! F**k you!! Like – Comment – Share 19 people liked this. Edward Stewart – I know; its bullsh*t! No way this should have gone down without some face to face. What a joke! December 1 Jyll Lottner – F**k you!! No more hiding allowed!!! Change it – man up! December 1

40 Protected Activity? 40

41 What to Do? 41 Do NOT assume that the content of a tweet, post on Facebook, etc. allows the employer to take action against the employee Look at whether other co-workers are involved in the discussion; whether the discussion directly arises from an earlier discussion; or whether the post calls co-workers to action Look at the subject matter of the tweet, post, etc. and if it could be considered concerted and protected activity

42 What to Do? 42 Look at whether another employees rights have been violated Look at the tweet, post, etc. for threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct Consider talking to the employee to work out his/her concerns through internal procedures Consider whether to conduct an investigation


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