Internet: A Client’s Worst or Best Enemy

In todays modern world, it is hard to imagine how society would function without the internet. With the ease of posting pictures and text to forums such as Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook, it is becoming increasingly easy to obtain information on people. In fact, I would venture that running a simple Google search on about anyone would provide an interested party with some information. However, the ease and benefits that the internet has created for information seekers does not come without consequences, especially for those who are parties to litigation.

For example, take the individual who was charged with hitting and killing a motorcylist when she was drunk. Despite her attorney's hard work to get her out of jail pending trial on the condition that she abstain from alcohol, she decided that it would be a good idea to have pictures taken of her consuming alcohol at a fraternity party. Unfortunatley for this individual, these pictures were posted on the internet and fell into the hands of the prosecutor on her case who quickly asked for a bond review hearing because of the obvious violations to her release.

Or how about the judge who was recently reprimanded in North Carolina for "friending" an attorney on Facebook who was involved in pending litigation before him and who also actively sought out one of the litigants websites and comented at the trial about a poem posted on that litigant's website. The judge was reprimanded for ex parte communications and independent information gathering which indicated a disregard for the principles of judicial conduct.

The interent makes it much easier to break down the walls of privacy and engage in activites that may be detrimental to a person's pending litigation, their personal lives, and even their careers. I have often times sat at home at night after picking a jury wondering what a juror would be able to find out about my client, myself, or the judge, if they decided to break their oath and actively seek out information, and how that information would be beneficial or detrimental to my client's case. Our firm has also actively sought discovery from opposing parties concerning their MySpace or Facebook pages and have been provided with text from MySpace pages which has allowed criminal charges to be dismissed in some cases. In todays technologically advancing world it may even be bordering on malpractice for an attorney to forgoe seeking out information about an opposing party by way of photos, text, or other information that may be useful in impeaching or attacking the credibility of an opposing party.

Suffice it to say that if you are the party to litigation, an attorney representing a client, or even a judge, it would be wise to know what information is available to the general public via the internet about you personally and professionally and then judge how that information may impact a pending case.