Trial Prep and Twitter

Last week I was on trial — at three days it was the shortest one I ever had — and my trial prep included this: Deleting any Twitter messages that were political. My first post on Twitter was thee years ago, January 29, 2009. Since then I have made about 800+ posts.

So the few tweets on politics that I’ve made were taken down. None were overboard on anything — regular readers know that ad hominem attack isn’t exactly the way I write — but why take the chance?

The problem is that no matter how many times a juror is told to avoid looking up the people involved, some folks can’t help themselves. They might look up the lawyer. They might see the Twitter stream.

Despite what people think of New York as a bastion of liberalism, we have plenty of conservatives. Our recent past had Rudy Giuliani as NYC mayor and George Pataki as Governor. It doesn’t really matter if you are on the left or right of the political aisle, it is guarnateed that out of a jury pool some will have differing opinions.

And if you are the party with the burden of proof in a personal injury case (me) then you can’t afford to piss anyone off. This is particularly true in a presidential election year when politics dominates the news more so than at other times.

The same problem exists for web sites, of course.  I’ve always cognizant of this (see, I Hate My Website from 2009) and try to govern myself accordingly. While there are some folks who take down their websites and replace them when on trial (or so I have heard) that isn’t something I’ve ever done.

Since no one generally cares about any tweet that is more than 10 nanoseconds old, this isn’t really an issue. But one person might care, that being the juror. So down they come.

Of course, the opposite might be true for criminal defense lawyers. With the burden on the prosecution, they need only convince that one lonely holdout. They may have a completely different view of keeping contentious political commentary up in place.


7 Responses Leave a comment

  • Ron Miller 2012.2.3 at 10:25 | Quote

    Some things you just can’t avoid. Any significant political contribution you make is just sitting out there on-line.

    I don’t think jurors will holding against the client the fact that the lawyer supported someone else. But if you are making snarly comments about elected officials I can see that being a problem.

    I voted for Obama. (Will you take my 3:00 a.m. call before my next trial begging you to take this comment down?)

  • Eric Turkewitz 2012.2.3 at 11:01 | Quote

    I agree that is isn’t being a supporter that matters, but making snarky comments.

    But, since this is politics, even many things intended to be benign can be taken as snark. So anything close comes down.

    And no, I won’t take that 3 am call. But if you make it during regular business hours then, ummm, I’ll take it under advisement.

  • Ron Miller 2012.2.3 at 12:05 | Quote

    I voted for Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is my friend.

    Eric, you are no Hillary Clinton.

  • Eric Turkewitz 2012.2.3 at 13:48 | Quote

    Eric, you are no Hillary Clinton.

    So true, so true.

  • Bill 2012.2.3 at 18:22 | Quote

    Why not just temporarily protect the tweets? Seems much easier.

  • Eric Turkewitz 2012.2.3 at 18:24 | Quote

    Why not just temporarily protect the tweets? Seems much easier.

    Something about “protecting” the water cooler conversation of Twitter seems wrong. It makes it seem like it’s actually important.

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