Thursday, April 2, 2009

Facebook & Your Client: Win, Lose or Draw?

A New York Times article (March 10, 2009) described the recent experience of an NYPD officer who was cross-examined over material on his Facebook page. While the officer's posted comment that the movie "Training Day" was a good lesson in police procedure was a joke, it did not play out that way in front of the jury. The defense attorney successfully used the officer’s public postings to paint a picture of an overly aggressive officer willing to bend the rules.

E-discovery does not end with a perusal of emails! E-discovery can readily extend to any postings on the Internet. Most lawyers will attempt to discover what, if any, Internet presence opponent’s client or key witnesses have. Where they are sometimes remiss, is in discovering their own client’s presence. Whether you represent plaintiff or defendant, it is wise to check with your client whether he or she has a Facebook/Twitter/MySpace/Orkut/Hi5/Friendster/LinkedIn/StumbleUpon/etc. presence, and whether that presence conforms with how your client wishes to be perceived in Court. If not, deleting the page isn’t an answer: some Courts have allowed the retrieval of deleted pages. You need to know how your client is holding him/herself out on the Internet in order to defuse it, ignore it, or applaud it. All three are valid options.