Social Media: Part 2 - Additional Commentary on the Attorney Use of Social Media Thumbnail

Social Media: Part 2 - Additional Commentary on the Attorney Use of Social Media

Although there is not a specific Ohio Advisory Opinion providing specific guidance on an attorney’s use of Twitter or Facebook posts, the existing Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct still apply and provide guidance.  A recent notable example of an attorney’s conduct involving the use of mass media is In re Rudolph W. Giuliani, Case No. 2021-00506, Motion 2021-00491, entered June 24, 2021. The Supreme Court of the State of New York, First Appellate Division issued an interim suspension of Rudolph Giuliani on June 24, 2021 citing alleged violations of NY Disc. R. 3.3(a), 4.1, 8.4(c) and 8.4(h) (each having a comparable Ohio Rule of Professional Conduct with the same number). The NY Appellate Court cited multiple examples of mass media statements made by Mr. Giuliani as the basis of issuing the extreme sanction of an interim suspension. In re Giuliani Opinion, p. 2-5.  However, the sanction was found to be warranted by the Court because it recognized that the speech of an attorney is subject to greater regulation than speech by others given an attorney’s (a) professional training in the art of persuasion; (b) status within the system of justice; and (c) status with the general public, particularly in light of Mr. Giuliani’s use of “his large megaphone” magnifying the risk of harm. In re Giuliani, Opinion at p. 31. The Opinion references not just statements made to a Court or made within legal papers filed with the Court, but also numerous times certain purportedly false statements were made by Mr. Giuliani on his podcast or other broadcast media platforms. So, there is some precedent for a tribunal to impose extreme sanctions for an attorney’s apparent improper use of a mass media platform to make an argument where it is found that the attorney knowingly made false statements or was otherwise in violation of the applicable Disciplinary Rules.

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