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March President's Message


 
Richard S. Vecchio, Esq.

 

Anonymity on the Internet?

Does the Internet provide anonymity to attorneys to comment about legal issues, or even pending legal matters?  Should it?  Are we held to a different (higher?) standard than people who are not attorneys to comment about various issues, legal or otherwise?  Does some level of anonymity, or perceived anonymity, allow or encourage incivility in our discourse?  Well, I was struck by a recent article in the ABA Journal regarding the harsh punishment leveled by the Louisiana Supreme Court against an attorney for such “anonymous” comments, which obviously turned out to be not-so-anonymous.

According to reports, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered the disbarment of an attorney, a federal prosecutor, for making what he thought were anonymous comments, online, not just about legal issues, or pending legal matters, but about pending cases, that he and his office were handling!

Apparently, this now former attorney posted over 2000 comments on a local newspaper’s website over a 4 to 5 year period, including 100-200 comments about cases his office was prosecuting.  Using various pseudonyms, the attorney made derogatory and critical comments about attorneys, defendants, and others.  One example: he said a defense attorney, in a case he was prosecuting, while the case was pending, had “screwed his client”.  In another case, the convictions of several defendants were reversed when his online “anonymous” comments were discovered and attributed to him.

The Louisiana Supreme Court noted that the attorney’s “caustic, extrajudicial comments about pending cases strikes at the heart of the neutral dispassionate control which is the foundation of our system.”  The Court stated that its decision “must send a strong message to [this attorney] and to all members of the bar that a lawyer’s ethical obligations are not diminished by the mask of anonymity provided by the internet.”  These obvious ethical violations were clearly prejudicial to the fair administration of justice.

His excuses or defenses?  Initially, he said it was a way to let off steam, to relieve stress.  (Perhaps he should have tried  hitting the gym, or meditation, to relieve some of that stress).  Then he blamed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but the Court didn’t accept either excuse.  Being an attorney is quite often stressful, but how we deal with that stress is important.  Let’s not lose sight of what we do, and how we should try to do it, so we do it well.

The Dog Ate My Jury Notice

As a trial attorney, I am still intrigued, and yes, even surprised, by the reasons or excuses jurors offer to get out of jury duty.  Here are some interesting and funny excuses I came across in a recent NYSBA weekly email article:

A woman asked to be excused because she wasn’t able to afford the $40 per day.  Upon learning that she would receive $40 rather than paying that amount, she was willing to serve.

A man said he couldn’t possibly do jury duty, because he was vital to the day-to-day operations of his company, and besides, he had already paid for a cruise that same week and couldn’t get his money back.

One prospective juror came in wearing pajamas and said that she had 13 children and did not have time to get dressed.

Another prospective juror explained that he had undergone surgery on his hands and now limped as a result.

“My dog is in heat and needs me.”  (The juror did not explain why).

“I’m 86 years old and deaf as a door nail.”

“I never tell the truth.”

WCBA Annual Meeting and Past Presidents’ Dinner, March 7, 2019

Our Annual Meeting will be held on Thursday March 7, 2019 at the Coveleigh Club located at 450 Stuyvesant Avenue, Rye, NY.  Cocktail hour begins at 6:00 pm followed by dinner and the Annual Meeting at 7:00 pm.  This is an important event as we elect the officers and directors of the WCBA for the upcoming year (May 1, 2019–April 30, 2020). 

This year’s Annual Meeting is also important as we will be making special presentations to Justice Daniel Angiolillo (Ret.) and WCBA Past President, Jack Geoghegan, the honorees at the 2018 Westchester County Bar Foundation Annual Benefit, to recognize their achievements and numerous contributions to our legal community, the judiciary, and their local communities. We encourage everyone to attend.

As always, I can be reached at President@wcbany.org.

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