Recently, a New York City public school teacher nearly lost her job after posting derogatory remarks on her private Facebook page about hating her students, whom she called “devil[‘]s spawns.” Although a hearing officer concluded that her employment should be terminated, the Supreme Court vacated that decision, which a unanimous panel of the Appellate Division affirmed.
Tagged: Social Media
The New Jersey State Bar Association 2013 Annual Meeting and Convention will be held May 15-17, 2013, at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Six Gibbons attorneys will be featured as speakers and moderators at this years convention. The Gibbons attorneys, Fruqan Mouzon, Mary Frances Palisano, Damian V. Santomauro, Judge Edwin H. Stern, Jennifer Marino Thibodaux, and Chief Justice James R. Zazzali, will be covering topics ranging from developments in E-Discovery to white collar crime and the Consumer Fraud Act.
Federal Judge in New Jersey Issues Adverse Inference Instruction Due to Plaintiff’s Failure to Preserve Facebook Information in Personal Injury Action
Recently, a federal judge in New Jersey imposed sanctions for a personal injury plaintiff’s failure to preserve his Facebook account. The Court concluded that it was “beyond dispute that Plaintiff had a duty to preserve his Facebook account,” and granted the defendant’s motion for an adverse inference instruction. The plaintiff allegedly suffered serious injuries at work, which purportedly left him permanently disabled, unable to work, and limited in his “physical and social activities.” The defendants sought the plaintiff’s Facebook information, alleging it related to damages, but the plaintiff declined to provide an authorization form for Facebook. During a settlement conference, the Magistrate Judge ordered the plaintiff to execute the appropriate form, and the plaintiff agreed to change his account password to allow defense counsel to access his Facebook page. Defense counsel then accessed his account and printed portions of the plaintiff’s Facebook page.
Magistrate Judge Orders Production of Social Media Discovery But Fashions Novel Protocol Designed to Protect Privacy Concerns
Where the requesting party makes a threshold showing of relevance, courts now routinely grant discovery of social media notwithstanding so-called “privacy objections.” Indeed, as one court recently noted, there is “no principled reason to articulate different standards for the discoverability of communications through email, text message, or social media platforms.” But on November 7, 2012, in EEOC v. Original Honeybaked Ham Co., Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado ordered all class members to produce social media discovery to the defendant subject to what the EEOC ultimately called a “somewhat unusual procedure.”
As we reported in the Gibbons E-Discovery Law Alert in May 2012, “Reg FD” could present a potential pitfall for those that post material non-public information via social media platforms. In early December 2012, that “pitfall” became a reality for Netflix Inc. CEO Reed Hastings. In July 2012 Hastings published on his public Facebook page a 43-word post concerning viewership statistics, including that Netflix subscribers had watched one billion hours of video the previous month.
Taking Over Former Employee’s LinkedIn Account Not a Violation of Federal Law, According to Pennsylvania District Court
A Pennsylvania Federal District Court has decided that an employer did not violate the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) or the Federal Lanham Act, when it took control of a departed employee’s LinkedIn account. The Court ruled that (1) the CFAA, which in part prohibits unauthorized access to a computer with the intent to defraud, did not come into play and (2) no trademark infringement in violation of the Lanham Act had occurred.
As followers of this blog know, we often bring you updates regarding the ever-changing world of social media, in particular, how it affects attorney ethics or judicial proceedings, or how it is used by financial services industry participants. Here, as the closing ceremonies for this year’s London Olympics have recently ended, we pause to reflect how the popularity of social media has “changed the game,” resulting in the world’s first “Social Media Olympics.”
“Did I Just Get a Tweet From Goldman Sachs?!?”: Increased Expansion and Scrutiny of Social Media in the Financial Services Industry
With the increased use of social media by financial services industry participants, more activity and scrutiny can be expected from financial regulators. This is not to mention the litigation from investors that could arise out of, for example, the misinterpreted or well-meaning post from an advisor that simply did not translate to “less than 140 characters.” It appears that there is a trend (amongst at least the larger financial institutions) that a united and pre-approved voice is best for now.
A group of exotic dancers in New York recently found themselves partially exposed — well, their Facebook messages, that is. A federal judge in In re Penthouse Executive Club Compensation Litigation, 10-CV1145 (KMW) (S.D.N.Y May 10, 2012) decided that one of the plaintiff-dancer’s Facebook communications with non-party-dancers about joining the lawsuit were not protected from disclosure, but that Facebook communications between the plaintiff-dancer and opt-in plaintiffs were protected from disclosure. The Court’s application of the well-established work product doctrine and common interest rule to social media communications reminds lawyers to exercise caution when using social media for discovery purposes and to warn their clients to similarly proceed with caution.
The New York City Bar Association’s Formal Opinion 2012-2 examines whether ethical restrictions apply to attorneys who use search engines or social media websites for the purpose of researching jurors. While the Opinion does not oppose such research (provided no communication between an attorney and potential or sitting juror occurs), it broadly interprets “communication.” Although a “friend request” would obviously constitute a communication, the Opinion struggles with whether an inadvertent or unknowing notification or message to the juror, which was triggered by the attorney’s attempt to view a page or comments (such as what can occur when one views a person’s LinkedIn™ profile), should also be treated as a communication and thereby prohibited. Ultimately, the Opinion “takes no position” on that issue and instead, cautions attorneys to understand the technology at issue, refrain from engaging in deception to gather information, and promptly report any discoveries of juror misconduct that are gleaned from the research.