By: Al Frederick, Eccleston & Wolf
The Court of Appeals in the matter styled Attorney Grievance Commission v. Vasiliades, Miscellaneous Docket AG No. 10, September Term 2020, in a case decided on August 16, 2021, disbarred a lawyer for a variety of misdeeds. Included amongst the misdeeds was the lawyer’s inappropriate use of social media. As noted by the Court:
Respondent does not argue that his posts were related to legitimate advocacy. We also agree with the hearing judge that the contents of Respondent’s posts, replete with racial, homophobic, and sexist remarks, conveyed inappropriate bias and were prejudicial to the administration of justice. The “casual usage of racial epithets in hip-hop music” and various cultural circles does not mollify the prejudicial impact of biased terminology for purposes of Rule 8.4(e) violation.
Respondent argues that his social media activities at issue were not conducted while he was “acting in a professional capacity” *** Respondent’s social media accounts contain profile biographies that advertised his Law Firm’s website and contact information. *** The offending posts are interspersed between other posts advertising his legal services and providing legal information.” Slip Opinion at 33, 34.
The Court had previously hinted at taking social media posts seriously In Re Gingi. The Court has now sent a clear message to the Bar that inappropriate activity on social media, at least if it is linked to one’s professional activity. will be seriously viewed and the consequences for using that platform to convey information and opinion that is not publicly appropriate should be very carefully reviewed and considered by lawyers. It is unclear whether the content of that nature might be sanctionable even absent a link to the attorney’s firm or professional life.