Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Lawyer Jailed for Social Media Misuse

Here’s some free risk management advice: don’t set up fake social media accounts in the name of local politicians to influence upcoming elections.

It could land you behind bars.

Just ask New York City lawyer Richard Luthmann, who has been charged with falsifying business records, identity theft, stalking, criminal impersonation, filing a false police report and multiple election law violations, according to this article in the ABA Journal.

The charges against the Big Apple attorney came after he allegedly impersonated three candidates for city and state offices on bogus Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“Prosecutors said Luthmann used the pages to post fake policy positions for a candidate for state Assembly in the Republican primary and a Democrat on the city council,” the ABA Journal reports. “He is also accused of falsifying emails regarding District Attorney Michael McMahon’s 2015 campaign. The fake pages falsely said the Assembly candidate called for more housing projects and denigrated people with disabilities, and they also said the city councilwoman welcomed a welfare hotel for drug addicts and criminals.”

The stalking offense stemmed from creating the fake media accounts and posting to them. The charge of making false statements came after the defendant filed a police report claiming his computers had been “trespassed.”

This was not the attorney’s first brush with controversy. He had already been jailed on unrelated criminal charges. And he previously made headlines when he asked a judge to let him settle a dispute with a duel.

Five Ethics Opinions on Social Media

  1. Confidentiality Obligations for Lawyer Blogging and Other Public Commentary (ABA Formal Opinion 480). Lawyers who blog or engage in other public commentary may not reveal information relating to a representation, including information contained in a public record, unless authorized by a provision of the Model Rules.
  1. Advising a Civil Litigation Client about Social Media (North Carolina 2014 FEO 5). A lawyer must advise a civil litigation client about the legal ramifications of the client’s postings on social media as necessary to represent the client competently. The lawyer may advise the client to remove postings on social media if the removal is done in compliance with the rules and law on preservation and spoliation of evidence.
  1. Accepting an Invitation from a Judge to Connect on LinkedIn (North Carolina 2014 FEO 8). A lawyer may accept an invitation from a judge to be a connection on a professional networking website, and may endorse a judge. However, a lawyer may not accept a legal skill or expertise endorsement or a recommendation from a judge.
  1. Lawyer’s Acceptance of Recommendations on Professional Networking Website (North Carolina 2012 FEO 8). A lawyer may ask a former client for a recommendation to be posted on the lawyer’s profile on a professional networking website and may accept a recommendation if certain conditions are met.
  1. Using Another Lawyer’s Name as a Keyword for Internet Searches (North Carolina 2010 Formal Ethics Opinion 14). It is a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for a lawyer to select another lawyer’s name as a keyword for use in an Internet search engine company’s search-based advertising program.


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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