“Happy Valentines Day :)”

There can be no doubt that social media has changed our society; changed the way we communicate, the way we obtain information, and, even now, the way we advocate. Social media has developed from a communication tool to a public forum  that individuals use to judge one another.

In the recent weeks the National Football League (NFL) has been put under the lens of the social media microscope. First, Michael Sam, a highly decorated collegiate football player, declared that he was a homosexual male. Once drafted, this will mark the first time in the league’s history that a player who is openly homosexual will play the game. Although many athletes have declared their sexuality once they retired, no player had previous declared such sexuality while playing the game. Of course, Sam’s declaration was thrown into the social media fire. His courage, strength, and self-confidence was met with overwhelming support as athletes from various profession sports chimed in on the topic. Players from various NFL locker rooms took to Twitter and Facebook to support Sam and his journey to the NFL. In the eyes of the public, the NFL gained even more repute than it had previously.

Today, however, the NFL and some of its more notorious players have been summoned to the court of social justice located in the realm of social media. This morning, Ted Wells, an NFL investigator, released a 144 page report documenting instances of hazing, racial slurs, and other degrading behavior performed by Richie Incognito and other Miami Dolphin’s players. This controversy began in October 2013 when Incognito’s teammate Jonathan Martin quit profession football and was hospitalized for mental health. The NFL swiftly jumped in and hired Wells to conduct an investigation.

In reaction to this incident, many took to social media. Some individuals, including NFL players and analysts, believed that Martin was over reacting and should have confronted Incognito. Others rallied behind Martin and deemed Incognito a bully. But no matter what most people believed, expectations changed with the release of the 144 page report. On Espn’s NFL Insiders, airing 3pm Eastern Time, tweets were read indicating the shock of most at the findings. One individual, who was skeptic that Martin’s allegations had merit, admitted that their perspective had changed.

In the shadow of this controversy is Incognito’s tweet from Wednesday stating, “The truth is going to bury you and your entire ‘camp’”. Incognito took to twitter again today after the report had been released, “Pleeeeease Stop The Hate. Happy Valentines Day :)”.

In a controversy as notorious as this, involving a league as acclaimed as the NFL, all eyes are now fixed upon Roger Goodell and other NFL officials. In today’s society, social media has become the quintessential courtroom and all of us, the jury. We obtain information from social media and use it to make “informed decisions.” Then, we use it to either condemn or exonerate those in the spotlight. Social media, whether we like it or not, has become a mechanism for impacting societal justice. This trend will only grow in the future and attorneys should be ready for trial by Twitter.

For more information see ESPN’s web article entitled “Incognito, others tormented Martin”.


Juror Tweets Updates During the Trial… Thoughts?

A juror tweets informational updates about a trial she is serving on. The updates are considered public information that the press and media may report and is not confidential. Her tweets do not state her opinion or a conclusion about the case. After day 3 of the trial, the defense attorney becomes aware of the tweets. At this point in the trial, the prosecution has rested its case. The judge has also instructed the jury at the beginning of the trial to not blog, Google, Tweet or Facebook post anything about the trial. Does the defense attorney have an ethical obligation to alert the court and the prosecutor?

As for an attorney’s ethical obligation to reveal such information, the Model Rules of Professional Conduct have not kept pace with technological advancements. Further, these rules may be unclear as to when an attorney must report a juror to the court. Take a look at Model Rule of Professional Conduct 3.3 Candor Toward The Tribunal, which “requires a lawyer to take reasonable remedial measures, including disclosure if necessary, whenever the lawyer knows that a person… intends to engage, is engaging or has engaged in criminal or fraudulent conduct related to the proceeding.”

Also, Model Rule 3.3 Candor Toward The Tribunal comment 12 states:

“Lawyers have a special obligation to protect a tribunal against criminal or fraudulent conduct that undermines the integrity of the adjudicative process, such as bribing, intimidating or otherwise unlawfully communicating with a witness, juror, court official or other participant in the proceeding, unlawfully destroying or concealing documents or other evidence [,] or failing to disclose information to the tribunal when required by law to do so.”

Does the defense attorney have an ethical obligation under Model Rule 3.3 and comment 12 of Rule 3.3 to report the jurors misconduct to the court? What would be the best way to handle this situation?



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