By Gina F. Rubel
Special to the Legal
In September, The Legal Intelligencer hosted its first annual Litigation Summit in Philadelphia. I had the pleasure of co-moderating the lunch program with Mary Platt of Griesing Law. Our panelists included Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas President Judge Pamela P. Dembe, the Judge John W. Herron, administrative judge of the court’s Trial Division, and President Judge Marsha H. Neifield, of the Philadelphia Municipal Court. We discussed how social media has affected litigation in the courts. Here are some of the takeaways:
- Social media has definitely affected litigation. However, the courts are still trying to catch up with how to handles all of the issues. “Don't assume the judges you are dealing with are as conversant in social media as you may be, especially in discovery,” Dembe said. All of the judges made it clear that social media is still much of an anomaly to the judiciary and while they know that it exists, most would rather ignore its existence.
- The judges addressed members of the judiciary “friending” attorneys who litigate before them. While there are no rules in Pennsylvania prohibiting such relationships (as there are in Florida), it was strongly urged that judges don’t friend attorneys who might come before them. In fact, most of the panel felt that judges should either stay off-line or keep engagement private among their family members and close friends.
- When asked if lawyers should monitor social media about their cases and juror conversations, everyone agreed that they should. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is negligent not to monitor what is being said online that may affect the outcome of a case with which an attorney is involved.
- The panel also spoke about whether or not reporters tweeting from the courtroom can affect the outcome of a case. While the three judges haven’t seen a lot of tweets from reporters in their courtrooms, I demonstrated how media entities and journalists do, in fact, report live during litigation. That very day, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was hearing arguments regarding the state’s new law requiring voters to have identification in order to vote. I used the Twitter hashtag #VoterID to look up what was being said online and found tweets from @thelegalintel, @CNN, @MSNBC, @WashingtonPost, @Reuters, @HuffPostPol, @PennLive and many others.
Gina F. Rubel is the owner of Furia Rubel Communications, a strategic marketing and public relations agency with a niche in legal marketing. A former trial attorney, she is the author of Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers. Rubel and her agency have won many awards for legal communications, PR, media relations, website and graphic design, strategic planning, corporate philanthropy and leadership. She maintains a blog, is a contributor to National Law Review, The Legal Intelligencer Blog, AVVO Lawyernomics and The Huffington Post. You can find her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter. For more information, go to www.FuriaRubel.com.