Social Media Perils: Attempted Impeachment By Blog Post?
Well, it finally happened.
We have long suspected that someday it would happen, but recently, it finally did happen.
Of course, we are referring to the possibility that an opponent in litigation might cite to our blog in an effort to defeat our argument in a motion hearing.
We’ve been blogging here at Abnormal Use for more than four and a half years, and it has finally come to be.
The scene was thus: I arrived at a county courthouse relatively early, as I like to have a few moments to myself before court convenes to review my notes and any case authority once more before the hearing begins. Lawyers were beginning to enter the courtroom, although the judge had not yet arrived. I was there to argue a motion which was opposed by counsel for the plaintiff as well as other parties in the litigation. As fate might have it, the issue was being litigated that day was a relatively novel one, and there was not a wealth of authority on the particular common law issue in dispute. Counsel for one of the non-movants came into the courtroom, and as we had not previously met in person, we introduced ourselves and exchanged the customary pleasantries. We even chuckled about a few events in the case, as lawyers sometimes do before a hearing, and we then sat down – apart from each other, of course, so that we could finalize our preparations for the imminent hearing. Put another way, we had to get into character.
A few moments later, counsel for the non-movant looked back and raised a packet of notes in the air. Atop the stack was a color printout of a blog post from this website.
The conversation began.
“I guess I am supposed to show you this,” counsel for the non-movant said.
“What’s that?” I replied, not yet seeing what my opponent held before me.
“My associate found this for me. It’s from your blog.”
“Oh?” I asked, now realizing that what the opposing lawyer held was a printout from our blog and seeing several highlighted paragraphs from the post in question.
She read me the title of the post, and I immediately realized that it was not one that I myself had written. Getting a closer look, I saw that the post had run in our blog’s very early days – 2010! – and that the post in question was more in the form of a case summary than an argument on behalf of a legal principle.
“I’ve never had anyone cite my blog against me,” I said. “However, I don’t think that’s one of my posts.”
Looking disappointed, counsel for the non-movant gave the printout a closer look and realized that the author was another attorney.
“Oh, you’re the editor of the blog.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Counsel for the non-movement seemed a bit crestfallen, as if this particular arrow in the quiver was suddenly less effective or appealing.
Ultimately, the blog post was not used during the hearing.
So, in the end, we suppose that we dodged this particular social media peril. But we knew something like this would happen someday.